Spotlight on ISSA - Old boys bring concerns to Ministry of Education
The past students' associations of some of the island's most successful schools have written to the Ministry of Education outlining a number of concerns around the transparency, governance and accountability of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA).
In addition to calling for the Ministry's intervention and for ISSA to share its financial records, the letter is demanding that ISSA provide greater financial support to schools, underlining that it is their investment and funding in the students that make the organisation's competitions possible and attractive for sponsorship.
The old boys' bodies of Wolmer's Boys' School, whose principal, Dr Walton Small, happens to be the current ISSA president; St George's College; Jamaica College; Kingston College; and Calabar High School yesterday morning submitted the document to the Education Minster Ruel Reid, raising several questions about ISSA's operations and pointing to a number of recommendations they believe will guarantee transparency and protect the interest of student athletes and other stakeholders.
Among the grouses mentioned is what the alliance described as ISSA's lack of support to the educational affairs of student athletes who participate in and, by extension, make its competitions attractive to sponsors, as well as the overall interest and development of sporting representatives in local high schools.
It should be noted that an email to Small and calls to his cell number went unanswered yesterday.
Bearing the signature of the presidents of each organisation, the document, which was obtained by The Gleaner, claims among other things, that ISSA received more than $200 million in sponsorship funds per year, with less than $1 million going towards one of the leading participating schools.
"ISSA has always been described by its executive as non-profit and they have repeatedly declared that a large portion of the funds that they generate and collect are given back to the schools that participate in their events," the letter states.
"Student athletes make numerous sacrifices to compete in ISSA's competitions while placing themselves at risk of injury in the process; their efforts attract sponsorship dollars and generate revenue, which is ISSA's main source of funding. It is for these reasons that many are in dire need of support and critical medical care. However, it is past students and respective alumni associations like ours that largely fund these crucial needs. It would appear that ISSA has taken a decision to resile from contributing in these areas," the letter continues.
The letter also points to the creation of the joint venture Greenfield Media Productions, which is responsible for managing media rights for ISSA's events, demanding that the full structure of the body be made public to identify and avoid potential conflicts of interest.
"Transparency and good governance is a major area of concern as our old boys' associations have always been significant stakeholders in the development of our schools and our efforts have borne fruit in many ways," the document outlines.
The group maintained that its commitment and investment, along with that of the respective schools, in the student athletes that compete in and make ISSA's competitions successful make them a key stakeholder in its affairs.
"Yet ISSA refuses to even engage in dialogue or open its records for public scrutiny."
The alliance has put several questions on the table, including whether ISSA prepares financial statements and whether those statements are audited. The letter also asked if ISSA is being monitored by the ministry or any other government agency, something it believes should happen since the schools that participate in its events are backed by the Consolidated Fund.
Among the recommendations presented by the group are the establishment of strict and transparent guidelines governing sponsorships, payments and sharing of income with participating schools; public disclosure of ISSA's audited financial statements for the past five years if available and a full audit for the same period if that does not exist.
The groups is also calling for a diversifying of the ISSA board to include other stakeholder groups, mandatory financial and personal disclosure requirements for executive members as well as term limits for all executive members.
The letter was copied to Reid, Minister of Sport Olivia 'Babsy' Grange; Floyd Green, the minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Dr Janice Lindsay; and Chief Education Officer Dr Grace McLean.
It is not clear if the ministers have seen the letter.
ISSA is expected to hold elections tomorrow.