Time to put an end to this Merl Grove fiascoThursday, September 23, 2021
We wonder how Merl Grove High School students are able to focus on their lessons with the ongoing fiasco involving people in leadership at different levels, which is playing out in increasing decibels before the nation.
On Sunday, in this space, we suggested that the dispute between the two main antagonists — the principal and the vice-principal for lower school — had been allowed to fester for far too long and must, by now, be adversely affecting the students.
It was our hope that a disciplinary hearing into actions leading to the suspension of Principal Dr Marjorie Fullerton, which was set for Tuesday, September 21, would have established the basis on which the impasse could be resolved, allowing the school community to concentrate on its essential objective — education of the children.
Instead, the hearing turned out to be nothing less than a farce, with some of the key participants, including the board chairman, not showing up, and those who did being woefully unprepared, forcing a postponement until October 12, 2021.
This means that the bad blood that has created a toxic environment at the school is left to continue contaminating the relations among the school community as the different stakeholders take sides.
At its core, the Merl Grove issue is about a struggle between Dr Fullerton and Vice-Principal Mrs Loretta Ricketts — neither of whom can be accused of being a shrinking violet — over differences about the handling of school affairs.
It has gone on for the six years since Dr Fullerton has been principal, creating divisions and bitterness among the teaching staff especially. What is clear is that there has been an abject failure of leadership at several levels.
The Associated Gospel Assemblies (AGA), led by Rev Anthony Whyte, the operators of the school, ignored the troubles until they started to get out of hand, when the two antagonists were barely speaking to each other and had lost mutual respect.
In April, a new board chairman, Mr David Hall, was sent in, with the agreement of the education ministry to “clean up the situation”. Mr Hall is said to have taken the side of Mrs Ricketts and alienated Dr Fullerton.
As matters worsened, Dr Fullerton was suspended by the board on grounds that after returning from her summer break she had upended plans for the reopening of school that had been put in train by Mrs Ricketts who was acting as principal. Dr Fullerton is said to have restored plans she had put in place before going on break.
The board set September 21 for the disciplinary hearing into the actions that led to the suspension, but bungled the entire thing by not stating the reasons for the suspension in writing and not putting itself in a position to provide the minutes and recordings of the meeting that decided the suspension.
For its part, the education ministry, which was always in the know, if Chairman Hall is to be believed, did very little to quell the dispute. After it blew up in the media, Minister Fayval Williams called the parties to a meeting, which ended without any resolution.
We are left to wonder what makes this such a difficult dispute to resolve.
We believe that the education ministry has to be more forthright on behalf of the children, even if it is reluctant to intervene in a church-run institution.
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