Ministry scolds Merl Grove - Principal to meet with parents over controversial summer school policy
Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Reporter
A PROBE ordered by the Ministry of Education has concluded that Merl Grove High School was wrong when it told parents that chemistry topics taught to grade 11 students in summer school would not be revisited in the upcoming academic year.
The school now says that topics covered in the summer school will be revised during the year.
"The principal (Amy Allen) pointed to the extensive chemistry content and the possible limiting factors that could prevent the completion of the syllabus," a report submitted to the education ministry claims.
"She (Allen) also stated that it was discussed with parents to allow their child/ward to make full use of the summer school so that topics covered in the summer would be revised during the school year.
"However, other new areas would be given more focus due to the volume of work to be completed and students' varied background knowledge of the subject," the report added.
Additionally, the Education Ministry says Allen has explained that the extended day classes are not mandatory and students who cannot afford to pay the $2,500 per subject, will not be turned away.
"With all good intentions of the principal to earmark creative ways to assist her charges in improving academic perfor-mance, it appears contradictory that, in my discussion with the principal, she reiterated that topics covered in the summer would be reviewed in the new school term. However, the letter to parents said otherwise," read a section of the report done, following an investigation ordered by the education ministry.
The investigation was conducted by Sharon Smith-Whyte, the education officer with responsibility for the supervision of Merl Grove High School.
Smith-Whyte also noted that, in a telephone conversation with the chairman of the school board, Allen was commended for her outstanding management skills, demonstrated over the years, in her capacity as principal.
However, the board chair said it was unfortunate "that the letter that was sent to parents was not worded according to the ministry's policy".
"But that has not limited their trust, as a board, in her ability to continue to run the school efficiently as she aims to improve chemistry and mathematics which is her area of speciality," the report added.
The education ministry's probe was spawned by a Sunday Gleaner article last week, which revealed that students whose parents might not be able to afford the summer school fee would have been placed at a disadvantage if the chemistry topics taught in the summer were not revisited in the 2010-11 academic year.
In her defence, the report noted that the principal said the compulsory summer school for Grade 10 students is to guide students in their School Based Assessment (SBA) and to give more focused attention to the chemistry syllabus.
According to the report, Allen argued that if students who needed extra support would attend extra classes, which are not compulsory, the chemistry results would continue to improve from its present 76 per cent pass mark.
The principal pointed to the extensive chemistry content and the possible limiting factors that could prevent the completion of the syllabus.
However, principals of other high schools and the education ministry have claimed that the chemistry syllabus can be completed within the normal teaching hours.
Last week, chief education officer Grace McLean told our news team that the ministry, "accurately calculated the number of days that are adequate for the schools to cover the related areas of the curriculum".
The education ministry said Allen will have to hold discussions with the parents of the girls going to grade 11 in September to iron out the malady caused by the misinformation contained in a letter the school sent out in last month.
"The principal will be having dialogue with the parents to resolve this situation," McLean told the Sunday Gleaner.