Video: Town Hall Meeting On West End Primary

July 12, 2023

[Updated] “A suggestion was put forward by the West End Warriors for the Government to re-evaluate the scoring of the Sandys area, which the Government agreed to consider,” Premier David Burt said at the Town Hall meeting held by the West End Warriors last night [July 11].

West End Warriors Town Hall Bermuda July 11 2023 DF-17

A Government spokesperson previously said, “The Premier, the Hon. E. David Burt, and Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain, will attend a public meeting in Sandys, fulfilling the Government’s commitment to engage in ongoing dialogue about education reform. The meeting, scheduled for July 11th at 7.00 pm [location to be confirmed], aims to discuss the concerns raised by the West End Warriors for Legacy Group and proposals for advancing the education reform initiative. This commitment to open dialogue follows a series of discussions between the Premier, the Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain and the West End Warriors, led by Ms. Ellen Kate Horton. These meetings came as a response to West End Warriors’ concerns over the Parish Primary School selection process.”

Update: A Government spokesperson said, “Yesterday evening [July11], Premier David Burt and Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain attended a town hall meeting at West End Primary and addressed the Sandys community directly regarding the ongoing education reform in Bermuda.

“Both the Premier and Education Minister comprehensively laid out the key points of discussion and the next steps to be taken.

“Those in attendance were reminded of the long journey the Government has travelled to provide the best education environment for Bermuda’s students since the reform was initiated in 2017.

“Since the reform’s initiation, the process has considered input from hundreds of meetings with technical officers, stakeholders and the general public; thousands of written submissions from the public; and countless reports in support of the ‘Vision for Change for Education in Bermuda’.

“The vision of education reform includes implementing a 21st Century education system by way of the introduction of an Education Authority, a Revised Curriculum, Signature Schools and Parish Primary Schools across the island.

“The reform intends to provide students and their families with more choices over what they learn, how they learn, and have more opportunities beyond school for employment, further study and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“The town hall held last evening evidenced a commitment from the Premier and Minister of Education to hear and receive feedback about the proposals from the West End and members of the Sandys community on the topic of education reform. Prior to last evening’s meeting the Premier and Minister held two private meetings with the West End Warrior Group to enhance the understanding of the various perspectives with a goal to advance reform in the best interest of Bermuda’s students.

“In response to the concerns raised during the meeting held, last evening, the Government announced that they would revisit the scoring process and that there would be enhanced consideration for legacy, specifically for parishes with more than one school.

“The Government is steadfast and committed in its commitment to advance education for Bermuda’s students to ensure the education they receive is relevant both in Bermuda and globally.

Next Steps

  • Historical Consideration: A History and Legacy Committee will be established later this year to ensure the rich histories and legacies of Bermuda’s schools are honoured and preserved in the reform process.
  • Re-evaluation: The scoring process for parishes with more than one Primary School will be re-evaluated to address concerns raised by the West End Warriors.
  • Continued Dialogue: The Ministry of Education will maintain open lines of communication with all stakeholders, particularly groups such as the West End Warriors, to ensure all viewpoints are considered in this pivotal process.”

Minister Rabain said, “Education is the foundation on which our island’s prosperity is built and the Ministry of Education is committed to making the necessary decisions to support our children’s growth and a brighter future for Bermuda.

“The Ministry appreciates the patience, cooperation and the input of all involved parties as we work together to reform Bermuda’s education for the better and equip students with the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

“The engagement during the town hall not only represents the fulfillment of the Government’s pledge to meet with the West End community, but also the determination to implement an education system for the 21st Century for the advancement of Bermuda’s students.”

Update: Opposition Senate leader of the OBA/Shadow Minister of Education Ben Smith said, “Last night, I attended the Town Hall meeting at West End Primary with several of my Opposition colleagues. We wanted to continue our support for keeping West End Primary School and take the opportunity to hear what the Government’s position is.

“It has always been strange to me to see the Government work so hard to create conflict with some of its historically strongest supporters.

“The scoring system used to select what sites would be suitable for future school builds or refurbished schools was a point of contention right from the first announcement. The difference is that West End has multigenerational support with a strong group of voices that cannot be ignored.

“The Minister tried his best to ignore them, but their resilience seems to have worn the Government down. The Parent Teacher Student Association from St George’s has also been battling back but the video footage of the Minister showed he was planning to turn a deaf ear.

“Last night’s meeting was interesting because the message from the West End Warriors hasn’t changed. West End Primary School’s physical location and its social symbolism as a beachhead against racial segregation serves as a memorial to those who braved discrimination to educate thousands of Black people through the years, makes it a natural hub of Sandy’s parish.

“Although it scored a mere five percentile points behind Somerset Primary School in the Ministry’s decision-making matrix [Proposal for the Introduction of Primary Schools December 2020], its cultural significance as one of the oldest schools in the western hemisphere is being ignored.

“The Minister and the Premier seemed very reluctant to show any real change to their original plan to axe West End even in the face of such significant pressure from the attendees of the town hall. The major announcement was supposed to be that the Government has agreed to re-evaluate the scoring that was used to determine whether West End Primary School should close. The crowd in attendance did not trust the process and was determined to make sure that they were not simply going to re-evaluate using the same flawed system.

“The final comments by the Premier after the mounting pressure and questions regarding whether the truth was being told, opens further questions.

“If there is going to be re-evaluation what changes will be made to the scoring system? We heard that a history and legacy component will be added as requested by the West End Warriors but is that the only change to be made to the flawed system?

“*The Premier mentioned that the new schools that will be built and the Minister will not have to worry about funding.

“What is the cost of these new buildings or major refurbishments and where will the funds come from?

“As the Minister and Premier continued to talk about having to take decisions that are able to hold up to scrutiny, how will these changes create a re-evaluation that can be held accountable?

“Firstly, the lack of transparency on the first scoring process led to all of the current issues. How were the points created? Why were these the only points and who did the evaluation?

“Now that the Premier and Minister have reluctantly admitted the original mistake, they will have to fix the problem of how all schools were scored. It is a shame that two schools have already met the axe and now the government may move the goal posts. Will the axed schools be reconsidered?

“The One Bermuda Alliance continues to agree with the initiative to reduce the number of school buildings due to Bermuda’s declining birthrate, the mass exodus of students from the Bermuda Public School System and the number of families emigrating because of the escalating cost of living under the Progressive Labour Party Government.

“There are questions about what happens to the closed sites. What is the plan for these properties and when will these plans be revealed?

“I still have a major question that was not answered. Why would the Burt administration choose this fight with the Somerset community? They met resistance to this decision immediately but have continued to dig in regardless of the strong opposition. What are we missing in this equation?

“It will be interesting to see if they eventually make a complete about-turn and keep West End so that they can celebrate saving what they had threatened. This would follow their normal behaviour of creating a problem and then patting themselves on the back for coming to the rescue.

“Thank you to the West End Warriors for taking such a strong stand on this issue. You have the added weapon of history and legacy to strengthen your fight.

“Now it has given a spotlight to the flaws in the scoring which may give other schools a stronger voice and a better chance.”

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  1. comfortably numb says:

    If Ms Horton is such a big fan of West End Primary why did she choose NOT to send her own daughter to the school?