On June 19th, 2019, the St.Maarten Academy P.S.V.E. Teachers refused to go back to classes and chose to wait on answers in the staffroom regarding the uncertainty of their vacation pay. However, the principal Mrs. Lavern Nelson refused to meet with her teachers to ease their concerns. This is nothing new as the principal has not have a staff meetings with her staff for the school year 2018/2019. There are constant tensions between the principal and her staff members for the past three years due to her antics and lack of leadership capabilities. This has caused a continuous deterioration of the working environment in which the schoolboard has refused to intervene. Unfortunately, this has created a toxic atmosphere which has now trickled down to the students on campus.
In a separate interview with a couple of exam students, they claimed that have received many conflicting information from the Principal, Mrs. Nelson pertaining their National Exam which left some of the students confused. They rely heavily on the other school managers of the school and their more experience homeroom teachers to guide them. The students also claimed that they are not encourage or motivated by the Principal as she does not attend assembly and is not a reliable source of information. The exam students do not feel comfortable coming to this school in such an environment where there is an obvious tension between the principal and the teachers. One student asked, will the minister of Education, honorable Wycliffe Smith intervene? They thought education and well-being of the students’ was first priority. One student, shouted, “We are suffering too because of her”. Another student asked, how to learn in an environment like this?
The teacher have been complaining about the Principal’s lack competence to manage the school and her inability to work with her staff. In one instance, due to the negligence of the principal, she jeopardized the integrity of the Spanish. This is has caused 121 students to re-do the National exam and delay graduation for some schools. Also, more information indicated that this is not the first time the principal has made such blunder which has caused her staff members to loose complete confidence in her leadership ability.
A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Nelson informally mentioned to the staff that the vacation pay might not be paid due to lack of funds. And to compound the fears of the teachers, recently, there was an article in the newspaper pertaining to rumors of non-payment of vacation pay. It would have been professional for our School Board and or school managers to communicate whether this is in fact true. A proactive leader would have demanded answers and seek information, so that the issue can be clarified. Now, the teachers are left with uncertainty which only opens the door of misinterpretations and confusion.
The teachers feel that they ought to be respected for their hard work, dedication, and willingness to go above and beyond. Furthermore, most teachers spend their own money; hundreds to purchase supplies for the classroom to create a positive learning environment.
Teachers of the St. Maarten Academy has had enough and this continuous roller-coaster needs to end. We are not just asking for vacation pay but we are asking for F.A.V.E School Board to be professional and to respect educators and to be sensitive to our cries.
As of now, teachers and staff have not received any vacation pay. They are aware that the vacation pay is to be paid from June 15thonward, however, nothing has been formally communicated as to if and when we will receive the vacation pay. In the past years, it is customary that it is paid out around the 15th-19th of the month. Unfortunately, using the newspaper is the only means of communicating with the board as they have not met with staff to provide clarity on the so-called “14” teachers being dismissed nor vacation pay.
The teachers would hate to think that the monies that are rightfully due on to them were used to buy gravel, sand and other building materials to build/rebuild the Academic section and leaving the teachers with empty-handed.
During the sit-in, the Chef du Cabinet of the Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Mr. Peter Gittens was at the school to listen to the grievance of the teachers. He was quite surprise to hear that the recommendation from the ministry during an early dispute had not been implemented by the schoolboard for the sake of the students. Mr. Gittens, informed the staff that the vacation pay was already paid to the schoolboard in a lumpsom payment. However, there is a possibility the schoolboard could have used the monies for other expenses. Teachers also expressed their concerns regarding the lack of communication from the FAVE board regarding their vacation and the removal of the Mrs. Lavern Nelson. Minister was informed of the ongoing situation during a press briefing. The teachers had enough and will continue their sit in on Thursday, June 20th, 2019 until their demands are met by the FAVE Schoolboard which are to receive their hard earn vacation pay and the removal of Mrs. Lavern Nelson.
Mr. A. Wilson