Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Burdened with bursar duties - JTA Speid appeals for primary schools to get bursars

Published:Wednesday | November 20, 2019 | 12:20 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Owen Speid (centre), president of Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), greets guest speaker Margaret Campbell, principal of St George’s College and LASCO Principal of the Year, and Jasford Gabriel, president-elect of the JTA, at the JTA’s Educational Symposium at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston on Monday.
Owen Speid (centre), president of Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), greets guest speaker Margaret Campbell, principal of St George’s College and LASCO Principal of the Year, and Jasford Gabriel, president-elect of the JTA, at the JTA’s Educational Symposium at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston on Monday.

Ainsworth Williams has been the principal of John Austin All-Age School in Clarendon since January of this year. Prior to his appointment, he was not trained in financial management, a skill needed for the bursar responsibilities which fall in his portfolio.

“There is a system there that I used to understand and to continue the work. The acting principal, she stepped down and she was still there, so she helped me to manoeuvre it,” Williams said, adding that his experience as manager of a high school tuck shop also helped him.

The first training would take place months later at a retreat for newly installed principals in October.

He said while the duty is helping him to hone his skills in operational management, it is quite tedious.

“Because there is no bursar there, nor a vice-principal, you find that the administrative work takes up a lot. The time I would have allotted for instructional leadership becomes limited or I stay for extended hours, much longer than the school day just to get things in order,” Williams explained.

It is for this reason President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Owen Speid is appealing for primary schools to be afforded bursars, as is the case in high schools.

“The accounting is really a full-time job. It is a specialist job and if you make one mistake, you have to go back over the numbers to reconcile the accounts, and so that is a concern of ours at the JTA,” Speid told The Gleaner, following the association’s education symposium at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Monday.

Speid said “loading off accounting duties” on primary school principals is impractical as they have other responsibilities.

Acting principal of Allman Town Primary, Latoya Nesbitt, and principal of Mona Heights Primary, Fabion Mahabeer, echoed similar sentiments.

Nesbitt has been to several workshops, the last of which took place before the start of the academic year.

For her, it has been a matter of balancing duties.

“There are some aspects that I would prefer not to do because it can be time-consuming. If we get somebody who would be able to do the accounting aspect – the reconciliation, that would help us, but we just have to do what we have to do until things change, if it does,” she said.

Mahabeer’s academic background in business and his training from the National College for Educational Leadership, equipped him for the task.

“I trained other persons to assist with doing it ... no one person would be so bogged down that they can’t manage any other duties. Mind you, it would be good to have a bursar. At least you could have a lot more time to do other things,” Mahabeer explained.

The Gleaner sought a comment from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information but up to press time, they did not provide a response.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com