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Pressure to raise standards at Harrington Sound

Parents and staff at a primary school have joined forces to complain about a string of problems, including poor Covid-19 safety enforcement and “dictatorial” management.

The anonymous group, said to include 100 parents of pupils and 12 staff, added that Harrington Sound Primary School in Smith's also had serious mould problems and had suffered from an infestation of rats. The group, separate from the Parent Teacher Association, listed what it claimed were a string of failures over the past two years.

Concerns ranged from general failures in the school system, including new staff ill-equipped to teach and a lack of teacher experience.

Health and safety fears included a mould infestation that resulted in a teacher taken to hospital and rats found in a classroom's air vents which caused an evacuation.

The group wrote: “The Department of Education is disconnected from schools and fails to recognise different pedagogics for different school levels.

“Teachers feel demoralised, unmotivated, unsupported and there is a lack of trust in our administrators.”

The pressure group complained that there were no warning signs and not enough hand sanitisation products brought in time for the start of the new school year.

It added there had been poor communication with teachers, in particular on remote learning.

The group said substitute teachers had been given no guidance to ensure lesson continuity.

Specific complaints were made against Cindy Weeks, the school's acting principal, Linda Hines, the acting deputy principal, Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, and Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education.

The group said Ms Weeks “creates a divisive atmosphere that has set teachers and parents against each other” and that her deputy, Ms Hines, was “rude, abrasive and unapproachable” with “poor classroom management skills”.

It added: “The Commissioner of Education is dictatorial and micromanages without proper consultation”.

The group said: “Minister Rabain, on numerous occasions, has expressed outright disdain for teachers.”

Ms Richards met the Parent Teacher Association last Friday, after The Royal Gazette raised the group's concerns with the education department.

Debra James, the Harrington Sound PTA president, said that the meeting was productive and that some concerns were to be tackled.

She added: “I am pleased with the outcome. Ms Richards took the bull by horns and said there are a few things that need to get actioned, We have requested updates.”

Ms James said: “We addressed some of the concerns. It didn't touch on the teachers' issues.

“Ms Richards said that teachers have to go through another process. I hear disgruntled teachers and I support them.

“We would like for things to be addressed and for people to get on. There is a divide. If we go through a school year and we have not improved, we are doing something wrong.”

Mr Rabain said: “I have worked along with our teachers and the Bermuda Union of Teachers to provide teachers with the respect and benefits they have earned. At no time have I referred to or expressed disdain for our teachers.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said last month that no grievances had been filed by staff over the concerns raised by the group and that officials would meet parents.

She added: “The Department of Education takes the concerns raised by parents in the Bermuda public school system as serious.

“The resolutions to any issues have processes that must be followed in order to come to reasonable resolutions.

“Teachers, as per their collective bargaining agreement, have a process outlined to have their grievances heard.

“To date, there have been no grievances filed by staff which relates to the concerns outlined.

“It appears that there is some misunderstanding regarding policies which affect teachers and those will be addressed through the appropriate channels once the affected teachers have appropriately presented them.”

In talks: Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, met the Harrington Sound School Parent Teacher Association (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published October 05, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated October 05, 2020 at 7:40 am)

Pressure to raise standards at Harrington Sound

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