Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Munro principal Mark Smith to be declared JTA president-elect

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2023 | 1:01 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Mark Smith.
Mark Smith.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Mark Smith, principal of Munro College, will be declared president-elect during the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s (JTA) 59th annual conference, which will be held at the Royalton Hotel in Negril from August 21–23. He will eventually serve as the JTA president for the conference year 2024-25.

Delegates will not be required to campaign or cast a single vote for the association’s next president-elect, according to Dr Mark Nicely, secretary-general of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), on the grounds that only one candidate was nominated during the period set aside for nominations.

A president-elect is elected annually and serves for a year in that position before assuming the office of president at the end of the year. An election among declared candidates, following a period of nominations, normally takes place during the third full week of June each year, and all full, life, and retired members of the JTA are entitled to cast their vote for the candidate of their choice in secret ballots.

Nicely informed that this was not the first time in the JTA’s history that only one candidate has been nominated for the position. Investigations by The Gleaner showed that this is in fact the third time that one candidate has been nominated for the post of president-elect.

In 1985, for the first time, there was just one candidate for the position of president-elect of the JTA: Professor Errol Miller, who served as president from 1986 to 1987. The other was Byron Farquharson, the most recent secretary-general, who was unilaterally nominated for the position of president-elect in 1997 and then served as JTA president from 1998 to 1999.

CONSENSUS OF THE MASSES

“What you had were several nominations, but they all nominated the same person (Mark Smith), so you get a sense that it was a consensus of the masses that that’s the person they have an interest in on this occasion,” said Nicely.

As a result, the secretary-general declared that “there will be no campaigning or elections this year”, and that nominations came in from delegates within the 78 district associations across the island.

“We have several nominations from district associations and parish associations for the same individual,” he added.

Leighton Johnson, the principal of Muschett High School, will succeed La Sonja Harrison as president of the JTA at its conference in August. Smith will assume Johnson’s place and serve as his point person for the conference year 2023–2024.

When contacted, Smith stated that it was often a bad indicator when no one wants to become involved, to the point that he is now the third individual not having to face a rival for the JTA’s top position.

“It is not something I take great delight in. I was really looking forward to the campaigning process, but it played out this way in my favour,” the JTA president-elect nominee told The Gleaner.

“It is really not something that is the norm, but nonetheless, I get the opportunity to serve the teachers of the country, so I look forward to that duty when the time comes,” Smith continued. “I am very appreciative of the opportunity, but it wasn’t the way I planned it.”

The Munro College principal claimed that, by holding multiple campaign meetings in early January in preparation for a serious challenge, he was far ahead of the game in his bid to become JTA president-elect.

Smith claimed he had exercised due diligence by speaking with a number of former presidents to learn more about the procedure and the expense of managing an election campaign.

The JTA president-elect nominee acknowledged that it was a pricey endeavour and said: “I have gone out and received financial commitments before now, as part of preparing for my campaign, which would cost in excess of $1 million.”

Suzette Baker-Tulloch, the principal of Foga Road Infant School in Clarendon; Leighton Johnson, the principal of Muschett High School in Trelawny; and Terrian Okeef Saunders, a classroom teacher at Donald Quarrie High School in St Andrew, were the three candidates who ran for president-elect of the JTA last year.

Using the online voting method, Johnson received 1,587 votes, compared to Baker’s 477 and Saunders’ 694, for the victory in that election and was declared president-elect last August.