Opinion: Open Letter to Saban Community

Since the non-renewal of my contract at Saba Comprehensive School at the end of the 2013 – 2014 school year, I silently listened to rumors and to endless speculations as to what I am doing and why I am appealing the recent judgment against my lawsuit filed in January 2015. The purpose of this letter is to provide context, in a transparent manner, directly from me and not from someone else who knows nothing about what I think.

First, a contract is not a one-way document but an agreement between two or more individuals. The board under which I was hired, practiced poor governance because they did not provide my employment contract in advance of me accepting my position – denying me an opportunity to seek legal advice – and it was not open to discussion or questioning. The board created a hostile work environment by implying a threat: sign the contract or no salary; however, in the court of a law, a contract existed the day I began to teach with or without a signed contract. The board denied me my legal rights.

Second, the board requested my availability for the 2014 -2015, school year. My positive response created an expectation that I would have a position. That expectation coupled with several positive evaluations. The board’s subsequent actions was not good governance and I interpreted the board’s action as a personal vendetta and contrary to what you may have heard I was never informed as to why my contract was not renewed, even though school management had recommended that my contract be renewed.

Third, consistence is lacking at SCS; the rules do not apply equally to everyone.

Fourth, we had a hired gun, with no prior educational experience who became a part of the SEF’s board, masquerading as their helper, but in reality was nothing more than the mouthpiece for the board and eventually assumed functions within the school for which this person was not qualified. The management team, to whom I reported to, who created the frame work for me to achieve the stated established goals prescribed by the Inspectorate suddenly had no power, however the person assuming power was not appointed to be nothing more than an assistant. This same ‘hired gun’ eventually was put forth as a candidate for the ‘Directors’ position.

Fifth, Saba Educational Foundation’s response to my complaint contained lies, which I easily refuted, and with proof. Their response contained paperwork that I had never seen before nor had the management team ever seen them.

Six, the judgement rendered in August, almost two months after the hearing, said absolutely nothing. It is my contention that the judge did not want to issue a judgement because it would be appealed regardless of who won – leaving it to the higher court.

Finally, with the publication of The Caribbean Netherlands five-year transition report an independent and experienced body, the Dutch government, further supported my claim that the board demonstrated poor governance.

“None of the secondary schools meet the basic quality standards, and according to the Inspectorate reports there is no prospect of them doing so in the short term. The reports refer to turbulent times in the (recent) past at all three schools, and regard weak school governance as a major cause of the lack of educational quality.”

It is important for everyone to note that the SEF Board that created this mess is no longer in power and that all of those members either stepped down or were possibly asked to resign. The public will never know the real truth on this matter. I have heard from numerous sources how the current Saba Educational Foundation Board Members disagreed with the former boards’ action.

I have a question. These same individuals now have the power to resolve this dispute and focus their energies on how to prepare for another disappointing Inspectorate report and all the possible financial ramifications that may result from it in 2016 but I guess we will all need to go to court, again. For these reasons, I am appealing the verdict.

In the end, 95% of the teachers signed a letter of protest to the actions of the board, students held their own protest, over 100+ parents and community members signed a petition of protest and your own Commissioner of Education even sent a letter of protest yet it fell on what seemed to be deaf ears. Saba had a school which was on the right track and was meeting more of the goals set forward by the inspectorate than any other secondary school in the BES. We had fully qualified teachers and great director yet a few misguided individuals had the opinion that this needed to change. No one in any position on this island is perfect but in my opinion goats and mango trees have more rights and protection than do the people who come here to teach your children.

Terry Cunningham

Former Business Teacher at Saba Comprehensive School

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4 comments

  1. Dear Mr. Terry,

    Give it a rest, try to move on!

  2. Dear Moses,

    In defense of ‘Mr. Terry’ and the other teachers and Director that were let go for no reason; the school seeing the fallout from this over the past two years, you tell him to: ‘Give it a rest, try to move on’. I wonder if you were let go from your job for no reason, had a mortgage on a property, were close to retirement age and have no prospects of employment on the island in the foreseeable future, if you would be able to ‘Get over it, try to move on!’

    Compassion sir/ma’am would serve you well!

    Personally, I support the previous staff members and I hope the appeal is successful. An option might also be to take legal action against the individual members of the previous school board as they are 100% responsible for the mess that we, as parents, hear weekly at SCS either via Saba News or our own children. Perhaps the parents association should seriously consider this possibility also.

  3. Dear Mr. Terry, thank you for sharing your information and your opinion with us. Although i understand that this happened over a year ago i can understand your frustration and injustice feeling towards what happened. I understand that you will continue to sue the previous school board members. I wish you lots of luck and hope that justice will prevail. But you know Mr. Terry, you have nothing to loose. You walk here with us on Saba head up high and feel proud of all the accomplishments you have made during your time at SCS.
    Students are still talking about you as a well respected, qualified and educational teacher. That is what counts. And Moses can say to give it a rest, that is exactly what most people would do. And I know you will move on, already full speed without SCS, but the content of your article is explaining each and everyone on Saba who you are. Compliments for doing so.

  4. another concerned parent

    Mr. Terry You have shown guts and balls (!!!) to publicize this article about your feelings. No one, and I mean no one has the right to ignore your feelings and your emotions on this.
    Mr. Terry, although it might be a bit to late, but I sincerely thank you for what you have done for my children. They still talk about you.
    But who cares after 15 months? The winds will all wash away what was ones important. It is just for those who can catch the wind and keep this as history.
    (Shortened by editor)

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