Tuesday, October 4, 2022
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TENSION between teachers at Thelma Gibson Primary School and the school’s principal continued yesterday, with a number of workers allegedly calling in sick or refusing to show up to work.
In a statement released to the media yesterday, BUT president Belinda Wilson insisted that workers, inclusive of teachers and teacher’s aides, have had enough and want officials to remove the school’s principal, Olivia Daxon, from her post.
The group has been going head-to-head with the school’s principal in recent weeks, but relations between the parties further deteriorated last month after an alleged argument between the principal and a teacher.
The BUT president said when Ms Daxon was absent from work following the alleged incident, the school “ran smoothly”, but noted that since her return to the campus last week, many workers have refused to work with her.
“Teachers, administrators and support staff at Thelma Gibson Primary School have refused to work with Principal Olivia Daxon,” Mrs Wilson claimed. “Since her return last week Thursday, teachers, administrators and other staff have refused to work with her.
“Department of Education has refused to discipline Mrs Daxon and redeploy her from the school.
“The teachers have had enough of her and are calling upon Minister Glenys Hanna Martin to cause a decision to be made for the benefit of the teachers, students and the success of Thelma Gibson Primary School. The school cannot progress and will not move forward with Mrs Daxon at the helm,” Mrs Wilson said.
When contacted yesterday, education officials condemned the action, saying it was not “authorised.”
They also noted that the matter was being addressed by the Labour Department, specifically the labour director who did not return this newspaper’s calls for comment up to press time yesterday.
For his part, Stephen McPhee, president of the Bahamas Educators Managerial Union (BEMU) which represents school principals and other senior education officers, expressed disappointment in what he called a “witch hunt” launched against Ms Daxon and called for cooler heads to prevail.
“This morning from what I understand is that after they were directed from last week by the director of labour to report (to work), the president of the teacher’s union along with some of her executive officers have instructed them not to do so and not to abide the decision as agreed by the majority of the parties involved,” he told The Tribune.
“They have been using these tactics of calling in late, showing up before 11 (am) and then leaving school saying they’re sick, as I understand. Ten teachers called in and said they were coming in late. About 10 to 14 of them, I understand, then showed up to school and union executives showed up and met with them and then some 10 to 14 of them went to the sign-out, the register using these ridiculous claims that they feel sick and then left the premises.
“What the public needs to know is it was not the majority. A number of those persons are teacher’s aides who simply sit in a classroom with the teacher.”
Despite yesterday’s action, Mr McPhee conceded that the school’s operations continued as usual, adding that “at no point had school been dismissed.”
However, this is not the first time the union has had issues with Ms Daxon, according to the BUT president.
Mrs Wilson had previously claimed that Thelma Gibson Primary School’s principal had to be removed from Carlton Francis Primary School for similar actions in 2019.
However, Mr McPhee rejected those assertions yesterday, saying much of what is being reported by the union about Ms Daxon was either misleading or false information.
“What is being put in the public domain and BEMU intends to address it in the courts because Ms Daxon first of all has never been charged as it’s being placed out there by any Supreme Court while at Carlton for any wrongdoing,” he said.
“She was never reassigned by the employer as a result of any wrongdoing from Carlton.”
Rumours about the alleged altercation with a teacher from Thelma Gibson are also defamatory, he said.
“A teacher made a complaint and from what I understand that matter is under police investigation, but to this date, Ms Daxon has not been charged with anything or any wrongdoing,” he said.
He also raised concerns about the potential implications from BUT’s “illegal” action, noting that students are affected the most whenever teachers resort to industrial action.
“What I want the public to ask Mrs Belinda Wilson and the shop steward and assistant and the rest who are a part of this, how do you leave 80 students in grade one unattended because you have a personal challenge with a principal and trying to leave those children in a classroom unattended?” Mr McPhee continued.
“That goes against their industrial agreement and that goes against the Child Protection Act and all other laws of abandoning and I want to know what the Ministry of Public Service is going to do.
“Belinda Wilson, who is still a public officer, on unpaid leave and these teachers and shop stewards who are (in my opinion)doing the worst of crimes and leaving a classroom because they are deciding we don’t want to work with her unless y’all move her and we are worrying about how we get to crime in this country?”
The BEMU president also called for BUT officials to meet with stakeholders so their concerns can be amicably resolved where possible.
“If they claim there is some wrongdoing being done, then I have no challenge with as I thought would’ve happened that the BUT president would show up to a meeting with the president of BEMU and the employer, the director or whoever else, let us sit down as adults and if you have some claims, then let us address it in accordance with your industrial agreement,” he added.