PHILIPSBURG–Education Minister Wycliffe Smith visited Sister Regina Primary School on Monday to personally apologise to Principal Samantha Beaton and staff for referring to the school’s teachers as non-qualified during his presentation in Parliament on Friday.
Smith had told Members of Parliament (MPs) that the school had 11 unqualified teachers. However, the school indicated after the meeting that all of its teachers were qualified and that Smith’s information had been incorrect.
“I accept the responsibility for this error. It was a misplacement of the information received from the Catholic School Board and it was my mistake to attribute the entire number from across all the schools under that foundation to only one school. It was quite unfortunate, but definitely not meant to misrepresent the management and staff of Sister Regina Primary School,” he said in a press release issued on Monday evening.
Smith’s presentation in Parliament on Friday was regarding the status of the education sector post-Hurricane Irma. In his presentation, Smith highlighted the status of educational infrastructure, the current status of the teacher shortage, as well as steps taken by the sector to prepare for the current hurricane season.
His presentation included incorrect information related to the Catholic School Board SKOS. While the information presented in Parliament highlighted one school as having 11 non-qualified teachers and several others requiring exemptions for seven teachers, the presentation should have indicated that the SKOS had a total of 11 non-qualified teachers across its six schools. Seven of these teachers require dispensation from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
“The Minister regrets the error in the reporting of the statistical information and apologises to the SKOS school board, the Parliament and the wider community, as it misrepresented the actual situation regarding the qualifications of the school board’s staff,” it was stated in the release. “Rather, the Minister applauds SKOS for the initiative taken, in working with the Ministry, in seeking short-term creative solutions to secure the continuity of quality education for its primary and secondary students.”
One year after the passing of Hurricane Irma, Smith reported that all schools are operational with the exception of Sister Marie Laurence School and St. Maarten Academy’s Academic section. Both displaced schools are currently being housed at other locations awaiting the commencement or finalisation of rebuilding efforts.
The majority of subsidized schools have undergone significant repairs and are expected to be fully operational by January 2019, but several schools, like Milton Peters College, require more structural long-term interventions.
The process of finalising the repairs of the public schools are at varying stages, with the tendering process for repairs, which are to be finalised in the 2019-2020 academic year, currently ongoing.
Smith also presented additional details regarding the current status of teaching personnel within the island’s public and subsidised schools. The total number of vacancies for the island’s schools has decreased from almost 50 in July to a total of 27 vacancies within the subsidised schools and the Public Education Division.
The School Board for Secondary Education SVOBE currently needs seven teachers for the subjects music, Dutch, science and geography.
The Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE) needs two teachers for the subjects French and Integrated Science.
The Methodist Agogic Centre (MAC) school board needs one English teacher, one Visual Arts teacher and two Physical Education teachers.
Charlotte Brookson Academy (CBA) for the Performance Arts school board needs a Spanish teacher.
National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) needs a Maritime teacher and an Electrical teacher.
The Public Education Division needs four Dutch teachers for its primary schools, four subject teachers for Automotive, English, Computer Repairs and Plumbing instruction, and two technical assistants for Home Economics and information technology (IT) for St. Maarten Vocational Training School (SMVTS).
The Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) School, Foundation for Protestant Christian Education, Catholic School Board and another school board no longer have vacancies.
Apart from the teaching vacancies there is also a need for 10 teacher assistants within the public schools.
Smith also highlighted in his presentation that school boards have signalled their teachers’ risk of burnout, and in some cases increased sick leave, as many continue to work under less-than-ideal working conditions, some with leaking roofs, some sharing facilities with other schools so that even staff rooms and other recreational rooms are now being used for instruction, and yet others are working shifts to support continuity of instruction as facilities are awaiting repair.
In terms of the preparations being made to enhance safety, and emergency preparedness and response across all of the island’s schools, Smith reported that significant steps have been made and that all schools have developed or are in the process of developing their individual emergency and response plans.
Multi-disciplinary teams consisting of the Fire Department, police, Red Cross, Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS) Division of Inspection and Student Support Services Division are expected to review these plans with the schools and to support the development of final drafts.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/80713-smith-apologises-for-calling-regina-teachers-unqualified