Categorized | National News

Minister Not Backing Down–PTA President Supports Fitzgerald, GB Principal

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald is not backing down from those teachers who took part in demonstrations outside his ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister, saying he will have their salaries deducted even after union officials filed six trade disputes with the Department of Labour.

Mr. Fitzgerald told reporters Tuesday morning as he headed into his weekly Cabinet meeting that the ministry has confirmed that fewer than 200 teachers took part in those demonstrations.

He said teachers who took part in those protests should see those cuts either at the end of this month or next month.

Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) executives have accused the minister of threatening the teachers and attempting to intimidate them.

But Mr. Fitzgerald said the teachers handled their grievances in the wrong way.

“I have had an open door policy for the president of the union from day one, but I will not meet under these circumstances and I don’t want, as I have said, for there to be any mistake with regard to my kindness being interpreted as weakness because I am resolved that we will do whatever we need to do to ensure that our campuses are safe, that it’s an environment that is conducive for learning and that it is really trouble free.”

The minister also explained that he has had talks with the union about the money owed to the teachers adding that the he has acknowledged that there is in fact money owed in the millions of dollars to the teachers.

He therefore questioned why BUT President Belinda Wilson was now making the matter an issue.

“In working with the union earlier in my term as minister I set up a department within the Ministry of Education whose sole purpose was to reconcile and get information of teachers who fell into this category,” he said. “Before the budget year ended in June we paid out about a million dollars of this amount.”

“I understand there is about $3 million to $4 million owing right now. We have reconciled that; we have spoken to the Ministry of Finance and it is included in this year’s budget and all of this was related to the president. I have kept her fully involved in the process. So that cannot be a matter of contention.”

“The Ministry of Finance indicated that the information that we sent would take into account and try to settle those amounts this year and that has been communicated to her so that’s not a secret. It’s not something we need to have a row about.”
Among some of the other issues raised by the teachers is the removal of the principals of the Anatol Rodgers High School in New Providence and the Maurice Moore Primary School in Grand Bahama, but the education minister insisted that his investigations have uncovered no suitable reason to remove or reassign those administrators.

Meantime, PTA President at the Maurice Moore Primary School, Vandyke Hepburn threw his support behind Minister Fitzgerald and that school’s principal, Mildred Roberts.

“Maurice Moore School is not deserving of what they’re going through today. They have some fine teachers at Maurice Moore School. Their programme is one of the best in Grand Bahama. I can tell you this because I have a 10-year-old daughter at that school. I have spoken to some of the parents and I have spoken to teachers. There are a couple of teachers that are causing problems at the school. There is no reason that we can look at or speak about today that [could explain why] Ms. Roberts should be removed,” Mr. Hepburn said.

The teachers there want to go out and have their fun, go where they want to go and do whatever they want to do. My daughter is a prefect; she’s10-years-old. Why should my daughter spend a day inside a class teaching kids her own age? [Because] the teachers are out to the hairdresser or somewhere else? At the school we have parents and teachers moving around the campus as we speak. They are now telling parents ‘we need you on our side to go against Ms. Roberts. Ms. Roberts hasn’t done anything to those persons. Ms. Roberts is a very disciplined woman.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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