Simons hits out over principal positions
Uncertainty over the appointment of public school principals will hurt pupils, the shadow education minister warned yesterday.
Cole Simons said: “We cannot have our children suffering in September.
“We can’t start off a new school year — and everything’s got to be in order — when the leadership of each school is compromised because the principals don’t know where they are going to be assigned.
“At this point, they should have their plan in place for the coming school year.”
Responding to questions from The Royal Gazette, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education said this morning that all schools would have either principals or acting principals in place by September 4.
She added that four acting principals would continue in their current roles, while one new acting principal had been named.
Two new principals had also been confirmed.
The spokeswoman also provided a breakdown of staff vacancies at the various public school levels:
Preschool — Zero vacancies
Primary — Four vacancies
• 1 art teacher
• 1 learning support teacher
• 2 classroom teachers
She said prospects had been identified, and that each post would be filled by the start of the school year.
Middle — Two vacancies
• 2 music teachers
Senior — Two Vacancies
• 1 physical education teacher
• 1 science teacher.
The spokeswoman did not provide additional information on whether prospects had been identified for the middle and senior positions, or if the posts would be filled by the start of the school year.
Mr Simons was speaking after media reports highlighted staffing vacancies, including principal posts, just weeks before pupils return to the classroom.
Mr Simons said that he understood that “five or six” principal posts were unfilled.
He added that created a situation where a school could not “solidify the direction” it would take in the new school year.
Mr Simons explained: “Each principal has their own idea on how they are going to get excellence out of their students.”
He said the uncertainty suggested a lack of planning on the part of the ministry.
Mr Simons added: “If you find that there aren’t sufficient qualified people for the roles as principals for each school, then maybe you have to have a more aggressive recruitment campaign, both locally and internationally.”
He said that part of the problem was because a permanent commissioner of education had not been appointed.
Kalmar Richards was seconded to the job from CedarBridge Academy as acting commissioner in December after Freddie Evans was removed from the post. Mr Simons said that if Ms Richards was made permanent, that could have a “knock-on” effect if other staff needed to be shifted around schools.
He added: “That’s why it’s important that the commissioner of education role be announced post-haste.”
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said the roles of principal and acting principal were the same.
Mr Rabain said in a Facebook post: “An acting principal is expected to perform the job as the principal of the school.
“There is no expectation of any reduction in their effectiveness due to whether they are acting or confirmed to the post.”
He added that all schools would have a principal in place at the start of the term “whether they are acting or confirmed into the post”.
Mr Rabain said: “I have full confidence in the hiring process and would rather extra time be taken to ensure the person recommended is right for the job versus rushing the process to appease people.”
The spokeswoman said yesterday that the ministry would not comment on whether a permanent commissioner of education would be in place before the start of the school year.
Mr Simons said he would take a wait-and-see approach on the state of readiness of schools for the start of the year.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said last week that all public schools would be safe for pupils and staff by the September 10 term start date.
Mr Simons said that he had seen work being completed — but that he had some doubts over the claim.
He explained: “My concern is, is the work cosmetic or is it substantive?
“Have they totally addressed the mould issue? Have they addressed other health challenges in these unhealthy buildings?”
• Update: This story was updated to include the response from the Ministry of Education
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