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Principal barred from St Barbara’s Primary

By Rachael Espinet Friday, August 29 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Episcopal Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke, second from right, refers to a document to support her concerns about conditions at the St Barbara's Spiritua...
Episcopal Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke, second from right, refers to a document to support her concerns about conditions at the St Barbara's Spiritua...

St Barbara’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Primary School in Maloney was the scene of another row between the school’s principal Pamela Hunt and the school’s denominational board yesterday.

Before the academic year ended in July, Hunt was reported to the Ministry of Education by Episcopal Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke who accused her of misconduct and breaking of board policies. Hunt was not allowed to enter the school compound.

The Trinidad and Tobago Teaching Service Commission intervened in the matter to assess the case. A letter dated August 27, 2014, addressed to Gray-Burke said, “The Teaching Service Commission has considered a report from the investigating officer who was appointed to the allegations of misconduct made against Ms Pamela Hunt, Principal (Primary), St Barbara’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Primary School and has decided to take no further action with respect to the allegations of misconduct made against her.”

The letter requested the board to allow Hunt to continue to perform her duties as principal of St Barbara’s.

At about 9am yesterday Hunt entered the school’s compound but was not allowed into the school building. Gray-Burke cited the Occupation Safety and Health (OSH) Act as the reason for barring Hunt from entering the compound.

A letter from the St George East Medical Officer of Health, dated June 23, listed a number of defects found in the school which included pigeons observed nesting in the school, dirty walls, missing seat covers in the boys’ toilet and a generally dirty compound.

Gray-Burke said while the board is working on repairing the defects, it decided not to allow anyone to enter the compound to be in compliance with the OSH regulations. This includes teachers and the principal, Hunt.

The Spiritual Shouter Baptist board, along with the school’s supervisor, were expected to tour the compound yesterday to assess the progress of repairs at the school. Though Hunt was supposed to report for duty, she was not allowed on the tour.

To ensure that Hunt was allowed to resume her position, the Ministry of Education called the police. Before Hunt arrived, two police jeeps with two officers in the vehicles were at the school. However, Hunt was still barred from resuming her position. Gray-Burke also stated that since the issue between the board and Hunt was before the court, Hunt should not be allowed to resume duties.

“If you have a matter before the court, how can you bring her in the compound? I think that if the matter is in the court, everything should be in a stand still,” Gray-Burke said.

Currently the board is refurbishing the school including replacing 250 light bulbs and repainting the school. Though schools are expected to open on September 2, Gray-Burke said St Barbara’s would not be ready to open until September 8.

Gray-Burke complained that the police treated the board unfairly and described it as a form of discrimination. She said the police accused her of vandalising the school’s desks, but explained that the paint on the desks was accidently spilled by the contractors painting the walls.

Gray-Burke said she wanted to go to the Equal Opportunities Commission to address that matter. Northern Division Superintendent David Abraham said he was not aware of any incident in the school.

Regarding Hunt resuming her position on September 8, Gray-Burke said the board would adhere to the court’s judgment.

“We will comply with the decision of the court. The lawyers are working on the issue in the court,” Gray-Burke said.

Alicia Busby, head of communications at the Ministry of Education said the ministry agrees with any decision made by the Teaching Service Commission.

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