May 29, 2015
Chief Education Officer cross-examined in SJCK student judicial review

As the judicial review into the transfer of a student from the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK) to the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia EHSM) continues at the the High Court, the claimant’s lawyer is asserting that the chief education officer (CEO){{more}} was not being entirely truthful in the evidence she gave.

On Tuesday, May 26, chief education officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist was cross-examined by lawyer for the claimant Jomo Thomas, during which she denied that a letter addressed to her, from SJCK principal Calma Balcombe, requesting a transfer for the student, had been procured after legal measures were taken, to cover up the absence of proper procedure.

Thomas put it to Gilchrist that she had not seen the letter from the SJCK principal before September 20, 2013, as it did not bear her signature acknowledging that it had been received — which she also denied.

Gilchrist countered this by stating that the original letter received had been dated April 5, 2013, was stamped April 10, 2013, and had been signed by her. However, she acknowledged that the letter that had been submitted into evidence did not bear her signature – suggesting that it was not the original.

In her sworn affidavit, Gilchrist said that she had received both verbal and written notification of the issues surrounding the transfer of the student in March 2013; following that, she received the letter from the SJCK principal requesting that the Ministry of Education facilitate a transfer for the student.

Thomas also put it to Gilchrist that the Ministry had not done its own investigation into the matter before transferring the student, and had not given the claimant (the student’s mother) a fair hearing.

Thomas asserted that during a meeting with the claimant, Gilchrist had been “offensive” towards her – demanding that she get out of her office immediately and go to the EHSM to register her child. Gilchrist denied all those accusations — insisting that the claimant had been given a fair hearing, and none of the procedures had been “violated” in any way.

Duane Daniel, lawyer representing the Cluny Board of Management in this matter, questioned Gilchrist in an attempt to establish what is customary procedure when the Ministry receives transfer requests from heads of schools.

Gilchrist admitted that the Education Act does not directly address school transfers; therefore, the Ministry of Education has had to formulate its own internal policies and procedures to address this. She also pointed out that as the SJCK is a government assisted school, the Ministry cannot dismiss transfer requests — only facilitate them.

“Such open defiance of the school’s authority could not be tolerated,” she insisted.

Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan, who leads the team for the defense, also questioned Gilchrist. The matter has been adjourned to June 2.

Jones-Morgan is representing the Ministry of Education, and is being assisted by Kezron Walters, Jelani Williams, Serefa Harper and Isis Gonsalves.(JSV)