NEWS - Problems at Cumberland High - Teachers stop working to protest against indiscipline by students

NEWS – Problems at Cumberland High – Teachers stop working to protest against indiscipline by students

THE strained relationship between students and staff at Cumberland High School in St Catherine came to a head yesterday after teachers withdrew their services following a confrontation between the principal and a female student at the institution on Friday.

Dean of discipline at the school, Rene Level, told the Jamaica Observer that the student, who is in Grade 9, was being reprimanded by Principal Michael Brydson when things took a turn for the worse. Level, who noted that she was not present at the time of the confrontation, said it got physical, after which the student allegedly used a large stone to break the rear windshield of Brydson’s vehicle.

Yesterday, the police were called in after a parent showed up at the school with an entourage and allegedly threatened a teacher. The teachers then decided to stage a sit-in in protest of what had transpired.

“Indiscipline is running high and the problem is the fencing; we don’t have a perimeter fence. That is one of my biggest challenges right now. You will suspend a child and that child ends up back on the compound,” Level said.

“Students want to do what they want to do, and then when you talk to them about it they are disrespectful. They gamble, smoke, and there’s truancy,” she added.

Level said when she first arrived at the school students punctured her tyres insisting that they would not allow her to come and “run things like a prison”.

A science teacher at the school, Donovan Edwards, told the Observer that teachers have to be doing their work in fear.

“Teachers are afraid to speak with students; they have basically cowered in fear and we are not being backed by the Ministry [of Education]. What has happened is a culmination of what has been happening for some time now. The final authority of the principal has been reduced and brought to zero,” Edwards said.

The Observer was told that the principal was not available for a comment, despite passing the news team several times on the compound.

A resolution e-mailed to the Observer in March accused the principal of neglecting his duties as head of the institution.

The unsigned resolution, which called for Brydson’s removal, was submitted to the school board by a teacher, who asked not to be named, requesting that he be replaced. Brydson has been at the helm of the institution since 2014.

Chief among the accusations levelled against him is his “failure to administer the necessary sanctions to students who misbehave as stipulated in the school’s student handbook”.

The resolution stated that Brydson has not been able to command the respect of the student population “resulting in a serious deterioration of discipline and various deviant behaviours such as substance abuse — consumption of alcohol and smoking of marijuana — extortion, gambling, and explicit sexual activities among the student population”.

Brydson is also being blamed for the “unsatisfactory” rating of the school’s overall effectiveness, according to the findings of the National Education Inspectorate’s report.

Checks made by the Observer revealed that the school’s overall effectiveness has been rated unsatisfactory since 2012, which was before the new principal took office.

When the principal was contacted by the Observer at the time the resolution was sent, informing him of the content, he said then that the accusations were “malicious”. He also cited them as the “personal grievances” of one individual.

“There is no petition going on at the school. The accusations are definitely untrue, and I am treating this as legal now,” he said then.

An anonymous caller to the Observer yesterday said that “students are wreaking havoc” at the school.

“Mr Brydson cannot manage,” said the the caller, who questioned if the call was being recorded.

The ministry, in an e-mailed response to the resolution, recommended that the chairman of the school board, Rupert Pryce, “call an extraordinary board meeting and ask the principal to arrange a staff meeting next week to address this matter”.

The ministry noted that, while the resolution was not signed, “This matter needs to be treated with the sense of importance and urgency it deserves – particularly so, given the fact that the school board will expire at the end of the month of March.”

A new board has not been appointed.

Meanwhile, students questioned by the Observer confirmed that “things are really bad” at the school.

Classes at the school are expected to be suspended today, which is just a day before the term ends.

SOURCE : http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Problems-at-Cumberland-HighTeachers-stop-working-to-protest-against-indiscipline-by-students——-_92519

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