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Concern at lack of news about new school heads

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The Ministry of Education has failed to announce who will head up two of Bermuda's middle schools even though the new academic year starts in just a week's time.

Parents, teachers and children remain in the dark about who if anyone has been appointed as the new principals at Clearwater and Dellwood Middle Schools.

Teachers are preparing to return to the two schools on September 1, and pupils on September 6, even though they are “none the wiser about what is going on.”

The Ministry of Education yesterday told The Royal Gazette it was “not in a position to comment” even though the closing deadline for job applications was a couple of months ago.

The top vacancies are available after Clearwater's principal Carlos Symonds announced he was moving from the public to the private sector and Dr Janette Musson retired as principal of Dellwood.

There are fears that Clearwater could really be left in the lurch as the school's deputy principal Dr Derek Tully has also retired.

Shadow education Minister Grant Gibbons said it was “most unfair” that the Ministry was being “less than forthcoming” about the appointments.

He suggested the lack of information was leading to “mistrust and unease” and “undermined the credibility of two good schools.”

Dr Gibbons said: “It's hard to understand why this hasn't been sorted out earlier than now.

“There is clearly a sense of disarray here. You can't just expect a new principal to walk into a new school; they need the summer to prepare for the new year.

“This unnecessary delay is putting children in a non-advantageous position with regards to their education.

“This certainly looks to be a breakdown in accountability.”

Dr Musson is understood to have informed the Ministry of her retirement in May and Mr Symonds made it known in June that he was moving to Somersfield Academy after about five years at Clearwater.

The Ministry told Dr Tully, who recently turned 65, in the spring that he had to retire from his deputy principal post at Clearwater.

Under regulations he should have been able to apply to stay for another year, but he was told he was not allowed.

Dr Tully was ironically forced to leave shortly after Premier Paula Cox and Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith publicly praised him for his dedication to the public school system at the launch of his book 'A Man of Patience'.

The job advert for 'middle school principals' was advertised in the newspaper with an application deadline of June 24.

Ministry bosses initially wanted the position of deputy principal at Clearwater to be an internal promotion. Two Clearwater teachers are understood to have formerly applied for the position in June. But then in July, the Ministry announced the job was being thrown open to “the whole system” in a bid to get more applications.

Those who applied for the deputy principal's job still do not know if they have been successful or not.

Sources within the Ministry of Education called it “an absolutely ridiculous situation” comparing it to “being on a ship without knowing who is sailing it.”

One source said: “Everyone is concerned at this lack of information; the teachers, parents and students.

“Teachers go back on Thursday and they have no idea who will be running the schools, it's very unsettling for them.

“Everyone was expecting to have heard something by now, but we've had no official confirmation. Considering it's the week before school starts, it's all kind of crazy.

“Things are really being kept under wraps and no one knows why. How can this be a good start to the new school year?”

All three teachers remain employed by the Ministry until the end of August and it is understood that Dr Musson and Mr Symonds are currently carrying out job interviews for new middle school teachers.

A newspaper job advert this week stated that school teachers were needed for middle and senior schools in subjects including mathematics, instrumental music, social studies and science. The closing date was listed as August 29, for the new school term, which starts just three days later on September 1.

The Royal Gazette sent the Ministry of Education a series of questions regarding the new appointments at the two middle schools.

A Ministry spokesman responded yesterday: “The Ministry has no comment on the education/principal query requests at this time. When the Ministry is in a position to comment, it will do so accordingly.”

The following statement was issued by Education permanent secretary Warren Jones this morning: “Dr Gibbons is well aware that it is not the Ministry of Education that appoints principals to schools and that there is a process to be followed. As opposed to adding to the concern of parents by making uninformed comments in the press, Dr Gibbons could have called the Ministry himself to seek a response to his concern.

“If he had done so, he would have been advised that we have followed all processes and just await sign-off on documentation to confirm their acceptance and that this will be in-hand prior to the opening of school.

“As correctly noted in the story, the posts were advertised in June, interviews conducted and recommendations made to the Public Service Commission. However, naming these individuals can only occur once they have officially accepted the posts and completed the necessary paperwork.”

No principal: Clearwater Middle School
OBA MP Grant Gibbons

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Published August 25, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 25, 2011 at 10:01 am)

Concern at lack of news about new school heads

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