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Government wants to scrap boards of governors

Government wants to abolish boards of governors for the Island's public schools and put the power back in the hands of the Ministry of Education.

Education Minister Nalton Brangman yesterday called for public consultation into changes to the Education Act that would eliminate the boards, in favour of “a new relationship” with Parent Teacher Associations.

The decision would affect only Government maintained schools — meaning aided institutions such as St George's Preparatory School or the Berkeley Institute would be exempt.

And Senator Brangman added that CedarBridge Academy, as the Island's only maintained school with “a functioning board of governors”, would also be spared the changes.

Amendments to the 1996 Education Act would be made in response to complications arising from last year's ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley — in which the Supreme Court quashed two transfers of school principals that had been undertaken without consulting PTAs.

In that case, Mr Justice Kawaley specified that consultation didn't mean that decisions “could not have been made over the PTAs' objections, or that the PTAs had to become formally involved in any contractual collective bargaining procedures”.

However, Sen Brangman said that under the existing legislation, the ruling implied that PTAs “must be treated as boards of governors”.

He continued: “This would be a paradigm shift making it far more difficult to administer, and more importantly, to have accountability.”

Maintained schools are those on Government-owned property, and funded out of public money.

Sen Brangman added that he wasn't telling the Supreme Court to “butt out”, but was moving to put consultation in place, amend the Act, and “make our efficiency far more effective in the delivery of education”.

Otherwise, he said, every action taken by the Ministry would be open to challenge in court.

“Consultation means we have met the Supreme Court requirements,” he said.

Sen Brangman pointed out that the Ministry had moved more than 100 teachers last year without any issue, including both voluntary and involuntary transfers.

“This year, we went to move voluntary and involuntary transfers of teachers, and it was challenged,” he said.

Returning to court would have “put education through the wringer unnecessarily because we did not consult”.

“The public consultation now puts our foundation back in order so that we can move to correcting the administration of schools in the manner that it should be.”

Involving PTAs in board level decisions such as financial management, maintenance and safety would have required about 290 volunteers to sit on school boards, he said, adding: “That's not going to work.

“In this case, we set up a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry and the PTA which describes how that relationship will work, and how we will have participation from parents to improve our system of education,” Sen Brangman said.

Consequently, through public meetings commencing next month, the Ministry is seeking to “develop what will be the finished position”, he said.

According to the Minister, the two options are either to create school advisory councils — or to amend the Act and remove the boards of governors.

The latter, he said, was the “preferred option”.

In place of the boards would be “a new relationship with PTAs that is focused on student achievement and school improvement.”

Berkley Institute students leave school yesterday, as the Ministry of Education is looking for public input on proposed changes to Bermuda's Education Act 1996. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm (Updated September 19, 2013 at 12:39 pm)

Government wants to scrap boards of governors

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