MAY PEN, Clarendon — With the number of teacher resignations expected to climb in the months ahead, two high school principals in Clarendon are assuring teachers that — despite what may have happened to them in the past — they will not be punished for leaving. All they require, the administrators urge, is the courtesy of being given enough time to find replacements.
Addressing the flood of resignations that have for years come close to the start of each school term, principal of Central High School in May Pen, Stellavit Ingram said some teachers’ attempt to “exploit the system” stems from a lack of trust. He repeated the often mentioned narrative that some are convinced that if they give notice early in the summer, they will not be paid for August.
“They don’t trust administrators. That’s the point. Some persons have been victimised, so because of that some people will wait until the end of August to get their August salary. Some will not tell you until in September. They will apply for sick leave and all kinds of things to get the September salary. But we have met as a board and we have decided on how we’re gonna treat with that,” Ingram told the Jamaica Observer in a sit-down interview.
Teachers who act professionally and give “due notice”, he said, would face no challenges.
“There is no issue. They would still get paid up to August,” Ingram assured of those who resign in May, for example. “There’s nothing wrong with that. There is no victimisation that will occur or anything like that; it’s giving due notice. But persons are of the misconception that they will be victimised. I don’t know, but it might be past experience. I don’t know what it is.”
Principal of Denbigh High School, Jefferey Douglas thinks the problem may be teachers’ lack of knowledge about the established procedures. He stressed that they can resign “from as early as June or even before” and make the effective date August 31.
“You would then be paid and it is not going to be an issue. But I think some teachers are sort of misguided or misinformed where that is concerned,” he argued.
Asked if some teachers were being mistreated by their school administrations, Douglas said he has heard of some cases. He stressed that this is not an approach he takes.
“If a teacher comes to me, and the teacher indicates that he or she is leaving, while I would miss the teacher — we would want all our teachers to stay — I am going to support the teacher. Because this is your decision and I appreciate the fact that you would have come to me to give me adequate notice. So it would be unfortunate if principals would have carried out any malicious intent or act so that their staff would not trust them in communicating that to them. I would want to think it is more of a thought than the reality,” he said.
His approach appears to be working and Denbigh High School has not suffered significantly from teacher migration.
“Thankfully, we have not been hard hit at Denbigh High School. There were two teachers who resigned because of family migration and then there were two that resigned because of teacher recruitment [overseas]. There’s one that resigned because of relocation within the country. The other one, we are not 100 per cent certain as to her reason. That makes a total of six,” said Douglas who currently manages 81 teachers and approximately 1,700 students.
They have managed to identify replacements for all except one of the six teachers off on eight months’ vacation due after a decade or more in the classrooms. They are short of someone to teach chemistry.
“We got a replacement but apparently, she got something in a clear vacancy. So we are in a limbo where that vacancy is concerned,” said Douglas.
“I am also made aware that there is a massive recruitment of teachers of modern languages. We had a vacancy for a Spanish teacher, which we were just able to fill late last week. Outside of the teaching staff, we are in need of a science lab technician. She would have resigned to continue her studies,” he noted.
He pointed out that the camaraderie shared between administrators and staff at his school as well as the continued academic progress of the students contribute to his teachers staying at the 54-year-old institution.
“We are fortunate, we are blessed. We have not been hit like so many other schools. We are extremely grateful. One of the things about us at Denbigh High School is that we pride ourselves [on operating] as a family. I think because of that, persons — they would have been disheartened based on recent happenings — but because of the family ties, they are able to hang about. Denbigh is not doing so badly academically,” Douglas said.
Over at Central High School, Ingram, who advertised for more than 20 teaching vacancies in the summer, said that he was able to fill most of them for the new school year. Even though he got resignations up to the Friday before school began, there has been no major disruption because he has been aggressively advertising vacancies as soon as he has an inkling of them.
“There was some madness to my publicity; it is being strategic…As soon as persons left, I was able to fill those vacancies,” he explained to the Observer.
“I was notified, but not in advance. Not the three months’ notice; nothing compared. For the most part, persons would have said to you, ‘I will not be returning,’ probably in July. But officially most of those came in in August,” he said.