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Teacher who died during six-year probe cleared

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

President of the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai is warning Education Minister Anthony Garcia to be wary about sanctioning disciplinary charges against teachers of the Ste Madeleine Government Secondary School.

This as six teachers of the Tranquillity Government School—Carla Richards, Tonia Pegus, Andrew Felix, Sharon Hope-Bello, Larry Martin and Meridith Rose—were last Thursday cleared of disciplinary charges brought against them in 2011 by the ministry.

During a meeting last Thursday, the ministry decided to discontinue the matter against the teachers. However, Doodhai, who described the outcome as a clear vindication, said it was a bitter sweet moment for the union, as Rose died in 2014 at age 34.

Speaking at a press conference at the union’s Curepe office yesterday, Doodhai said Tranquillity had a series of plant problems which required reconstruction and refurbishment. The prefabricated building, he added, also had to be air conditioned, which increased the demand for electricity and overloaded the existing system. He said this caused repeated shut downs of the system and small electrical fires.

“The Education Ministry demanded the teachers continue to work in this unsafe and unhealthy environment despite the very serious defects identified by the electrical inspectorate. On the advice of TTUTA, some teachers refused to occupy the defective buildings,” Doodhai said.

He said the disciplinary proceedings went on for six years but the teachers continued to carry out their duties as they were never suspended. However, their increments were stopped and teachers who applied for job letters had the fact that they were on disciplinary charges placed on their letters.

“Two of these teachers, who are most senior in their departments, missed out on the opportunity to act as head of department or dean. They suffered extreme mental stress as a result of these charges,” Doodhai said.

Describing the action taken against the teachers as spiteful, he called on the ministry to immediately pay the thousands in increments owed to the teachers.

Last week, attorneys representing Ste Madeleine Secondary School principal Joy Arjoon-Singh filed a defamation claim against Doodhai. In the claim, Arjoon-Singh is seeking a public apology from Doodhai, an injunction prohibiting him from making further disparaging remarks against her and an unspecified sum in damages.

Doodhai has been vocal in his call for the principal to be removed from the school by Garcia. The conflict came to a head when teachers at the school staged a protest against the principal, resulting in bottles being thrown at them by students. Two students were subsequently suspended but several teachers are now facing disciplinary action over the incident. (See Pages A5 and A10)

Yesterday, Doodhai warned the ministry to be careful before going forward.

“Careful consideration of the facts needs to be done before disciplinary action is taken against teachers. We again warn the Education Ministry about bringing up ill-advised charges against teachers of Ste Madeleine Secondary. If they do, TTUTA is convinced the outcome will be the same as the Tranquillity Secondary issue,” Doodhai said.


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