PHILIPSBURG–Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) president believes that the list of recommendations made by Education Minister Wycliffe Smith to help resolve the issues plaguing the Preparatory Secondary Vocational Education (PSVE) section of St. Maarten Academy are “workable” but she does not like the impression that she says was created by the minister that teachers don’t follow rules and regulations.
The union was expected to have a meeting with some of its membership on the recommendations on Thursday. The outcome of that meeting could not be ascertained.
WITU President Claire Elshot said in response to a question at a press conference on Thursday morning that she felt that the recommendations were largely positive, particularly as it concerned those made for the union.
She took issue with some of the recommendations made for teachers noting that a “take it or leave it” position was taken by the minister, which she felt was not warranted.
In his report on the situation at PSVE, Smith said teachers and staff must realise that the Board and management of the school are the ones to establish the rules, policies and guidelines for the school. Once these rules have been communicated to teachers and staff in a proper and timely manner, then as teachers and staff, they have no choice but to follow them. “Teachers who are unable to abide by the policies and rules should consider resigning from the PSVE instead of remaining at the school and stirring up conflict,” Smith said in the 8-page document.
Elshot said this comment from the minister makes it sound as though teachers do not abide by the rules and regulations of the school, which she felt was not accurate. She said there are many things that teachers can bring to the table for solutions. If teachers are not consulted on issues then things won’t go right. “Teachers are human beings. It cannot be a take it or leave it attitude,” the union president stressed.
She believes that Smith’s recommendation that the Board hires a change management coach for the next six to twelve months is a good one as this would be an independent person. She, however, noted that the Board has already indicated that this is not possible as it is already working with two external consultants for the areas of finance and human resources and having a third person would not be feasible.
According to Elshot, the minister’s recommendations did not address the new educational programme that PSVE wants to introduce, which Elshot said is one of the major concerns of the teachers. She said it is not ideal to start a programme such as the one PSVE wants to introduce without proper training of teachers.
She stressed that the Board is direly in need of “new blood, adding that the board has forked out a lot of funds in court settlements for cases it has lost.
In his recommendations, Smith said the Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE) should change its communication strategy towards the teachers and staff as well as with the WITU.
Earlier this year Smith intervened in a conflict between some PSVE teachers/staff and principal Lavern Nelson. The conflict escalated when several teachers called in sick for several days during the start of the new academic year in a form of silent protest. Smith had met with teachers, the principal and union and prepared a report on the matter. After meeting with all parties Smith said he concluded that “poor communication between all parties is the crux of the problem.”