Evans shocked at ‘any talk of dismissal’

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  • Freddie Evans “dumbfounded” at decision (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Freddie Evans “dumbfounded” at decision (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Freddie Evans is taking legal action against the Ministry of Education after being “relieved of his responsibilities” as education commissioner.

The shock announcement last night came less than seven months after Dr Evans was appointed to the top job.

Dr Evans described himself last night as “dumbfounded” and said he was stunned that “any talk of dismissal, termination or reassignment is happening when I have not heard anything from His Excellency the Governor or Government House”.

He said: “I only want what is best for the students of Bermuda public schools.

“My legal representatives will be responding on my behalf from this point forward.”

Principals and teachers had received an e-mail on behalf of permanent secretary Valerie Robinson-James, saying that Dr Evans had been relieved of his responsibilities, subsequently reported in the media last night.

However, Dr Evans’s lawyers issued a response this morning insisting he had not received any letter of termination and that they had been instructed to issue proceedings against the ministry and the Governor.

Ms Robinson-James stated in her e-mail, which was shared with The Royal Gazette by a source: “This is to confirm that Freddie Evans has been relieved of his responsibilities as Commissioner of Education.

“The post of Commissioner of Education is under consideration and you will be advised of the way forward in due time.

“Any critical issues can be forwarded to the Administrative Assistant in the Office of the Commissioner of Education who will forward them to the Permanent Secretary.

“It is the Ministry of Education’s intent to keep you updated on this matter as more concrete information becomes available.”

This morning, lawyer Mark Diel, of Marshall, Diel and Myers, wrote: “We act for Freddie Evans and write pursuant to reports from the Ministry of Education and specifically the permanent secretary, Valerie Robinson-James, that our client was ‘relieved of his responsibilities’.

“Reports have been made that he was ‘dismissed’ and ‘ousted’. Regardless of which wording has been used by the ministry and variously by the media outlets, the statement issued by the ministry is wrong and the statements are libellous.

“To date, our client has not received any letter of termination/dismissal etc.”

Mr Diel said that Dr Evans’s contract made it “crystal clear” that the only person who can terminate his employment is the Governor, and this can be done only during his period of probation.

He continued: “We can confirm, and it is not in dispute, that our client’s probationary period expired on September 30.

“We can further confirm that our client has not received any communication from the Governor, whether written or oral, nor any individual acting on his behalf. Confirmation of this can easily be obtained from either the ministry or Government House.

“We write to inform you that we are instructed to issue proceedings against the ministry and the Governor for declarations that our client’s employment has not been terminated in accordance with his contract or at all.

“We are further instructed to issue proceedings for libel against the ministry and the permanent secretary.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, issued a statement last night, pointing out that he held no responsibility for “operations, human resources or hiring at the ministry or Department of Education”.

Mr Rabain stated: “This government is serious about progressing public education in Bermuda and, as such, supports the Board of Education and the Public Service Commission in their efforts to employ the most suitable people to lead our public schools. All public servants should be commended for their dedication to supporting our students and we thank Dr Evans for his work.”

Mr Rabain congratulated staff and encouraged the community to support them.

Dr Evans, who took over as Commissioner of Education in March, had previously served as acting commissioner for three years.

He told The Royal Gazette when appointed that he was “absolutely dedicated”, and looked forward to a decade or more in the job.

According to the e-mail to public education staff, the post of commissioner is now “under consideration”.

A 33-year veteran of the public education system, Dr Evans was described by a source in the department as popular with many teachers and parents. But the source added that Dr Evans had only reluctantly been given the role, with leadership believed to be more in favour of a foreign candidate. The source said Dr Evans’s work had been hampered from the start by conditions imposed from above.

The previous commissioner, Edmond Heatley, was recruited from the United States in 2013 but resigned eight months later.

His time in the role was plagued by complaints about the post going to an overseas expert and Dr Evans took over the role on an interim basis after Mr Heatley’s departure.

Teachers were told that “critical issues” should be forwarded to the administrative assistant at the commissioner’s office, who would pass them on to the permanent secretary.

Last night a spokeswoman said the ministry “would like to assure the public that an interim plan is being put in place until the Board of Education commences a recruitment process”.

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Published Oct 3, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 3, 2017 at 2:51 pm)

Evans shocked at ‘any talk of dismissal’

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