Gleaner Editors' Forum | Clueless critics - JTA rejects claim that it provides a shield for non-performing teachers
President-elect of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Owen Speid, has scoffed at claims that the tough-talking union with its approximately 25,000 members is keeping non-performing teachers in Jamaica's schools by providing a shield for them.
For years, analysts of the nation's public-education system have argued that one of the issues affecting the output of Jamaica's schools is the teachers who enter the classrooms only because they cannot find any other jobs, and go through the motions while collecting a salary.
The analysts have argued that these non-performing teachers are sheltered by the JTA, which prevents them from getting fired.
But Speid told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday that the allegations against the JTA are unfounded.
NO HARD EVIDENCE
"It is only a perception out there that we support non-performing teachers ... there is no hard evidence to support that perception," Speid said, as he insisted that the JTA does not bully schools into retaining teachers.
"When cases come before us and we have to help the teacher to get through, or to basically make justice prevail, we can't just walk in there and make a judgement call and decide whether or not the person is wrong or right," said Speid, who is also the principal of the Rousseau Primary School in St Andrew.
He argued that oftentimes non-performing teachers remain employed due to failure on the part of the administrators of schools to follow due process.
"You might find that the breech isn't really on the JTA, there's no fault of the JTA why the teacher has to continue in the services. [It] might be the fault of the board," said Speid.
He told the forum that many teachers have been dismissed based on evidence presented against them, following due process.
CODE OF ETHICS
He was supported by deputy secretary general of the JTA, Dr Charmaine Gooden Monteith, who told Gleaner editors and reporters that the union holds its members through its Code of Ethics, and stages ongoing development activities for them.
"They know in no uncertain terms where our standards are and what are our high expectations of them. We start from the new teachers ... where we have an induction seminar where we talk to them about our expectations, the expectations of the community, the expectations of the Ministry of Education, the expectations of the JTA, and we do hold our teachers to very high standards," said Gooden Monteith.
"Many of us who work at the JTA are former teachers ourselves and we know what the society expect of us, and we know that if we are going to have a good bargaining chip, we have to ensure that our teachers exceed expectations," added Gooden Monteith.
She admitted that there are some teachers who need to raise the performance bar, but argued that the JTA spends more than 80 per cent of its budget on professional development for teachers.
Immediate past-president of the JTA, Georgia Waugh Richards, also scoffed at the claim that the organisation provides refuge for non-performing teachers.
HIGHEST PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS
"The reality is not so. The JTA does all we can to ensure the highest professional standards, and when we go into a situation where it is presumed that a teacher has committed a breach, JTA doesn't go there and play bad man like so [many] people think, and say the teacher must be reinstated, we look at all the facts that are presented to us.
"We also look at how due process was followed, and many times the board will concede that they did not follow due process, and that's the only reason a teacher will be reinstated," said Waugh Richards.
She added: "To say that our teachers are sitting behind their desks and selling bag juice and doing other things, those persons who are still holding that idea, they are stuck in the past. I will not dispute that there might have been a time when those things happened, but our teachers are far removed from that situation."
According to Waugh Richards, while the education system and the student outcome might not be where we want, the empirical data will show that our teachers are making strides and are teaching.