Rabain responds to union vote
A no-confidence vote in the senior managers of public schools was dismissed yesterday by the Minister of Education.
Diallo Rabain backed Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, and Valerie Robinson-James, the permanent secretary at the ministry after the Bermuda Union of Teachers passed the no-confidence vote last week.
Mr Rabain said the BUT action was “unfortunate and reinforces the need for continued direct dialogue, collaboration and renewed focus on what is best for our children”.
He added: “In the interest of enhanced communication and understanding, the Ministry of Education requests that the BUT provide clarity on the issues of concern.”
A press release from the BUT last Friday said that the vote came after the union’s Annual General Meeting “where members expressed dissatisfaction surrounding a series of decisions which impact the Bermuda Public School system”.
A union spokesman said that a letter sent to primary and middle schoolteachers this month had caused “angst and great concern”.
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.
Mr Rabain said that the ministry had not been made aware by the BUT that it was dissatisfied before it took action.
He added: “The ministry wishes to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and seeks the opportunity to work with the BUT to discuss their concerns openly and work towards a solution jointly with Department of Education staff.”
Mr Rabain said the union had taken part in several meetings with the ministry and Department of Education and that concerns about standards-based grading had also been raised at monthly Joint Consultative Committee meetings.
He added: “The BUT have also been given a forum to have concerns addressed via the Department of Labour between December 2018 and February 2019, as recent as February 20.
“No concerns were expressed during these meetings or via other communication.”
Mr Rabain said that a draft of the letter sent to teachers and principals by Ms Richards this month had been given to Shannon James, the president of the BUT, and Mike Charles, the union’s general secretary, before it was delivered.
He added: “There was no response from the BUT, nor were any concerns raised by the BUT, prior to the letter being sent out.”
Mr Rabain said that the grading and reporting expectations outlined by Ms Richards were “compatible with where we are as a system”.
He added: “This decision was made based on what is best for children and after considering many critical factors.”
Mr Rabain said that an outside consultant had backed the timetable and grading instructions in the letter.
He added: “At this juncture, we call on the BUT to place children first and to ensure parents receive progress reports in hand on March 8.”
But Cole Simons, the shadow minister for education, said that Mr Rabain needed to “stop managing from the pulpit”.
The One Bermuda Alliance MP added yesterday: “If he wanted more dialogue and collaboration, he should have met with the BUT this morning to clear the air and to determine what the real issues are which led to the monumental no-confidence vote.”
Mr Simons said that the union and Government should be working together “for the best interests of our students and teachers”.
He added: “To imply that the BUT, and our teachers, are not putting our students first is irresponsible and places a dark cloud over education in Bermuda.
“Our teachers deserve more — and more support from the minister.”
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