Mon | Nov 29, 2021

JC mulls Ruel Reid fate

Published:Thursday | October 28, 2021 | 4:20 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Ruel Reid
Ruel Reid

The board of governors of Jamaica College will today hold a crucial meeting to deliberate on recommendations submitted by the Ministry of Education on how to deal with the controversial issue of extending special leave with full salary and benefits...

The board of governors of Jamaica College will today hold a crucial meeting to deliberate on recommendations submitted by the Ministry of Education on how to deal with the controversial issue of extending special leave with full salary and benefits to Ruel Reid, who still holds the post of principal of Jamaica College (JC).

This was disclosed by chairman of the JC board, Michael Bernard, in a Gleaner interview Wednesday evening.

Reid, who is before the court on corruption charges, has already exhausted two years of special leave with full salary and emoluments amounting to more than $11 million beginning from November 21, 2019, to the present. The special leave expires next month.

Minister of Education Fayval Williams indicated in Parliament on Wednesday that it was the board of the Old Hope Road institution that had the authority to determine the fate of Reid as principal based on the Education Regulations.

Bernard told The Gleaner that Reid wrote to the board on August 2, this year, requesting an extension to his special leave.

According to Bernard, on August 5, the board forwarded the request to the education ministry.

“Having forwarded that request to the Ministry of Education for guidance with respect to how to treat with it, we just heard from the ministry a couple days ago and the board would be considering that response at its meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 5 p.m.,” said Bernard.

He made it clear that the ministry gave a response as to how to handle the matter concerning Reid a couple of days ago and that the board would be considering that proposal.

Bernard declined to comment on the ministry’s advice, noting that the board had not yet reviewed the recommendations.

The chairman said that after the board makes a decision, it would be sent to the ministry “and the next step would be determined from thereon”.

Prior to the two years’ special leave with full pay and benefits, Reid had exhausted earned vacation leave for the period March 25, 2019, to November 2019.

However, over the similar period, the ministry had also paid acting principal Wayne Robinson a little more than $11 million.

In fact, Robinson has been acting in the position of principal from 2016 when Reid was seconded from his job as educator to take up the appointment of minister of education. He resigned in March 2019 amid an emerging Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) scandal.

Noting that Robinson has been serving as acting principal for the past five and a half years at JC, Bernard said he was paid a salary for the excellent services he rendered.

“As far as Jamaica College and stakeholders are concerned, we wish to see Mr Wayne Robinson installed permanently in the position in which he has been serving most admirably in the last five and a half years,” Bernard said.

“As it relates to Mr Reid, that is a matter really for the Ministry of Education, and, I would say, the Government of Jamaica.”

When The Gleaner indicated to Bernard that Williams had placed the ball squarely in the board’s park in making a decision, the JC chairman said, “If that is the way you see it, then the school is going to be playing with that ball in the way that it sees is its best interest.”

He conceded that the Education Regulations give certain powers to the board but contended that it is the ministry that has responsibility to approve any such decision.

“The board cannot fire Mr Reid, so to speak, without that being approved, for example, by the Ministry of Education, and no board with its understanding of the Education Regulations can fire a principal without cause.”

He said the board would issue a full statement to the public next week.

Bernard said that the board could not sack Reid without first taking him through a disciplinary process and finding him guilty. He said the evidence to bring a case against him has to be sought, and it was not available to the board.

Williams confirmed during Wednesday’s question-and-answer session in Parliament that Reid had requested an extension to his special leave.

The education minister was responding to questions posed by St Andrew South East Member of Parliament Julian Robinson.

Manchester North West MP Mikael Phillips wanted to know if it was the minister who made the final decision on whether to grant the special leave with pay.

Responding, Williams said that after the board makes a recommendation, the education minister is guided by the Education Regulations of 1980.

The code states that “a teacher in a public educational institution may be allowed special leave with or without pay as the minister may approve on the recommendation of the board to enable the teacher to be absent for such other reasons as the minister may approve”.

The House descended in uproar when St Catherine South MP Fitz Jackson posed questions that acting leader of government business, Delroy Chuck, said were in breach of the Standing Orders as the queries were “hypothetical and opinionative”.

Lothan Cousins, Clarendon South West MP, asked if there was a time stipulation for teachers to go on special leave.

“If there is no time stipulation for that, it would seem rather absurd to have teachers just apply and go on leave until their retirement,” he quipped.

In her response, Williams repeated a previous answer by quoting from the Education Regulations.

She said that school boards were invested with tremendous power to appoint, terminate appointments, promote, and suspend from duty.