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Calls for a Bermudian education commissioner

Bermuda Government and Progressive Labour Party politicians have called for a Bermudian education commissioner to be appointed.

It comes after ZBM reported that a Briton had been selected for the post and acting education commissioner Freddie Evans confirmed to The Royal Gazette that he would not be taking up the position permanently.

During Friday's Motion to Adjourn in the House of Assembly, shadow education minister Lovitta Foggo said overlooking a qualified Bermudian for the job would send the wrong message to the public.

Ms Foggo said that continuing to find persons from overseas to fill key positions in various industries on the island reinforces the “message that for some reason Bermudians either aren't qualified, don't have the experience, aren't capable”.

“That is the connotation that begins to manifest in the minds of our public.

“If we are a government and I say that collectively, that is about putting Bermudians first then we need to demonstrate that in our behaviours and we need to do that in particular in education by ensuring that the person who is placed at the helm is a Bermudian.”

Ms Foggo added that Bermudians appointed to the position in the past had done a “stellar job”.

Education Minister Wayne Scott stressed that although he was not involved in the appointment process because the Board of Education makes the recommendation to the Public Service Commission, no decision had been made to his knowledge.

“I'd like to see these top posts held by Bermudians,” he added. “I think we have many qualified people in Bermuda.”

In response to PLP backbencher Walton Brown questioning why Mr Scott could not direct the board to appoint a Bermudian, Mr Scott said the Education Act is “very specific in this piece”.

But Mr Brown responded that any limitations with regards to legislation could be fixed.

“If there is sincerity of intent, change the law to allow the Minister to have the power to do what is right,” he said.

Mr Scott also pointed out that the rules for appointing an education commissioner had been changed under the One Bermuda Alliance Government.

“When I got here, we weren't even eligible for our Bermudians to be considered. That's a problem that was inherited, it's a problem that is now fixed.”

But OBA backbencher Shawn Crockwell said that despite the rules being changed, the results remained the same.

“I believe that the apparent awarding of the commissioner of education position to a non-Bermudian deserves the reaction of righteous indignation,” he told the House.

Mr Crockwell said the last foreign education commissioner hired turned out to be an “unmitigated disaster”.

“And after he left we put Bermudians in place as acting commissioners of education. Are you going to tell me that during that time frame, the necessary training couldn't have been done?

“Something is wrong when our qualified, highly educated Bermudians, who attained PhD education, who have worked in the education system for years, who can act in the position, are being overlooked.”

OBA backbencher Leah Scott agreed that a Bermudian should be hired, adding that while someone may have expertise, “the relationships that you develop with people are sometimes far more important”.

“We have people in that department who have developed relationships with principals, who have developed relationships with the students.

“I see the talent that is already down there and I can't believe that every person that is down there is completely inadequate in terms of their ability to be able to provide the leadership and knowledge that is necessary to be the commissioner of education.”

Position vacant: the Acting Commissioner of Education, Freddie Evans, has said he would not be taking up the role permanently. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 13, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 13, 2016 at 8:07 am)

Calls for a Bermudian education commissioner

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