Monday , March 20 2023

Saba school board and parents meet, resolve to move forward

The Daily Herald writes that Board members of Saba Education Foundation (SEF) Board and Saba Parents Association (SPA) met on Monday and agreed to move forward after several contentious weeks following the Board’s April decision not to renew the contracts of Saba Comprehensive School Director Hemmie van Xanten and three teachers. Nolly Oleana of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and Commissioner of Education Chris Johnson also attended the closed-door meeting at the SCS campus in St. Johns.

Raquel Granger SEF Board President said: “I am glad we finally sat down to have this conversation. As a school board…we made decisions that were very difficult. Decisions like that are never easy to make. We have to take into account all the different factors of the school. Sometimes these concern teachers who have been there for a year, sometimes two years, but we are also looking towards tomorrow and the future of the school.”

Granger cited privacy laws as the primary obstacle to communicating with the parents and the public why certain personnel decisions were made. The board did take responsibility for some of the lack of communication during the controversy and went as far as to apologize to parents. “We apologized and acknowledged that perhaps this meeting could have happened earlier,” said Granger. “Things just took on a tenor that we had not experienced before. I think communication was obviously lacking. Communication is paramount. It doesn’t matter how well a job you do, or how bad a job you do, if you don’t communicate, then it doesn’t have as much value. I think we’ve learned that.

“This is not the first time that contracts have not been renewed, but the outcry was much different this year. We hoped that in the years to come, the turnover rate won’t be that high. Sometimes this is something we experience as a small island. We certainly believe that continuity is very good, but while it would be nice if we could keep everyone, you ultimately have to think what is in the best interest of students’ education.”

During the meeting, parents tried to submit their list of concerns to the board. Some of these will be addressed, such as parental input on the board, availability of school uniforms, qualifications of new personnel, the new hierarchy within the education system, and continued improvement of student achievement. According to a parent, board members have agreed to add two parental advisors to the board. The determination of who those parents will be will be made soon after the start of the new school year. “We didn’t get all of our questions answered because of time. The meeting would have dragged on and on,” said Wingrove Baker. “Still, I would agree it was a good meeting. There were still some parents, who were not able to attend the meeting, and we won’t make a decision on which the new parent representatives will be until everyone has had a chance to discuss things.”

The board also confirmed that all but one of the current vacancies has been filled. The remaining position has been offered and awaiting acceptance from the candidate. Granger said the board is considering having an open house around the start of the new school year, where parents can meet current and new staff members. Granger commended the work of all current and former staff and acknowledged their contributions to SCS. As the board, parents and staff plan to move forward, she is hoping the recent lessons learned will only make Saba’s schools better in the long run. “I went to school here. I left high school when I was 17 and went on to the United States and did undergraduate, graduate and doctorate level work,” she said. “Everything I learned here enabled to get me where I went. I think all of our students should have that very same option. I look forward to parents wanting to be a part of that process. All parents who were there last night, I have to respect them. If every child had a parent like that here, we would be where we want to be. They are going to hold us to account, which they should. They are truly concerned about their children and we are as well. Two of the board members have children in the schools. We do this with the best of intention and we work extremely hard. Some of the things we do are not really for everyone to see, but we do it with the best interests of the school at heart.”

(Photo The Daily Herald)
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  1. Hello! Advisory Board Positions??? This is something.required by the Netherlands and does not constitute voting positions on the Board.

    These two slots for Two Parents one Teacher and one Student on the ‘Advisory Board’ do not get a voting position …. this is just a ‘Rubber Stamp’ group that must agree with the Boards decisions.

    Good Luck with that!!!

  2. René Caderius van Veen

    Here you may find that having a “Medezeggenschapsraad” – which is more than just an advisory committee because it has definitely rights to decide on several subjects – is an obligation for every school by law since 2007. Already there the board operated in an illegal way and their proposal now to have two parents as advisors in the board is incorrect. They simply don’t know anything about school management.

  3. Raquel can spin it whatever way she want. She lied about the ‘board’ positions and although this may quiet things down for a brief period of time, it will flare up again come the start of school when not all positions have been filled. Dutch, The guidance and Math have all been rejected twice by candidates. I feel sorry for the new teachers coming into the school after this turmoil. I hope they read all these articles, do their research and turn the jobs down. Raquel, Tabitha, Maureen and Commissioner of Education need to step down. They messed up, continue to mess up and their arrogance and incompetence has no bounds.

  4. Concerned parent

    Raquel chose her words carefully. She doesn’t have a PhD/doctorate. “Doing work” and completing are two totally different things.
    Clinging to “privacy” as the justification for arbitrarily firing four teachers is a weasel-word for using power as a means (and last resort) to cover up decisions that were based only by revenge, spite, and vindictiveness.
    It is clear that the position of the school board is being hijacked by members of the community who are using it as a means for revenge and nepotism, rather than as an opportunity to improve the quality of education for children at the SCS. The small population of Saba also makes this difficult to avoid in the future. A simple solution would be to have two board members who are not residents of the island (whether native-born or not), and one island resident. In a way, no different than the police.

  5. Concerned parent

    “We certainly believe that continuity is very good, but while it would be nice if we could keep everyone, you ultimately have to think what is in the best interest of students’ education.”

    If this was true, the board would not have approved the hiring of an unqualified person to teach art, who was actually fired four years ago from his position as the SCS art teacher.

    I repeat. Out of their application pool, they hired an unqualified teacher for art. Who was already fired from the SCS.

    That, my friends, is clearly not in the best interest of students’ education. Unbelievable.

  6. Dear Concerned Parent….just perhaps this Art Teacher now has the appropriate documents and training.

    More important is now that it means that a Husband and Wife now are teaching at SCS and we are back to the old issue of having too many family members in the same organization.

    I can tell you that in the PAST many Sabans have had to find other jobs when their spouse became an employee within the government. (Of course that was in the Past and does not seem to be true now).

    (shortened by Editor)

  7. Sounds to me like they could not find anyone in time to teach so they just hire someone they know they could to fill the position. However if they dont have the correct paperwork then the Dutch inspector will force the hand. This damn board have the nerve to advertise their so-called education level yet they do everything against what the Dutch have said the school must do. Stupid man. They must have received their degree from the back of a Kellogs cerial box because they sure don’t come across as educated, just hoity toity, miserable and crazy. (shortened by Editor)

  8. Let's stick to the issues

    While I do no way support the board or their actions, I would like to suggest that we stick to the issues. We all know that there were obvious personal reasons for the teachers not having their contracts renewed, but by airing gossip and supposition we are no better than those that we oppose.

    Also, perhaps said Art teacher may not have been the first choice of the board, but he is someone who is already familiar with the CXC curriculum and the students, which is actually a good thing, isn’t it? And, from what I understand, the only reason this person was let go was to make way for a Saban teacher, otherwise they would have likely stayed on. Again, I’m not supporting the board, but this might turn out to be something positive for the students in that this teacher is actually contributing to continuity, in a way.

    What is definitely concerning here is that the parents were misled to believe that they were going to have a position on the board. When I read this article, it appears as if everything has been discussed and all parties are happy, but that clearly isn’t the case based on the responses. Even if all the teachers have been hired and do start on time, the bigger issues have not been dealt with and the manner in which this meeting occurred indicate that the board does not have any concern for the public that they serve. They are trying to appease parents by making sure that there are teachers there on time, but it does not address the fact that this could have been avoided entirely, nor how they plan to move forward. They are still not showing accountability for their actions, still not explaining things clearly for parents, and the concerned community. This is the real issue.

  9. concerned parent

    There are many things said that are not true. For instance I know that non of the ‘fired’ teachers where told the reason for jot renewing their contract. By law the board does not have to do that. And so they won’t. No matter what.
    I rather look into the future: I don’t trust the quality if the education they offer any more: we are looking for other possibilities for our kids.

  10. Another concerned parent

    During the meeting with the board, they promised the parents to have two advisory parents on the board. No where is written in the statutes that a board member functions as a advisor. Each board member has the same responsibilities and obligations. They are talking of setting up a “medenzeggenschapsraad”. The board does not organize this. The school has to set this up. Several times have parents been approached by the school to take part in this body but up till now no one has reacted to this request. This body is compulsory by law and should be operational in September 2014. This body is an advisory body to the management team and has for now no decision rights. The body should exist of minimum one parent, one teacher, one non-teaching staff member and a student. This body has nothing to do with the school board. Did the board sell the parents a six for a nine?
    Furthermore is the hiring of non-qualified teachers against OCW recommendations and also against the policy of the school board since last year it was made clear that only qualified teachers should be recruited. The appointment of this specific visual arts teacher raises many questions. His performance while on Saba was below average. His classroom was disorganized and although he knows CXC, he does not meet the set requirements. Again is the board acting without knowledge or are they solving created problems to keep the public quiet?
    I wonder were the quality of education will go when you deal with a board that has absolutely no knowledge on how to manage an educational institution. Only future will tell. My child will most likely not benefit from these actions. I am looking for a solution outside Saba.

  11. René Caderius van Veen

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