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Fitz-Hughes residents protest appointment of new head teacher

Fitz-Hughes residents protest appointment of new head teacher

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The newly appointed head teacher of the Fitz-Hughes Government School had to be escorted to the school by police last Friday, prompting the Ministry of Education to call on parents of pupils attending the institution to welcome and accept the experienced educator.

About midday on October 21, in the midst of protests by parents and other community members, Myrtle Richards, accompanied by senior education officer Dr Keith Glasgow, was driven under police security to the school to take up duties.

Some residents of the small North Leeward village are upset that Richards was appointed to the post and are demanding that Mishunda Tucker, a teacher at the school and resident of the community, be appointed instead.{{more}}

The protestors say Richards’ appointment is “unfair and disrespectful” and contend that Tucker is well qualified and should have been given the job.

Protest action continued on Monday, with Richards arriving at work just after 9 a.m. under police guard.

Dr Glasgow, who was again present at the school on Monday, told SEARCHLIGHT: “I would like to see the parents accept and welcome the l new principal. I believe that she would do a fantastic job in promoting the educational interest of their children and her tenure will be beneficial to this community.”

Some parents, upset about Richards’ appointment, kept their children home from school on Monday and Tuesday and of the children who turned up for classes, some joined their parents on the picket line at break time, chanting “We want Shanda”.

Reverend Julian Edwards of the St Michael Spiritual Baptist Church at Fitz-Hughes was on the picket line on Tuesday and told SEARCHLIGHT that the issue was not about politics, but about community, and that the authorities should have consulted the community before bringing Richards in the middle of the term.

“I’ve known Shanda since she was a little girl and she has always been a shining light in our community, with all the gambling, rum drinking and bad living going on in Fitz-hughes, we need to see positive role models within the community.”

Edwards also said that Tucker has brought a lot of positive influences to the wider community, as she spearheaded the first Christmas light-up in the Fitz-Hughes area.

Also on the picket line was Morvis Clarke-Matthews, wife of Parliamentary representative Patel Matthews, whose two sons attend the school. Matthews said that Tucker has a personal relationship with the students and is respected throughout the community.

“Ms Tucker is a good fit and I stand in solidarity with the community in supporting her, that’s why I did not send my boys to school today,” Clarke-Matthews told SEARCHLIGHT.

Protest action continued on Tuesday, with fewer persons on the picket line; however, with a school population of over 150, more than 75 per cent of the students did not turn up to school.

One teacher told SEARCHLIGHT that of the 20 pupils in her class, only three attended school on Tuesday. In Grade K, three pupils attended; Grade 1, five; Grade 2, three; Grade 3, two; Grade 3-2, zero; Grade 4, zero; Grade 5, one and in Grade 6, 27 pupils were present.

Raphael Robertson, the former head teacher of the school, retired at the end of the last school year and 34-year-old Tucker, who holds a Master’s degree in education, has been the teacher-in-charge of the school since the beginning of the school year.

Richards, with almost 30 years experience in the classroom, has a degree in history. She acted as head teacher of the Westwood Methodist School for two years, prior to being appointed at Fitz-Hughes.

A usually reliable source told SEARCHLIGHT that both Tucker and Richards applied for the post as head teacher of the Fitz-Hughes school, although Richards also applied for the post of head teacher of the Troumaca Government School, which is closer to her home village of Coulls Hill.

An armed police officer remained in place at the school to keep the peace on Monday and Tuesday. Protestors say a meeting will be held this afternoon (Friday) at 3 to plan the way forward.

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