BPTSA On Education Act & School Restructuring

April 2, 2015

[Updated] The Bermuda Parents Teachers Students Association [BPTSA] have sent a letter to Education Minister Wayne Scott, Acting Commissioner of Education Dr Freddie Evans and Education Permanent Secretary Valerie Robinson-James outlining their concerns.

The letter said, “The purpose of this letter is to solicit your support to end the Ministry of Education’s plan to undermine parent autonomy by changing the Education Act and to reduce resources within the Public Education System by closing schools.

“On Thursday, March 5th 2015, The Ministry of Education invited parents to the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium to canvass input about what we deem as its indecisiveness as to whether it should close schools to save $1 million. It was explicitly stated by the Minister that he was merely mulling the idea.

“The presentation was deceptively couched in the language of ‘school consolidation’ to mask the intent of ‘school closure’. Parents were not fooled. The Ministry of Education panel was clearly stomped when the question was posed as to whether it was feasible to have consolidation’ without corresponding ’closure’.

The BPTSA’s letter requested release of data requested by the BPTSA, permit the BPTSA adequate time to confer with its PTA membership and to respond to the Government school consolidation overture, refrain from working to deter parents from meaningful participation in the educational system, systemize parent consultation per BPTSA’s consultation criteria proposal, discontinue efforts to destroy parent independence via the Education Amendment Act 2015 by withdrawing it, and explicitly accede to the demand of parents to make changes to the educational system and to pursue educational policy exclusively for purposes of improving students’ educational outcome in each affected school.

The letter said, “If we reverse our stance or waiver, we will return to a Government education administration that is unchecked, hence producing the results that Government is apparently ashamed of releasing to the BPTSA. Accordingly, we hereby forward this correspondence to PTAs for signature to show support for the proposed demands on Government noted above.”

The full letter from the BPTSA is below:

Dear Member PTAs

Changes to the Education Act and School Restructuring

The purpose of this letter is to solicit your support to end the Ministry of Education’s plan to undermine parent autonomy by changing the Education Act and to reduce resources within the Public Education System by closing schools.

At a special meeting of the BPTSA Executive on March 20, 2015, members agreed that it is necessary to take the urgent actions proposed in this letter to regain momentum since the 2012 Ming Decision and to be firm in our determination to safeguard our children’s educational future.

Proposed Actions

The proposed actions are to demand the following:

  • Immediate release of data requested by the BPTSA per its correspondence dated July 16, 2014 through to March 27th, 2015.
  • After providing said data, permit the BPTSA adequate time to confer with its PTA membership and to respond to the Government school consolidation overture;
  • Refrain from working to deter parents from meaningful participation in the educational system and partner with PTAs and the BPTSA as per the 2012 Ming Decision;
  • Systemize parent consultation per BPTSA’s consultation criteria proposal;
  • Discontinue efforts to destroy parent independence via the Education Amendment Act 2015 by withdrawing it; and
  • Explicitly accede to the demand of parents to make changes to the educational system and to pursue educational policy exclusively for purposes of improving students’ educational outcome in each affected school.

Our Rationale

The BPTSA executive chose not to mince words, as evidenced in the stated purpose of this letter and throughout this letter.

We have tried our best since the 2012 Ming Decision, as indeed beforehand, to partner with the Government of the day to ‘improve the performance outcome of the educational system’. It is now with great disappointment that we are compelled to report to you that Government then and now have demonstrated its staunch aversion to our objective. Shockingly, ‘performance outcome improvement’ for students has proven to be an impediment to Government’s agenda!

Specific Examples of Government acting contrary to improving performance outcomes

  1. On Thursday, March 5th 2015, The Ministry of Education invited parents to the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium to canvass input about what we deem as its indecisiveness as to whether it should close schools to save $1 million. It was explicitly stated by the Minister that he was merely mulling the idea. The presentation was deceptively couched in the language of “school consolidation” to mask the intent of “school closure”. Parents were not fooled. The Ministry of Education panel was clearly stomped when the question was posed as to whether it was feasible to have consolidation’ without corresponding ’closure’.
  2. The BPTSA made a written request for data verification of the figures presented by the Ministry to afford us the opportunity to ascertain the performance of the system; and to ultimately respond to the Ministry’s proposal. To date no data has been provided.
  3.  On the heels of the March 5th presentation, the Minister of Education tabled legislation entitled The Education Amendment Act 2015 [PDF] on Thursday, March 12th, 2015. The Amendment was subsequently rushed through the House of Assembly on March 2oth, as an add-on item in the midst of the budget debate. The Bill will have the effect of doing four things:

i. Remove provisions for Boards of Governors from the Education Act,
ii. Appoint School Councils with the same mandate as PTAs [but at the mercy of the Government as to who is appointed to them, what they do and whether they will continue to exist]; and
iii. Appoint a Parent Involvement Committee, hand-picked by the Government that would have a mandate conspicuously similar to that of the BPTSA.
iv. Undermine the right of PTA consultation by the Ministry. In the absence of proper consultation it is questionable whether the Bill is being pursued contrary to the judicial decision. The fundamental effect of the legislation will be to remove parents’ independence to advocate for improving the education of our children. This will be achieved by cleverly removing the “right to consultation” of independent parents that the Ming Decision has afforded. That right would instead go to the puppet bodies created through the new Act.

The BPTSA’s effectiveness

Parents should take consolation that the BPTSA are being effective! Since the 2012 Ming Decision, the BPTSA and our PTA affiliates have succeeded in holding the Government to account for a number of decisions. In some instances they have had to retract their decisions because of a failure to consult. On one occasion we were forced to return to the Courts to dissuade them from their usual course of action. Their actions have included whimsical transfers of educational staff, failure to consult parents and key staff members on important decisions and tactics similar to those described in proposing the Amendment to the Education Act.

The BPTSA Call to Action

If we reverse our stance or waiver, we will return to a Government education administration that is unchecked, hence producing the results that Government is apparently ashamed of releasing to the BPTSA. Accordingly, we hereby forward this correspondence to PTAs for signature to show support for the proposed demands on Government noted above. Due to time constraints it was not feasible to obtain all PTA signatures. The entire PTA membership has supported the cause of this letter irrespective of whether they have had the opportunity to affix their signature.

Please also notify your membership that we anticipate mobilizing beyond this correspondence to achieve our aims.

Sincerely,

Harry Matthie
Chair
Bermuda Parents Teachers Students Association

CC:
Honorable Wayne Scott, JP, MP [Minster of Education]
Dr. Freddie Evans [Acting Commissioner of Education]
Ms. Valerie Robinson James [Permanent Secretary]
The Mass Media

Schools

  • Dalton E Tucker [Signed]
  • Elliot Primary
  • Harrington Sound Primary
  • Northlands Primary
  • St. David’s Primary [Signed]
  • East End Primary [Signed]
  • St. George’s Preparatory [Signed]
  • Francis Patton [Signed]
  • Paget Primary
  • Prospect Primary [Signed]
  • Somerset Primary
  • Victor Scott Primary [Signed]
  • Gilbert Institute
  • Heron Bay Primary [Signed]
  • Port Royal Primary [Signed]
  • Purvis Primary
  • West End Primary
  • West Pembroke Primary [Signed]
  • Clear water Middle School [Signed]
  • Whitney Institute [Signed]
  • Dellwood Middle School [Signed]
  • Sandys Secondary
  • T N Tatem
  • Cedarbridge Academy [Signed]

Update 12.37pm: A copy of the Ming Decision is here [PDF]

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Comments (13)

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  1. Show me the money says:

    School closures are a reality. There just isn’t money to support having so many primary schools on a tiny island. The government employees sealed that deal during their illegal strike.

    I love how people who are getting something for free complain the loudest. Those of us who are paying the most taxes are likely sending our kids to private school. Why should we have to pay more for your kids to go to school where you want?

    • Portia says:

      Because private school students get just as many Government scholarships and bursaries as public students, so I’d say you’re getting something for your tax dollars. Don’t complain.

      Plus, it is to your advantage, and the advantage of your kids, to have an educated population for the future.

      • ..... says:

        @ Portia

        Why can’t we complain? Our kids have just as much right to apply for Government Scholarships and Bursaries as kids from public schools. Just because we send our kids to private schools does not mean we are rich. Maybe we care more and are willing to work harder and hold down two or three jobs at a time to pay for it.

        I do agree with you that it is to everyone’s advantage to have an educated population for the future. But the problem is most kids “graduating” from schools are not well educated at all. If you don’t believe me go the central bus terminal one afternoon and have a chat with some of them. It will probably be an eye-opener for you.

        • Heather Telford says:

          I just wanted to say to Portia that I care ,I am sure, just as much as you, about my children getting an education and they are in public school. Also, not everyone can afford for their children to go to private school and they , like the private school parents, expect a high level education. I do.

      • Show me the money says:

        That doesn’t answer why I should pay extra for 24 public school on an island with 60,000 people! That is insane!

    • ..... says:

      @ Show me the money

      I totally agree with you! My child was in Cedarbridge for two years and managed to learn nothing. That school is a babysitting facility. So now my child is in private school and excelling. It would be nice to get a tax credit beings that I’m now forking out about $20,000 a year.

    • bermudaglobetrottersdotcom says:

      If you are that dissatisfied – teach your children yourself. There are no laws preventing you from doing so. Or, as many other have done, make financial sacrifices by enrolling your children in private education.

      In this country, public education is a farce.

      Anyone who has been EDUCATED, not simply SCHOOLED, knows that.

  2. The Minister had said indirectly “No School Shall Be Closed.”
    I am not too keen on seeing any of our schools close but, as seen in our past, it would not be the first time a school/s were / had to be closed.
    The Bermuda Technical Institute was one that as far as I’m concerned should have never been closed and knocked down :-(
    Tech. was a great, (all boys / young man) school when I’d attended, turning out many exceptional students…
    My point is, as much as everyone does not agree with what had been or has to be done the bottom-line is, it had to be done for countless reasons.
    Now, while sitting in on this O.B.A. Town Hall Meeting the other night I’d seen and heard Mr. Kim Swan when he’d jump-up and started ranting and raving about a few things…One thing he mentioned “caught my ear”, that being the East End Primary School. It’s the one that many are fearing will be closed, according to Mr. Kim Swan the first school on the Island as well as it being a part of the Historical Towne of St. Georges. If true, then I too agree with keeping it open if for nothing else that reason alone.

  3. Casual Observer says:

    In all honesty I cannot tell what the exactly the issue is as the letter is very poorly written.

    They might have legit concerns but it can’t be deciphered from the above.

    What is the 2012 Ming decision referenced in the above?

    • Vote for Me says:

      @ Casual Observer
      You not understanding what the letter is requesting does not necessarily equate to a poorly written letter.

      Reread the letter slowly or simply read the 5th paragraph of the Bernews story.

      They are simply looking for government to release school performance data, which should be the basis for any decision to reform or otherwise change the Public Education system.

  4. Starting Point says:

    So both the PLP and OBA governments have found this organization wanting, tells you a lot about the ineptitude of the BPTSA. Then again, any organization that says, we,umm,umm did not have time to get signatures but ‘trust us’ everyone is on board, really sounds professional lol.

    Move along, whats for lunch.

  5. bluebird says:

    CLOSE THE SCHOOLS AS THE POPULATION OF CHILDREN IS FAR LESS.
    CLOSE THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AS THEY DO NOT EDUCATE ANY CHILDREN.
    GIVE ALL PARENTS A VOUCHER FOR EACH CHILD TO PICK WHAT SCHOOL THEY WANT THERE CHILD TO GO TO.
    THEN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN BERMUDA WILL BE BENIFICAL FOR THE CHILDREN,
    AND NOT THE BENIFIT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION,WHO LIVE LARGE.