Saturday , September 30 2023

Opinion: Shape the future of SCS

Dear Editor,

I’ve been reading all the various comments about the current state of education at Saba Comprehensive School and there seems to be a universal consensus that the state of education at SCS is in trouble. I learned a long time ago that everything emanates from the TOP, good or bad.  First, let me say that the former SCS/SEF Board until this past fall was the caretaker of our children’s education along with the current Commissioner of Education and they set the tone, good or bad.

MBO Program:

The MBO program is a disaster. The children have nowhere to go. The program that began many years ago is a bastardized version of the MBO program that is offered in the Netherlands that has been somehow blessed by OCW. The version of MBO that is offered here on Saba fails miserably in preparing ‘Vocational’ students Academically for the real world and many of the students who go through this Saba version of the program are not properly prepared for higher education. The MBO program is not recognized by any other school except for one in Bonaire and our children cannot attend that specific school because the courses are in Dutch. Without going through the CXC academic stream the chances of any SCS MBO graduate getting into a ‘mainstream’ university is null and void.

SCS’s MBO version is not the same as the MBO program in Netherlands. In the Netherlands students enter into the MBO level programs after they have progressed beyond Form 5. (In the Netherlands this group of kids may be taking a more vocational approach to the core subjects but they are not going full steam into job training). SCS’s MBO program forces our children to choose a ‘Vocational Career Path’ in Form 3. Now I ask you as parents, did you have a clear understanding of what you wanted to be when you ‘Grew Up’ at this point in your life? I think for 99.9% of us this answer is a resounding NO!

To make matters worse, Form 3 Vocational/MBO students spend a large portion of the school year in job training and when they return to school many lose focus on the importance of reading, writing and arithmetic. I believe that we need a ‘Vocational Program’ but I think that job training should wait until Form 5 or we add a Form 6 after we ensure that our children have an academic foundation.

One last comment about MBO. None of the MBO text books used in the Netherlands are available in English. Individual SCS teachers must create their own instructional programs for the MBO program and any consistency within the program goes out the window. If our kids cannot read and write properly how the heck can they realize their full potential?

Academic Program:

Many parents on Saba have said that they would like to see CXC go away. CXC is a Caribbean based system born out of CARICOM and the former British Islands. CXC concentrates on the Caribbean for many of its subjects and does not give a complete world view outside of the ‘Islands’. History, Social Studies, Business, Accounting and many of the non-core subjects do not properly prepare students to take university level courses in the Netherlands, U.S. or Canada. Unless the students are going to an island university they often times struggle to catch up. The goal at SCS should be to better prepare our children for the schools that they will most likely attend and the places that they will most likely live and work and since we are not part of CARICOM it is highly unlikely that the majority of our students are going to work or live in the non-Dutch islands unless they have family there.

In our current educational system we use a mixed bag of curricula. At Sacred Heart they are using an American based system with added Dutch splashes as needed. SCS uses CXC which is blended with the Dutch requirements. Teachers must somehow prepare many of their students to go off to school in the U.S. and Canada. Where is the focus and the consistency in instruction?

Financial Issues:

Since the former board stepped down and a new board was selected the current director has been spending money.  SCS went from one extreme to other. The former SEF Board micromanaged SCS but once the pervious board stepped down last fall, no one was overseeing school expenses.  Was it not the role of the Commissioner of Education to supervise the school finances without a board? Now there isn’t any money for books and materials because of overspending by the current director.

Qualified Teachers:

We’ve also heard that many of the new teachers aren’t qualified. Was there a reason why the former board and the now absent Staffunctionaris selected these individuals? The current director is trying to fix the problem but money is required and he offered the teachers financial assistance. SCS is paying to qualify teachers and there is no guarantee that these teachers will stay once they become qualified. This is one of several reasons why the school is now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The old board refused in the past to hire unqualified personnel so why did they do it this time? Regardless of the answer the problem continues and we are in a downward spiral.

Vo-raad & New Board, A New Beginning?

Now, we are looking to the new board to solve the problem. However they are only a part of the solution. The first step in solving the problem requires each and every parent to take an active role in their child’s education.  No one is going to do for your child what you want for them. If you don’t stand up for them then nothing changes.

Each parent needs to stop being afraid of retribution and take action. You need to decide if the current situation is acceptable. There are always options to solve a problem. The solutions will need to be bold and decisive since many of you have said that you feel betrayed by the Vo-raad: Where is the transparency that you were promised? Has anyone shared with you the vision for the future?

A Challenge to the Community:

You need to think, consider, discuss and speak with the architects of your child’s future: school management, specifically the current director. If the answers to your questions do not convey the confidence that you seek then consider all options because we’re talking about our children’s future and the future of Saba.

Non-parents need to support parents and the school because education is Saba’s future.

There comes a point when you’ve had an opportunity to act and you did nothing and that’s fine but you lose all rights to complain because you did nothing. Each of us needs to decide our own next step. I don’t know what it is for you but each person needs to control their lives. In this case it’s your children’s lives.

If you cannot make a decision, that’s also fine because you’ve decided to stay the course.  There’s nothing wrong with that decision however, you cannot continue to complain about the school because you did not act. Silence is acceptance of the situation.

Name withheld on request.

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  1. Can you imagine: SCS has 28 teachers, assistants, advisors, managers, whatever and only some 80 students!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Eddie!…. this means that there is a ratio of 3 students per staff member. They should be receiving the equivalent of one-on-one training. Somehow if Care is so lacking in the report how the heck is this happening? Can we say OVERSTAFFED?

  3. Correction, SCS has 23 teachers.
    One of which is shared with SHS.
    One is part-time.
    And the three Management Team members do not teach full-time schedules, because they do other work for their departments.

    The school has 91 students.
    Those students are divided into 10 forms.
    The 10 forms consist of 4 streams: Lower forms are general years, Vocational, Academic and PraktijkOnderwijs.
    While there are ten forms, the academic and vocational forms are also split into two different paths: Hospitality or General Construction, Sciences or Social.
    So six of the forms split into two areas/paths each.

    Unlike other schools in other places in the world, SCS has to cater to a diverse population of students. There may be small classes, however those small classes can consist of different levels of students, from the special needs to academic.

    While SCS may seem small and ‘overstaffed’, please refrain from jumping to conclusions when you have not analyzed the situation. SCS is a small but complex school.
    And in order to offer the various program choices and offer your children the education that they need/want, there would need to be the necessary teachers.

    One cannot expect 10-15 teachers to teach all of those areas adequately.
    Besides the adequate covering of subject areas, by law teachers can only teach for so many hours.
    And on top of all of that the school does have to answer to the Dutch Inspectorate and show improvements.

  4. Another concerned parent

    Dear Hassell,

    It is clear you try to justify what is going on at the SCS. But let me explain you what over staffing the SCS has at the moment:
    1. Three teachers to teach Dutch language: used to be 2. (ONE EXTRA)
    2. Care coordination: one care coordinator and an assistant care coordinator (ONE EXTRA)
    3. One full time form one teacher. This teacher should have moved up with form 2 like Mr Noah was suppose to go.
    4. Communication officer. I will not even react to this.
    5. Curriculum teachers. It is the creativity of director and management to find qualified teachers who can teach several subjects instead of only one. With this creativity you will be able to affect the budget. Last yer I understood that this plan was in place but because of the school boards’ decision, the complete plan was overhauled and new people were needed to change the direction of the school.
    6. Indeed the school has small groups of students, some a big as two per subject. Indeed you have to justify to the Dutch Inspectorate and Ministry of OCW. But don’t create a picture where all these people are needed in order to teach 91 students. This is just a laughing shame.

  5. Yet according to all that is reported on here, and from concerns expressed by other parents, the school is in a mess and has been since last year. This is of huge concern to myself and other parents as there are no alternatives on Saba. The school therefore must be at optimal levels at all times; this clearly has not been the case over the past year.

    If what is mentioned above is true, then the situation is far more dire than most of us thought. The fact that there has been so much written in the paper over the past year, and so many explosive comments made regarding SCS on Saba News; isn’t this a clear indication of how upset many of us parents and concerned citizens on the island are, regarding the state of the only public secondary school and the education available within? That’s the reality and we all need to figure out how to fix it. Egos serve no purpose, when we are talking about the betterment of the future generations of Sabans.

  6. Dear all,

    What has been stated above is in my opinion, based on information and feedback from inside the school, correct. Otherwise i would not have written this down.
    Yes the school moves forward, one step at the time, but while slowly moving forward, it is constantly facing the disastrous decisions the previous school board made. I fully agree with the statement that the former school board is totally responsible for the change they brought into the school, sponsored by the ministry of OCW BES.
    Now the school is facing the backlog problems and clearly does not see a way out of this. Moving forward is nearly impossible, cooperation of staff members, parents and students is down to zero and educational development is stagnated, effecting the educational development of the students.
    There has been a lot written about the SCS. But I believe that we have to look forward and make sure that the SCS gain it’s glory it had a year ago.
    Individuals responsible for the downfall of the school and the accusations made to them should be brought to justice since they had the overall responsibility of the SCS. But then again, who will start this process, knowing that elections are coming up?


  7. One more Thought!


    Your question about “who will start the process asking for accountability” comes down to one group of people on the island of Saba, the PARENTS’. They are the stakeholders, they are the ones who have been treated like outcasts and ignored by the former board and as far as I can see have definitely been dismissed by the Vo-raad and the Inspectorate. Their children are the main ones who have suffered the most damage and harm done by previous actions.

    The problem is that the way all these ‘Foundations’ on Saba appear to work is that no one seems to be responsible for their actions or held accountable. A board steps down and a new one takes the reins and the new one must deal with any issues left behind by the old board. If I am a company owner I must carry insurance to cover myself….I want to ask the question…do these ‘Foundations’ carry any insurance to cover the inappropriate actions of their Directors?

    I wish the new SEF/SCS Board members the best in addressing all of these issues. I can only hope that the new Board will reach out to the parents instead of ignoring them like the previous board did.