THE news came as a shock on Tuesday when Minister for Education Dr. Gale Rigobert confirmed the mass resignations of members of the Board of Directors of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC).
Indeed, the board’s resignation was confirmed by the minister even before it was disclosed that the Government had agreed to make an emergency cash injection of $3 million into the college’s dwindling coffers.
Senior Communications Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister Nicole McDonald confirmed that “It did come as a surprise that the board reacted in this way,” referencing the mass resignations.
As to the reason for the resignations, neither side has been forthcoming.
The VOICE asked Vice Principal of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, Dr. Merle St. Claire-Auguste, but to no avail.
Dr St Clair-Auguste referred this reporter to a statement already released by the SALCC and asked that we redirect our questions to the ministry.
However, the VOICE can confirm that the resignations came after the Board of Governors met with Cabinet on Monday, where their fees increase proposal was roundly rejected.
McDonald told the VOICE: “The board made a presentation to the Cabinet of Ministers on some of the steps the College is taking to meet its challenges,” adding that the Cabinet Ministers “discussed the proposed increase of 100% in student fees, which is one of the things that the College board was suggesting in order to deal with some of the financial issues that [it] faces…”
However, like with the SALCC Vice Principal, The Voice’s question drew a blank shot from the PM’s top press spokesperson, with McDonald replying: “I’m not aware of the main reason why the board resigned.”
Providing just a tiny window into some of the discussions Cabinet had with the Board, she added, however, that “All the government advised was that Sir Arthur review their decision to increase the fees at this time, on parents and students.”
McDonald told The Voice: “The Cabinet (of Ministers) made it very clear that they were concerned about such a significant increase coming so close to the beginning of the new semester, which would have obviously taken students and parents by surprise.”
“Government asked that the board bring to Cabinet a full strategic plan so they can get a clear idea of where the College is going and whether an increase is even necessary,” she added.
“That is why the Cabinet took a decision [Monday] and advised the College that a fee increase should be shelved for now, while the College works on restructuring,” McDonald explained.
One day later (Tuesday), the SALCC Board of Governors resigned, clearly not pleased with the Cabinet’s decision.
Meanwhile, the VOICE can also confirm (through a reliable source) that the SALCC Board of Governors requested that Cabinet present a united front with it on the decision to increase tuition.
The source revealed that one of the school’s suggestions to Cabinet was for issuing of a “Unified Statement on the importance of the fees.”
The source confirmed that the SALCC’s decision to propose a fee increase was based on a proposed substantial decrease in its annual subvention for the next academic year and the board’s decision to resign was “based on the fact that the SALCC is operating on a tight financial budget.”
However, Cabinet was obviously not wholly impressed with the presentation, nor with the timing of the decision to double tuition fees and thus advised the Board to review its decision.
The SALCC’s proposed fees increase was announced in a letter dated July 31, 2018 and signed by Ms Merlin Combie, as a ‘Member of the Interim Leadership team’.
The entire Board of Governors agreed to resign after the cabinet rejected their recommendation and ordered that the proposal be withdrawn.
The decision to inject the additional $3M into the school’s coffers was also announced after the board’s resignation.