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Data foul-up delays JTA President-Elect voting

Published:Monday | August 17, 2020 | 12:09 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Owen Speid.
Owen Speid.


Despite the decision to postpone the electronic voting to select the association’s president-elect for the 2020-2021 academic year, Owen Speid, the incumbent president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, says there is no cause for alarm while seeking to dispel the notion of a leadership crisis within the organisation.

“We don’t have a leadership crisis; we don’t have a leadership issue. We have a president just waiting to take over next week. We don’t have a leadership crisis, issue or matter,” Speid told The Gleaner when he was asked about the postponement of the JTA’s president-elect election, which was slated to take place by July 31.

Speid confirmed reports that the failure to have the election was due to the association’s inability to adequately verify its delegates who are eligible to vote. He said another attempt at getting a clean list of verified voters is to be addressed soon.

Winston Smith, the principal of Golden Spring Primary School in St Andrew; and Godfrey Drummond, a senior teacher at Petersfield Primary School in Westmoreland, are vying for the position. The successful candidate will become the JTA’s president for the 2021-2022 administrative year.

According to Speid, his role as the immediate past president of the association is to support the new president until the list is verified and ready for an election.


“As soon as we sort out the verification of data, the election can be run within the next two weeks of that (exercise) but we must be comfortable that we don’t disenfranchise people,” said Speid.

Gabriel, the principal of Manchester High School in Manchester, is the current president-elect of the JTA. He will be sworn in as the association’s 56th president for the 2020-2021 administrative year this week. However, in a departure from tradition, the teachers’ union will not declare a president-elect at that time.

The JTA was mandated to carry out its annual election to select a president-elect using an online platform for the first time. However, the mandate was not met due to issues relating to the verification of the delegates list.

“We have an annual conference coming up. It is the highest decision-making body in the JTA. It will be sorted out there,” Speid explained. “The general council basically mandated us to go online voting but we have to verify data to go online.”

In explaining the issues with the delegate lists, Speid said that, because the schools have been closed since March 13, it has been a challenge to reach some members.

“People are all over the place, people are abroad, we can’t find some of them. The data has to be clean before you can do online voting because if it’s not clean, it’s going to reject you. We don’t want to disenfranchise anybody,” said Speid, who further argued that with just two candidates, if 10 persons are disenfranchised, it could alter the outcome of the election. In 2014, Professor Emeritus Errol Miller, a JTA past president, was called in by the association to mediate in the president-elect impasse between George Waugh-Richards and Norman Allen.

Initially, Waugh-Richards was declared the winner but later lost on recount to Allen. Waugh-Richards obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court against the JTA, barring the association from announcing the results and declaring a president-elect at its annual conference.

In the end, Allen, who is now the principal at Frome Technical High in Westmoreland, was declared president-elect for the administrative year of 2014-2015 and went on to serve as the JTA’s 51st president in the 2015-2016 administrative year.

Waugh-Richards subsequently received her own mandate as president-elect for 2016-2017 and went on to serve as the JTA’s 52nd president in the 2017-2018 administrative year.