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St George’s Prep PTA calls for education minister’s resignation

St George’s Preparatory School (File photograph)

The PTA of St George’s Preparatory School has accused the Minister of Education of prioritising politics over the best interests of Bermuda’s schoolchildren.

A spokesman for the PTA said it was “deeply confused and disturbed” by the Government’s decision to deviate from the one-school-per-parish model when reversing a decision to close St David’s Primary School.

The move, announced on Wednesday by Diallo Rabain, the education minister, will mean that the parish of St George’s keeps two parish primary schools while all others, with the exception of Pembroke, retain one, a decision justified by declining birthrates and school enrolment figures.

In a statement, the PTA called for Mr Rabain to resign.

Mr Rabain said on Wednesday that the decision was made to keep St David’s Primary open after a rescoring process that emphasised “the distinct nature of the St David’s community” compared with the broader St George’s Parish.

He said the unique characteristics and history of St David’s made it clear that the school deserved “a distinct status”.

While the PTA congratulated St David’s on remaining open, it said that enrolment at the school was low — 55 pupils this year compared with 91 at St George’s Prep.

The spokesman said: “At no point prior to or during the rescoring process was it noted that it would be possible for a parish to have more than one school. The decision was nothing more than a political ploy to appease constituents and retain votes.

“In other words, this government has prioritised politics over what’s best for children. Further, the trustees of St George’s Prep offered to deed the school’s land to the Government, therefore this was a non-issue.

“Our PTA cannot help but note a vindictive attitude towards our school community that is rooted in its previous status as the designated White school for St George’s at a time when our society was organised around the principle of racial segregation and oppression.

“This is a legitimate trauma that’s endured into the present which has translated into a wrongful prejudice against the school, and its continued perception as a ‘White’ school. For clarity, of the 91 students at St George’s Prep, not more than 14 per cent are White.”

The spokesman questioned whether the school’s voice mattered to the Government, suggesting that now that West End Primary, another school that had faced closure, had been saved with St David’s Primary, votes from constituents in their areas were secured.

He said that St George’s Prep, an aided school, had been “sorely underfunded” by the Government since the 2020-21 fiscal year.

He insisted that this came about despite millions of dollars ploughed into the overseas consultants Innovation Unit Australia/New Zealand.

“The funding matter will be detailed in due course as fundraising needs to take place for the 2024-25 fiscal year to literally keep the school’s lights on.

“This is especially egregious considering the millions of dollars that have been committed to the Innovation Unit consultants.”

He added that the scoring and consultation for the parish primary school model had been “deeply flawed and problematic” from the outset, with school sites earmarked for closure before consultation, school performance not factored in, and “impartial data collection” used.

The present PTA did not advocate for St George’s Prep to remain open but rather demanded to remain in place until the new parish school — previously solely East End Primary School — was complete.

It said it would not accept a closure date until that point.

The spokesman added: “Since government has intensely deviated from their policy, we need to revisit this position with our parent body.

“Furthermore, the minister made it clear several times that the new transition plan from a three-tier to two-tier system, which previously included the Whitney Institute amalgamation, would be released as a draft before being finalised.

“Recent correspondence gives the impression this will not take place.”

The group said it would be “extremely unwise” to change course.

“The St George’s Prep PTA calls for the resignation of the Minister of Education. This is not a leader that cares about all of Bermuda’s children regardless of politics. This is not a leader who’s willing to do what’s right and what’s best.”

Mr Rabain was accused of playing politics with students.

“It’s time for him to step aside and it’s time for the PLP to show concern for all of Bermuda’s children, not just the ones who’ll gain them votes.

“Enough is enough.”

On announcing the news that St David’s Primary would remain open, Mr Rabain said: “We worked diligently to ensure that our decisions were fair and well informed while remaining sensitive to the impact of these outcomes on all stakeholders.

“We understand that despite robust advocacy, this final decision may not align with every school community’s hopes. However, the process has been one of careful consideration and meticulous evaluation, guided by a commitment to fairness and the best outcomes for our educational system and our children.”

The Ministry of Education has been approached for comment.

To read the statement in full, see Related Media.

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Published May 03, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated May 03, 2024 at 7:59 am)

St George’s Prep PTA calls for education minister’s resignation

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