NIPA board accused of causing instability

~ Board says accusations unfounded ~

CAY HILL–National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) has been facing some staff and management issues recently with resignations, dismissals and warning letters from Education Ministry official Antonio Aventurin, who is the Chairperson of the board of Advanced Vocational Education (AVE), which oversees NIPA.

The Daily Herald understands that Patricia Lourens stepped down as Executive Director at the school several months ago because of Aventurin’s aggressive micro-management. Eldica Lake, the first Executive Director of the school, was terminated last year for similar conflicts with the board. Last week, educators at the school were told that Aventurin has also appointed himself Interim Executive Director of the school.

The new board was officially installed on March 15, 2016, with Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs’ blessings. NIPA consists of a Supervisory Board, an operational Board and management. The Executive Director works under the guidance of the Operational Board while a Director handles the day-to-day operations of the school.

Tashenna Maccow was a social worker at NIPA and was appointed to the Director’s position last year. Her contract was not renewed for unknown reasons without proper evaluation and without warning. She was terminated while celebrating a farewell party for Marketing Officer Shameda Weeks, whose contract also was not renewed without evaluation.

This newspaper was also informed that NIPA had to be audited by Government earlier this year, but the audit was delayed by the board for unknown reasons.

Teachers are worried and uneasy, because most of their contracts are almost expired and with no type of evaluation in place, the board can decide to make more layoffs.

“It’s his way or the highway. Working in an environment that scares you is never a good thing. We all do what we have to do because we care about the children. Mr. Aventurin has dictatorship tendencies and he walks around with his head high because he has Minister Jacobs’ backing. It’s very sad, but what can you do?” stated an educator who wished to stay anonymous.

This newspaper contacted Minister Jacobs on Monday about the many issues at NIPA. “Contrary to previous years, the Board of NIPA has been in contact with the Ministry and the Ministry has been apprised of the current situation at the institute. However, due to the case revolving around Human Resources issues, the Ministry is not at liberty to discuss any parts of the case,” Jacobs stated in a written reply.

“Based on communications, the Ministry is aware that the Board is actively working towards resolving the challenges in the best interest of the students, faculty and staff of the institute to be able to provide a positive working and learning environment to all concerned.

“Several new courses have been added to the curriculum as well as collaborations with various organisations, and the focus should remain on realising the added opportunities to enhance the level of education and output of our students and future leaders of St. Maarten.”

Supervisory Board

In a statement to the media late Monday evening, the board issued a response based on allegations made against its chairperson.

“The AVE board takes collective decisions in the interest of the school and its students in accordance with the articles of incorporation (AoIC). As per the AoIC, the AVE board is a ‘raad van bestuur,’ or a board of directors, and not a ‘Raad van Toezicht,’ or a supervisory board.

“The complete Executive Board met with the students, teachers and staff at the institution on Thursday June 1, 2017, to provide relevant information. All present were duly informed that effective immediately Garfield Sargeant will be responsible for the educational management of the institution and the Executive Board represented by the chairperson will be responsible the organisational management of the school,” stated the board.

“This AVE Board has from its inception worked as a collective body and has taken well-weighed decisions, for the benefit of the institution, so guaranteeing quality of education to its students. The AVE Board has successfully resolved all issues that the institution faced a year ago, the personnel have been registered with the APS, the financial administration has been put in order.”

The board also said decisions and/or advances made should therefore not be tarnished by the unsupported allegations of disgruntled individuals.

“This AVE Board will continue to work in the interest of the institution and its students in line with its outlined development plans.

“With the support of the stakeholders and Management of the school, NIPA will prevail, regardless of the attacks lodged. The position of the AVE Board, placing students and institution first, above personal interests, shall prevail and the AVE Board shall defend its decisions, in so far and whenever necessary. Whilst the chairman of the Board represents the board and is therefore the spokesperson, the positions and decisions are of the entire AVE Board and so communicated,” stated the board on Monday evening.

NIPA offers advanced vocational education for students who want to further their education after secondary school and for adults already in the workforce.

Source: The Daily Herald