BUT Votes No Confidence, Minister Rejects It

February 25, 2019 | 2 Comments

[Updated] The Bermuda Union of Teachers have “overwhelmingly declared a vote of no confidence” in the Ministry of Education’s Permanent Secretary Valerie Robinson James and the Commissioner of Education Kalmar Richards, however the Minister of Education Diallo Rabain has rejected the BUT vote of no confidence saying the Ministry “requests that the BUT provide clarity on the issues of concern.

Bermuda Union of Teachers statement:

A BUT spokesperson said, “The members of the Bermuda Union of Teachers have overwhelmingly declared a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the Ministry of Education’s Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Valerie Robinson James and the Commissioner of Education, Mrs. Kalmar Richards.

“This decision was a result of dialogue held at the Annual General Meeting where members expressed dissatisfaction surrounding a series of decisions which impact the Bermuda Public School system. In particular, the recently released letter, dated February 8th, 2019, which referred to grade reporting expectations caused angst and great concern and members agreed that the requirements outlined in the letter were incompatible with teacher and system readiness as it pertains to Standards-Based Grading.

“Standards-Based Grading concerns were initially expressed in a joint meeting with the Department of Education early last year and ongoing meetings have continued. However, the expectations as mentioned in the letter have caused members much uneasiness. Members concerns included: the lack of proficiency scales, lack of adequate training, an inappropriate grading system and a lack of key understandings around the principles and practices of Standard-Based Grading.

“Despite being made aware of these Standards-Based Grading implementation shortfalls and challenges, teachers are still being directed to follow through with the requests from the letter. The teachers felt that there were some key expectations outlined in the letter that do not support the principles and practices of this new method of teaching, learning and reporting.

“The letter’s expectations around the inputting of grades goes on to state that the Department of Education will also provide teams of teachers for technical support and will put technical measures in place to address concerns related to the length of time it takes for the grading system to respond. These provisions have not been put in place.

“The members are calling for leadership that embraces the essential leadership qualities and attributes for sound decision making.”

Minister of Education Diallo Rabain statement:

In response, Minister Rabain said, “I reject the Bermuda Union of Teachers’ [BUT] vote of no confidence in the leadership of the Permanent Secretary of Education, Valerie Robinson-James and the Commissioner of Education, Kalmar Richards.

“The recent action by the BUT is unfortunate and reinforces the need for continued direct dialogue, collaboration and renewed focus on what is best for our children.

“In the interest of enhanced communication and understanding, the Ministry of Education requests that the BUT provide clarity on the issues of concern.

“Prior to the media announcement, the BUT had not made the Ministry aware of the ‘series of decisions’ about which they are dissatisfied.

“The Ministry wishes to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and seeks the opportunity to work with the BUT to discuss their concerns openly, and work towards a solution jointly with Department of Education staff .

“The BUT have had several meetings with the Ministry and the Department of Education. Since concerns were brought forward regarding Standards-Based Grading [SBG] in October 2018, we have held ongoing meetings with the BUT. The BUT’s concerns about SBG and other matters have also been addressed during monthly Joint Consultative Committee [JCC] meetings.

“The BUT have also been given a forum to have concerns addressed via the Department of Labour between December 2018 and February 2019, as recent as Wednesday, 20 February, 2019. No concerns were expressed during these meetings or via other communication.

“The BUT has stated, via the media, that there have been no measures put into place to address the length of time that it takes for PowerSchool to respond when teachers input grades. In a letter sent from the Department of Education to principals and teachers on of 8 February, 2019 included the following statement, ‘Our IT Team has put a solution in place to address technology concerns related to length of time that it takes for PowerSchool to respond when grades are being entered.’

“The interim solution expressed in the letter refers to a system where school staff have access to the Department of Education’s PowerSchool Administrator who is available to give support as needed. In the meantime,The Department of Education is preparing for the provision of more specialized technical support for teachers. The Department has received a list of teachers who assist schools with technical matters pertaining to PowerSchool and will assign these candidates to assist on a more permanent basis.

“As it relates to the letter sent to principals and teachers on 8 February, 2019 in relation to Standards-Based Grading, a draft of the letter was sent to the BUT General Secretary and President on 7 February, 2019 prior to the letter being sent out to principals and teachers. There was no response from the BUT, nor were any concerns raised by the BUT, prior to the letter being sent out.

“The expectations outlined for teachers in the letter of 8 February, 2019 are compatible with where we are as a system. We are transitioning to a Standards-Based Grading in our schools – the expectations outlined for teachers take into consideration their concerns and where we are now in relation to becoming a SBG system. It has also been communicated to principals and teachers that this is an interim measure until the end of the school year. This decision was made based on what is best for children and after considering many critical factors.

“Further, the letter that was sent to Principals and Teachers on 8 February, 2019 was shared with the external consultant who provides advisement to the SBG Steering Committee. It was during the teleconference held with the Permanent Secretary of Education, Commissioner of Education and the Chairperson of the SBG Steering Committee on 18 February, 2019, that the external consultant advised us that we should proceed with this interim measure until the end of the school year.

“At this juncture, we call on the BUT to place children first and to ensure parents receive progress reports in hand on 8 March, 2019.

“We call on the BUT to identify the ‘series of decisions’ which have caused them concern and to come to the table to work with the Department of Education to resolve them.

“We also wish to advise the BUT and the public that when we make system level decisions, we will make them based on what we know and believe is best for children.”

Update February 26, 3.14pm: Shadow Minister of Education Cole Simons statement:

Mr. Simons said, “The Minister has to stop managing from the pulpit. If he wanted more dialogue and collaboration, he should have met with the BUT this morning, to clear the air and to determine what the real issues are which led to the monumental no confidence vote with regards to the Permanent Secretary and the Commissioner of Education.

“Impugning the character and members of the BUT builds barriers at a time when the BUT and the Ministry of Education should all be on the same page, working together for the best interests of our students and teachers.

“To imply that the BUT, and our teachers, are not putting our students first is irresponsible, and places a dark cloud over education in Bermuda.

“Our teachers deserve more – and more support from the Minister.”

click here banner education

Share via email

Read More About

Category: All, News

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Joe Bloggs says:

    “Standards-Based Grading concerns were initially expressed in a joint meeting with the Department of Education early last year and ongoing meetings have continued. However, the expectations as mentioned in the letter have caused members much uneasiness. Members concerns included: the lack of proficiency scales, lack of adequate training, an inappropriate grading system and a lack of key understandings around the principles and practices of Standard-Based Grading.”

    Ok, now lets look at those concerns.

    First, Kalmar Richards was NOT the Commissioner of Education “early last year”.

    Second, disappointed expectations are a fact of life. Grow up and live with it.

    Third, it is not for the workers to decide what is or is not an “inappropriate grading system”. That is a matter for management, in this case the Department of Education.

    Fourth, if the teachers have “a lack of key understandings around the principles and practices of Standard-Based Grading” then they need to learn. Constantly upgrading skills is necessary in every profession. If the teachers are unable or unwilling to keep current in their knowledge then they should be reassigned to an appropriate position, such as sanitation worker, with an appropriate adjustment in wages.

  2. Thank you, U.B.P.
    You are a worthless group, for those of you who are still alive!!!

Leave a Reply