No confidence vote in education leaders

  • Kalmar Richards, Commissioner of Education (File photograph)

    Kalmar Richards, Commissioner of Education (File photograph)

Teachers have backed a vote of no confidence in the Commissioner of Education and the Ministry of Education’s top civil servant.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Union of Teachers said that members had “overwhelmingly” agreed on the action against Kalmar Richards and Valerie Robinson-James, the permanent secretary at the ministry.

He added the decision was a result of dialogue at the Annual General Meeting “where members expressed dissatisfaction surrounding a series of decisions which impact the Bermuda public school system”.

He said that a letter sent to primary and middle schoolteachers and principals this month had caused “angst and great concern”.

The spokesman added: “Members agreed that the requirements outlined in the letter were incompatible with teacher and system readiness as it pertains to standards-based grading.”

The letter, written by Ms Richards, was sent to primary and middle schoolteachers and principals on February 8 and advised on grading and reporting procedures until June.

It said that parents were to receive a progress report by the end of the month.

Ms Richards said that a second progress report would go to parents in April, followed by a final report card in June.

The spokesman said that concerns over standards-based grading were first expressed by the union at a meeting with the Department of Education last year.

He added: “The expectations as mentioned in the letter have caused members much uneasiness.”

The spokesman said concerns included the lack of adequate training on standards-based grading.

He said: “Despite being made aware of these standards-based grading implementation shortfalls and challenges, teachers are still being directed to follow through with the requests from the letter.

“The teachers felt that there were some key expectations outlined in the letter that do not support the principles and practices of this new method of teaching, learning and reporting.”

The spokesman added: “The letter’s expectations around the inputting of grades goes on to state that the Department of Education will also provide teams of teachers for technical support and will put technical measures in place to address concerns related to the length of time it takes for the grading system to respond.

“These provisions have not been put in place.”

He said that union members “are calling for leadership that embraces the essential leadership qualities and attributes for sound decision making”.

Teachers have been locked in conflict with the Government over a series of problems, including standards-based grading, which the teaching union said had added stress to already overburdened staff.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education said earlier that teachers had undergone two days of training this month on the standards-based grading system. She added that the IT team working on the computer programme PowerSchool had “made the internet connection perform more efficiently in the short term”.

Some training in the new grading system was given to school staff last month after a request from the BUT.

The Government did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published Feb 23, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 23, 2019 at 8:00 am)

No confidence vote in education leaders

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