Smith concerned about situation at Academy | THE DAILY HERALD

Wycliffe Smith

CUL DE SAC– Education Minister Wycliffe Smith is “gravely concerned” about the situation at St. Maarten Academy, where teachers of one campus are on a sit-in and those at the other campus are on a go-slow over uncertainties on the payment of their 2019 vacation allowance.

Smith said in a statement issued on Thursday evening that he has taken note of the developments at the Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE) St. Maarten Academy Preparatory Secondary Vocational Education (PSVE) campus, and is “gravely concerned with the way this situation is being handled.”

“As I have stated in previous correspondence, the school boards, as employers with personnel and staff under their charge, remain responsible to their staff to behave in a way that a good employer should, and take the necessary measures that good employers would take to meet their basic obligations to their employees,” he said.

Smith said that in the position of Minister he has little authority and power to intervene directly in this human resource matter between the school board and its personnel and staff.

“The FAVE school board has stated in … [an article that appeared in The Daily Herald on Thursday – Ed.] that they were unable to make the necessary reserves in order to ensure that vacation allowances are paid out, due to the subsidy amount granted for the school year 2018-2019. This despite receiving subsidy that covers the expected cost for the provision of education based on their actual student numbers.

“The FAVE school board should be well versed with the workings of the lump-sum system, and should be able to plan and project the growth of their schools and the effects that it could have on the subsidy they will receive. However, that this appears to not be the current practice is a serious point of concern,” Smith said.

He said that although the FAVE school board has launched an official appeal against the 2018-2019 subsidy, at no point prior to this, during the last five years, in spite of a steady decline in student enrolment within FAVE schools, had the board expressed any concerns regarding meeting its financial obligations to its employees until June 5 of this year.

“Nevertheless, the Ministry, acknowledging the urgency of resolving this issue and in light of the claims made by the FAVE school board regarding its liquidity position, has sought to obtain the required financial information to determine to what degree the Ministry can assist in resolving this issue.

“To this end, the Ministry immediately responded to FAVE’s request for additional funding, dated June 5, 2019, on June 7, 2019, requesting the required information. To date, critical information regarding FAVE’s liquidity position, that would enable the Ministry to properly assess the situation and respond accordingly has not been provided by the FAVE Board,” Smith said.

“It must also be noted that the implementation of the granted subsidy for the school year 2018-2019 went into effect as of February. This means that for the months of August 2018 up to and including January 2019, the FAVE school board actually received more subsidy than they were scheduled to receive for the school year 2018-2019.

“Proper financial management behoves that the school board would have taken these points into consideration when planning the financial year for the school, instead of having their personnel be uncertain of their vacation salary in June.”

According to Smith, persons must bear in mind that school boards are equipped and competent to enact necessary measures to mitigate financial complications and to take critical management decisions for the benefit and longevity of schools under their charge and for the provision of quality education to their students.

“This includes establishing other sources of financing. It should be stated in this regard that subsidised schools are free and encouraged to seek additional forms of financing, as private entities.

“School boards have chosen this form of governance in order to maintain their independent power and freedom to determine how they will manage themselves. Government’s role in this regard is to facilitate their financing for the provision of quality education for all students in St. Maarten, which the Ministry does through the lump-sum system, which has been in effect since 2010,” Smith said.

Source: The Daily Herald