PARENTS of students of the Mon Repos and Patience Combined Schools are adamant that the consultations with officials of the Ministry of Education are a bit late.
They say that the two meetings held last month should have been held sooner. However the meetings, though different in tenor according to Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) Michelle Charles, did have a common theme that reverberated throughout: the parents felt that the meetings should have been held sooner.
As previously reported, in an interview with The VOICE Newspaper, one parent from the Mon Repos Combined School, who wished to remain anonymous said that the general feeling amongst parents at the meeting was that consultation with them over the merger was “‘happening very late’ despite the fact that ‘they believed that they were probably the primary stakeholders in the school…’”
This was also brought up by one of the members of the PTA at Patience Combined who said, to much applause that “we believe…that parents of the students who will be directly affected by this proposed merger, needed to be consulted at a much earlier date.” And like his Mon Repos counterpart, he also brought up the point that while the Ministry “did mention us as stakeholders, we fall to the very bottom tier of stakeholders” and “we feel a bit disrespected.”
That feeling of disrespect was not unique to parents from the Patience Combined School, as the parent from Mon Repos Combined also described the meeting held there as one filled with disrespect and dissatisfaction; as reported in a previous article, he said to this reporter that: “you had to have some footage of the way the meeting went to show the dissatisfaction, the disrespect that the parents pronounced in the meeting, how they felt (about) how the matter was being dealt with.”
As mentioned in the previous article on the potential merger of the two schools, while the Ministry holds that a final decision on the merger has not yet been made; parents from both schools view this with more than just a grain of skepticism.
The aforementioned PTA Member from Patience Combined said as much when addressing the Ministry representatives, stating that: while the presence of the technocrats “is welcome,”…“it is a bit disrespectful because it appears to us now that we are just being informed of decisions that have already been made, that we were not given (an) opportunity to even have a say in.”
This was echoed by the parent from the Mon Repos Combined School, who said that in addition to their disapproval of the proposed merger, parents also felt that; “based on how the presentation was going, it appeared that the decision had already been made…”
When asked if the merger is still just a proposal, the DPS Michelle Charles stated emphatically that it is: “It is not something that is a fait accompli, really as we have been indicating and we have been making in our presentation, it is a proposed merger.”
She also took the time to ensure patrons that the concerns raised at both meetings, will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made: “The discussions are still being had and at the end of the day, we are going to make the recommendation in terms of whether or not it is feasible in the time frame that has been expressed…So it is not a fait accompli. It is something that is in the process of being discussed and we will determine the way forward, based on the kind of responses that we get from our stakeholders.”
Speaking on the proposed September 2018 date for the merger, she said; “The proposed date was for September of this year, but having heard all of the concerns from Mon Repos, from Patience, from other stakeholders that we have engaged; it means that we really have to take on board all that has been said and determine the feasibility of it.”
“So if it is something that could be implemented between now and September, and that is based on the feedback coming to us, it is something that we might go forward with, if not, if it is something that has to be delayed…we will decide based on what we have been told from the stakeholders. So it’s not an autocratic process.”
Despite the DPS’ assertion that the merger is “not an autocratic process” “autocratic” is exactly the way the parent from Mon Repos felt about the process of the proposed merger, stating: “I mean we live in a democratic society where…we vote and we vote for representation;”
Speaking of the route he believes the Ministry of Education has taken during the process of the proposed merger, he said that “as technocrats, you cannot just do things. You have to go and do investigations; (conduct) a serious analysis of what’s really happening…and then come back and give feedback” “then the decision will be made but it appears that the decision has been made (so now) you have to go and see how you can…sell this idea to the parents.”