Principals’ association agrees with SJCK disciplinary action
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September 27, 2013

Principals’ association agrees with SJCK disciplinary action

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Principals of Secondary Schools has come out in support of the actions taken by the principal of the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK).{{more}}

The press release, issued by the Association on Wednesday, stated that the administrators of the 26 secondary schools were in firm support of the procedures followed by Calma Balcombe, principal of the school.

The statement came after a four-hour meeting on Tuesday, attended by the principals, held in the Information and Technology laboratory of the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown.

While the principals met, the parent and student in question sat under a gazebo just feet away.

“The principals unanimously agreed that their fellow principal took the requisite disciplinary action in response to the student’s misconduct,” the release said.

“In addition to this, the Association is satisfied that the principal appropriately informed the student’s parent of the decisions taken in response to the student’s unacceptable behaviour,” the statement also said.

According to lawyer for the parent and child, Jomo Thomas, earlier this year, the student was suspended for two days, after disrespecting a teacher. Following success in her third term examinations, the student was promoted, but, however, given a letter of transfer to another school.

At the beginning of the 2013 school year, three weeks ago, the student and parent turned up at the SJCK, but the student was not allowed to go to a class, which caused her mother to seek legal redress.

Last Friday, the court had issued an ex parte order that the child should return to school with immediate effect, until the final determination of the matter. An ex parte order is one which is made by the court on the request of one party, without prior notice to the other party.

The saga at the school came to a head on Monday, when the teachers walked off the job after the student, accompanied by her mother, turned up at the school.

Thomas told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday that Balcombe could be “in for some trouble” because of the action she took regarding the student.

“Based on what happened on Friday, where the judge ordered that the child should return to school until the matter is settled, the action of the principal, in my mind, amounts to a contempt of court, because the child was not allowed back into the class; it was a clear violation of the court’s order,” he said.

A source close to the school however told SEARCHLIGHT THAT the child was never barred from going to her class, and on arrival, the parent was told that she (the parent) was free to leave, but the child should stay.

On Tuesday, the teachers called in sick, causing classes to be cancelled for a second day.

Chief Education Officer Louanne Gilchrist, Deputy Chief Education Officer Beverly Neptune, and Senior Education Officer with responsibility for Secondary Schools Asfo Stephens, joined the principals at Tuesday’s meeting.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that Gilchrist, Stephens, Balcombe, the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown and the Ministry of Education have been named as defendants, in the lawsuit brought by the parent.

Also releasing an official statement on the standoff is the Cluny Board, the management group of the SJCK.

In their release, also issued on Wednesday, the board, which is based in Trinidad, indicated that its schools were established to reflect the Christian values as espoused by the Catholic Church.

“Principals and teachers seek to instill discipline in our young people and Christian values and principle by preparing them spiritually, intellectually and socially for life.

“Some of the core values that characterize our life and activity are obedience, truthfulness, honesty, humility, respect for oneself, for one’s companions and those in authority, propriety in conversation, behaviour and dress, as well as regular attendance at school.”

The statement said that schools under the aegis of the Cluny Board of Management are expected to embrace these values.

“They help to create the ethos of the Cluny Catholic school and students attending these schools are expected to abide by the rules and regulations as expressed by each school. Parents and guardians of children attending the Cluny Catholic schools are expected to respect these values so that the philosophy of the Cluny Catholic school may be kept alive. Should the policies expressed therein not be upheld, the School Management has the authority to act as it deems necessary,” the Cluny Board of Management said.

Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Education on the matter have proved futile.