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Baptist PTA rift goes to Teaching Service Commission

Monday, March 31, 2014
Political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Keith Rowley, centre, dances during the performance of Beverly Irish along withDeputy Political Leader Rohan Sinanan, left, Lady Vice Chairman Camille Robinson Regis, Archbishop Dorothy Hercules, Archbishop Alston Peters and PNM deputy leader Joan Yuille Williams during the PNM's Shouter Baptist Liberation Day celebration, La Horquetta basketball court, Phase 5, La Horquetta, on Saturday. PHOTO:ABRAHAM DIAZ

An ongoing dispute between the parent and teacher association of St Barbara’s Spiritual Baptist Primary School and its principal Barbara Gray-Burke will be referred to the Teaching Service Commission. 



So said Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, in response to questions from reporters at the Early Childhood Care and Education, off the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway in Maloney yesterday. The school, which was officially opened by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, was the venue for yesterday’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day celebrations. 



Without naming the author, Gopeesingh said a letter was written to the minister outlining the problem behind the dispute. He said there seemed to be different views on the problem. “This is a matter for the Teaching Service Commission to investigate,” he said, adding that his ministry “will be sending the matter to the Commission for determination.” Gopeesingh said the matter seemed similar to one which occurred in the Tunapuna Hindu School, where the board of that school did not want the principal. 



He said he will work with his Permanent Secretary, the Chief Education Officer and the elders of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community “but the Teaching Service Commission is the one which determines the issue of the principal.” He said it will be the commission which will determine “whether the principal moves or stays. That is the issue for the Teaching Service Commission to determine.” Gray-Burke , who addressed celebrations at the school yesterday made an indirect response to the protest. 


“Don’t mind the little hiccup on the way. Satan must mash our heels and bruise our toes but we are going to go on.” Pressed for elaboration later, she said: “Today I am celebrating, Wednesday check me.”



How it started
The PTA protested on Friday calling for the removal of the chairman of the school’s board, Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke. They held placards as their children stood in front of them during a protest outside the school at Maloney on Friday morning. Nigel Thompson, who has three sons at the school, expressed outrage over what he described as neglect of the school’s needs.


Thompson, vice president of the PTA, said the school often ran out of lightbulbs, markers for whiteboards, ink for printers and other necessary items, leaving parents and teachers to purchase them. “Barbara Gray-Burke has refused to meet with us despite many requests that she do so,” Thompson said. The catalyst for the protest was the cancellation of a Spiritual Baptist celebration for  pupils.


Thompson said teachers and parents had spent weeks preparing to stage a re-enactment of a traditional Spiritual Baptist thanksgiving for pupils, but the day before, Gray-Burke called the school to prohibit the activity. “The children came in their dresses and headwraps made by their parents. They were excited for the activity and they came here to do nothing,” Thompson said. Bidia Ramsudharsaid the school was being allowed to deteriorate. Gray-Burke shut down the cafeteria, she said. 


“She said the cleaning service at the school would be discontinued. Teachers are left without supplies and she is against all extra-curricular activities for the students. “I am a parent. I have four children attending this school and I am concerned at the things that go on here.” The school has six teachers and approximately 250 pupils. Gray-Burke was a United National Congress Senator between 1995 and 2000. The 2,000-square-foot building was completed in three months by Super Industrial Services Ltd  in 2012.


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