Arecent article in this newspaper entitled ‘Student Sex Tapes and Wall-to-Wall Cover-ups’ addressed some of the problems confronting the island’s schools, public and private. Reference was made to an unidentified institution recently in the headlines after it had expelled a young student, allegedly for her role in a sex tape. Two days or so after publication a representative of the Mission of Seventh Day Adventists confirmed on TV that the student had in fact attended one of the Mission’s schools—the Seventh Day Adventist Academy. However, the Mission representative denied other revelations, among them that the SDA Academy was plagued by a high teacher turnover rate that had significantly impacted students.
The SDA’s current principal, Dr Claudia Fevriere, later confirmed the school would be replacing at least nine teachers in the new school year.
“There is a very large turnover of teachers, not just two,” she told me during an interview. “Some of the teachers went back to school, but many of them left because they were frustrated.”
Shortly after publication of the SDA Mission’s press release, and soon after Mission President Pastor Alexander Biscette personally read it on TV, a school representative contacted our publisher Rick Wayne for an opportunity to clarify some of the revelations contained in the STAR article bearing my personal byline. I couldn’t help wondering why she had chosen to call Mr. Wayne and not me, the paper’s editor.
On the afternoon of Thursday, August 17, Mr. Wayne convened a meeting with three of the school’s representatives: Education Director Elsie Samuel (who had made the call to Mr. Wayne); Chairman of the School Board, Pastor Vincent Emmanuel; and the newly-appointed Education Committee member, Cletus Burton who revealed he would soon be enrolling his son at the SDA Academy. He admitted knowledge of some of the matters addressed in my story and that he was “aware of what had been done” about them.
With a highlighted print-out of my article in hand, Burton proceeded to pick out sections he felt were unfair, my reference to the “sex tapes” for one. He said my use of the plural suggested rampant sexual activity at the school.
My investigations had uncovered a fair amount of surreptitious sexual hanky-panky. In any case, it was common knowledge that sex tapes involving school children were regular Internet fare.
More than once they had been drawn to the attention of the school authorities and the education ministry, with little comment. In at least one case the school uniform was plainly visible.
As for my reference to a case of missing funds at the school, the group volunteered that there had been only one such incident. Details were provided. When I asked whether such behaviour was condoned, since the party involved had not been fired, I was informed at our meeting that “the young lady admitted up front what she had done” and why.
“She has been written to,” Burton said, almost dismissively. That same day the school’s principal confirmed that she had, after making several reports to the school board, finally received a letter addressing the issue of the missing funds.
This week the allegation of misappropriation of school funds surfaced in another newspaper. By their own account the trio had visited the STAR last week because they sensed a conspiracy “to sully our reputation,” and wished to spare the SDA further negative publicity.
In the article featured in The Voice, the school’s chairman dismissed the expressed concerns of parents, teachers and other school personnel as “an attack from the enemy”. He admitted, however, that there were unresolved issues. “It’s not the perfect system;” he said, “nothing is perfect in this world.”
As for the complaints about the tithing of salaries, and other issues brought up during the meeting at the STAR offices, it is my hope that representatives of the SDA and other institutions island-wide will deal more effectively with their problems, especially sex-related, and not lean on the obvious fact that “every school has its issues.” Cover-ups only lead to greater problems, as the Catholic Church discovered at great expense, monetarily and otherwise!