News Update on Cumberland High. Friday, April 28, 2017
A new principal is to be appointed for Cumberland High come September 2017. According to Minister of Education Ruel Reid, the contract for acting principal, Michael Brydson ended last month and apparently will not be renewed. A breakdown of discipline and an altercation between a female student and Mr Brydson brought about the Ministry’s intervention.
Last week, the Ministry of Education reacted to cries from staff and school leaders for improves safety and security for teachers and students at the Cumberland High School. The intervention by the Minister rose out of a dispute at the school which put the school under intense media glare for the greater part of last week. On Thursday, it was announced that two security measures were to be implemented to return order to the St Catherine-based school campus.
This report was filed last Friday.
As a result of several high-level meetings that took place this week between the Minister of Education, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, school administrators and stakeholders, work will start immediately to erect a long-awaited perimeter fence around the school while an assistant Dean of Discipline will be deployed at the school to boost security and safety, reports released by JIS and RJR News confirmed on Thursday.
The corrective actions come after the Ministry and school came under week-long media scrutiny for what has been described as “a break-down of order” at the school after a dispute involving acting principal of the school, Michael Brydson and a female student of that institution last Friday, April 7, 2017.
Here is a timeline of the incidents leading up to the recent announcements.
According to media reports, last Friday a female student used a stone to break the windscreen of the car belonging to Acting Principal, Michael Brydson after he reportedly chided her for using expletives in his presence.
The girl later told reporters that the administrator had hit her with an implement he had in hand at the time which conflicting reports described as a stick; another report said it was a rule. Her mother has subsequently claimed that her child was abused.
On Monday, April 10, teachers at the school then reportedly staged a sit in to protest attacks on staff, RJR reported.
The Gleaner reported on Tuesday that classes were disrupted for the second day at the school. Representatives from the Ministry of Education led by Director for Safety and Security in Schools at the Ministry, Sergeant Coleridge Minto visited the school and had a meeting with the restive teachers on the same day.
On Wednesday, Mr Brydson spoke to the media denying an allegation he said was circulating that he had physically assaulted the teen.
RJR News attributed these comments to the Cumberland High Principal who was speaking in an interview with the media house:
“That is very unfortunate that an incident like that happened…and just to clarify that that beating, and ‘boxing’ and stepping in the girl’s back – that never took place and would never happen under my watch,” he asserted.
“Pressed as to whether he did beat the student with the stick, the principal responded: “The child was reprimanded and she got upset over it, ” RJR News Online reported.
Ministry Moves to Correct Security Complaints
Following the much-publicised incident in the media, Minister of Education, Mr Ruel intervened and summoned the acting principal along with the school board to a meeting. Minister Reid told Cliff Hughes of Nationwide News that discipline and order had broken down at the school and the Ministry would be taking steps to correct this. It was also disclosed that the school has been without a Principal since the passing of former principal Ms Dahlia Black in 2015. Mr. Brydson has been acting in the position since then. The journalist questioned why the school which has been deemed a failing school since 2012 had not warranted action on the part of the ministry and school officer prior to this.
Following the week’s spotlight, other problems facing the school have come to the fore. One issue, the lack of a perimeter fence has long created security and truancy issues for the school, Mr. Brydson told the radio station.
News that this perimeter fencing would be immediately addressed by the Ministry of Education was relayed by Mr Brydson who expressed pleasure at the development.
“Mr. Brydson states that this is being corrected,” an RJR article reported, quoting the acting principal as saying this:
“The ministry is working on the fencing as we speak because the last time we had an incident like this, we were promised some advancement in the work and so far we have done some measuring and I am expecting some work to start through this new budget,” he outlined on RJR’s Beyond The Headlines on Wednesday.
He said this would prevent students from going over the fence “as easily as they now do” and also prevent outsiders from invading the school property.”
The report was corroborated by a JIS report released on Thursday which also stated that the school would also be getting an assistant Dean of Discipline.
For the full report, follow this link.
A November 2016 report also carried by the JIS documents the long-standing security issues faced by the school.
According to that report, the issue had been first brought to the Ministry of Education late last year after “students at the school were recently attacked by outsiders who gained access to the compound.”
In an interview with media personnel following a meeting at the school on November 14, Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid reportedly told the media that the institution would be provided with funding to acquire additional private security personnel.
The Ministry of Education had also “committed to putting in place several medium- to long-term security management strategies at Cumberland High School in Portmore, to mitigate the possibility of any further breaches,” the JIS produced report noted.
Mr. Reid had also promised that the Ministry would also be supporting the school in procuring and constructing perimeter fencing, which will make students safer as well as reduce the potential for truancy.
The Minister had also noted that the school was granted permission to hire an additional dean of discipline.
This week, the principal said that requests previously made to the Ministry of Education for more special education teachers had not yet been addressed.
Ministry technocrats attending that November 2016 meeting included a range of school stakeholders, including acting principal Brydson: Deputy Chief Education Officer of School Operations, Dorrett Campbell; Assistant Chief Education Officer of Guidance and Counselling, Fern McFarlane; Director for Region Six, Maxine Headlam, Board Chairman, Rupert Pryce; Education Officer, Barrington Richards; Member of Parliament for St. Catherine South Eastern, Colin Fagan, and other stakeholders.
The school’s Dean of Discipline, René Level, and Director for Safety and Security in Schools at the Ministry, Sergeant Coleridge Minto, were also in attendance.
Coming out of the 2016 meeting, the minister had reportedly told the media that the school’s leadership had been tasked with putting in place a school-improvement plan and that the Ministry would be “working along with stakeholders to customise the curriculum to meet the needs of the cohort at Cumberland High.”
“We want Cumberland to be a centre of excellence where every student that comes here will excel, but we need to customise our instruction programme to meet the students where they are and take them to the level we want them to go,” Minister Reid had pronounced at that time.
But apparently, this is still in the pipeline. In his interview with Nationwide on Wednesday last, the Minister tendered a similar discourse. He stated that the school’s continued failings were tied to the school being established as a feeder for students with low scores in GSAT Examinations in the region.
He said that he would be taking a personal interest in the school towards resolving its most pressing problems and expediting necessary actions to turn the school around. He also said on air that a new Board would be appointed to replace the current one and that the Ministry would look into restoring leadership to the troubled institution.
Subsequent reports have not provided any further update on the promised new board appointments.
Investigations continue into the assault claims tendered by the student and parent against the school principal.
Up to press time, no updates had been issued on the outcome of these investigations which are being conducted by the Ministry of Education and the Children Services Department.