Senator Simmons: ‘It Will Take A Unified Effort’

December 13, 2018

“The problems we are experiencing in our public schools can be fixed,” Independent Senator and veteran educator Michelle Simmons said, adding that “it will take a unified effort on the part of every one of the key stakeholders in our public schools.”

According to her bio on the Parliamentary website, Senator Simmons had a 38-year teaching career in Bermuda, England, and Nigeria. She served as Secondary Department Head at Bermuda High School for Girls, and then became Principal of The Berkeley Institute, where she led the school for just over twenty years, retiring from that post in August 2013.

Speaking in the Senate yesterday, Senator Simmons said, “I don’t often speak on the Motion to Adjourn, but I really have to today. I’m pausing because I just want to make sure I do not get too emotional. Public education….we cannot afford to continue on the current path without there being huge negative consequences for our children. We cannot afford in this country to continue to expect the best if we don’t put it in to our schools.

“We have, and we’ve seen it over the years, we’ve had a shrinking public education sector in this country. We can’t afford to continue down that path either, because in any country in the world, we must have a strong, vibrant public education sector to ensure that we are doing right by every person in this country.

“People shouldn’t have to take their children out of public education and move them into the private sector, because they fear that their children will not get the education they deserve in our public schools.

“I believe, and I believe this with every bone in my body, that the problems we are experiencing in our public schools can be fixed. But it will take a unified effort on the part of every one of the key stakeholders in our public schools, and those who are responsible for the administration, the management, the support of our schools.

“That includes everyone. It’s parents, it’s our students, it’s all the educators, it’s the Principals, it’s the folk at the Department of Education, the Ministry of Education, it’s everyone. Everyone has to be part of the solution.

“So we cannot keep having these divisions where teachers feel that they have no choice but to abandon the education of the children that they are there to serve. I believe that the majority of people in our schools want the best for our young people.

“I believe that the administrators at the Department and that the Ministry of Education want to see our children excel. But there has to be a meeting of the minds. There has to be a coming together.

“If we fail to do this, we will continue to be plagued by inequalities in our community which lead to disaffection, feelings of not belonging, a sense that public education is not worth anything, also a sense that there is nothing here for me, and therefore the separation continues in our society. Bermuda, we have to get it right.

“So today before we close, I would just like to issue this plea. That is, that we all work together to fix what is going wrong in our public schools,” Senator Simmons said.

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Comments (8)

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  1. simple says:

    plp made big promises about education in 1998 and in the last election. but they to busy flying around and hooking up their cronies

    • wahoo says:

      Surprise! We never learned our lesson guess we are easily deceived and they like it that way.

  2. Connected Community says:

    An important call to action from a very experienced educator.

    How do we stop the long standing erosion of public education, the flight to private schools and actually bring about the required changes?

    With the power and control structures within government, unions and teachers, there is little chance of a collaborative approach that is not yet again hijacked by the existing power and control system at some point.

    Time to bring in a process that facilitates real change and doesn’t just reinforce the current structures, governance and power platforms that are failing our children year in and year out.

    We need courageous leadership that moves towards a community ECO-system and away from the current individual EGO-system. Stop the hiring of the heroes – no one person or idea can withstand the crushing blows of the Ministry of Education. Many have tried – none have succeeded.

    Give power back to the parish, parents, PTA and school boards. Fund all schools directly and let them control their own budgets. Allow them to determine who to hire and fire and cut the Ministry of Education adrift. They are long past their sell by date.

    ….Or give every parent a voucher and set them free to move towards a quality private school education of their choice.

  3. Edward says:

    This is exactly the narrative and type of dialogue we need in order to address this issue. The time for pointing fingers and division amongst ourselves must end.

  4. Ringmaster says:

    Why is the Ministry of Education such a heavily funded Ministry yet incapable of doing their job? Why is it up to the public to do what we as taxpayers are paying for? Something is clearly wrong. Dissolve the Ministry and have an Education Board and delegate responsibility to the Head Teachers. Basically the same as the private schools. No need for so many hundreds of desk jobs and the money can be invested in teaching which is what is needed and for what the money should be used. Throwing more money at a broken system is just stupid.

  5. Lisabet says:

    This woman was a mentor to me. Please listen to her and let her guide the process. Mrs. Simmons is an incredible educator and human being, Bermuda is lucky to have her advocating for our public education system, and more importantly advocating for our children. My son went to Harrington Sound, it was wonderful until we found that he had a learning challenge, and there wasn’t enough support for the children that needed extra help. Only one of the many issues that these schools are facing.

  6. Kathy says:

    I feel the passion Senator Simmons expressed in her speech on the Motion to Adjourn. We cannot continue on the same path we have been on for the last 100 years. We MUST fix our public education system.

    The dialogue that needs to happen in Bermuda is:

    “What do we need to do to our public education system in Bermuda to make it BETTER than the private school system?”

    If the public school system was BETTER than the private school system in Bermuda, would you be paying exorbitant fees to send your child to private school?

    Our failing public education system is one of the top reasons for segregation in Bermuda. If we could guarantee that the racial mix of the classroom represents our racial mix as a society, wouldn’t it be nice to see ALL of our children going to school together, growing up together? If our children don’t grow up together, how can we expect them to understand each other as adults.

    We need to have one of the highest standards of public education in the world and this will bring Bermudians together. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It is not going to happen overnight, but we need to INVEST in it. There are plenty of countries around the world demonstrating excellent public education systems and we need only study what they do and replicate that here in Bermuda.

    Imagine a public school system where there are 10 children per classroom, 6 white 4 black, where the first grade teacher follows them through to fifth year, where every teacher is required to have a masters degree, where children learn through creation and play and have very little homework because it is all learned at school, where the child feels important, where the child feels something more than a number, where the child is inspired to become a leader, where the child is the most important thing in our society.

    This is the direction we need to head in. Senator Simmons, if you need a hand, I am willing to help. This issue is one of the most pressing issues we face in Bermuda yet it always seems to be on the back burner.

  7. Overboard Hope says:

    Mrs. Simmons is a brillent. We need lots of money spent on trained remedial teachers to help kids with learning differences, at the Primary level, so that little “Johnny”, can learn to read, before he gets out of Primary school. He will be much less likely to be a drop out, joining gangs, or ending up in West Gate.