HIGH school principals are today fuming over a move by the Simpson Miller administration to terminate the engagement of the coordinators of the Career Advancement Programme (CAP) and replace them with more than 70 unemployed teachers under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
The thrust takes effect today, October 1, and will see 73 JEEP recruits being deployed to schools on the programme.
At the root of the quarrel is a decision by the ministry to terminate the engagement of the coordinators of the Career Advancement Programme, which was introduced in 2010 by former Education Minister Andrew Holness as a means of providing educational options for unattached youth between the ages of 18 and 21.
The programme coordinators are mostly senior teachers who have been paid to double up as administrators of the after-school initiative, which runs from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm in most of the schools where it is offered. But in a move that has shocked the school administrators, the education ministry last week advised CAP coordinators in a letter dated September 25 and signed by Acting Chief Education Officer Clement Radcliffe, that they will be replaced by persons recruited under the JEEP.
"As we seek to continue to strengthen CAP, and in keeping with the national policy directives, an applicant registered under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme has been recruited to coordinate the programme, as at October 1, 2012," read a section of the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Jamaica Observer.
Observer sources say the decision was based on the premise that the existing programme coordinators are already employed, and should therefore make way for other qualified persons, particularly teachers' college graduates, who have been unable to find jobs.
In addition, a senior official of the education ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity said the ministry had serious concerns about how the programme was being managed at the school level and was not satisfied with student performance at many of the schools.
The official explained that the introduction of the new coordinators formed part of efforts to guarantee better returns on Government's investment, and to ensure that school principals, provide more effective oversight.
But, some school principals who spoke with the Observer, say they cannot support the move, as teachers fresh out of college are ill-equipped to coordinate the programme.
Ray Howell, principal of the St Andrew-based Edith Dalton James High School, which operates one of the largest programmes, asserted that his institution had no issue accepting individuals to support the CAP programme, but insisted that these persons cannot be imposed on the schools as programme coordinators.
According to him, the post of programme coordinator is a senior position, akin to that of a vice-principal; and cannot be handled by an inexperienced teacher.
"It will not be on at Edith Dalton James High School. I will never allow somebody who doesn't have the requisite competencies to run a programme at my school. You can't take somebody coming out of college to vet lesson plans, check on recruits, evaluate teachers, make sure the teachers are on time; that is a recipe for disaster," said Howell who told the Observer that more than 200 students are registered in the programme at his school.
Howell also took issue with the manner in which the information was communicated, and claimed that instead of advising principals about the change, the education ministry wrote only to the coordinators.
Garfield Higgins, principal of Tarrant High School, has also taken issue with the planned move and argued that the proposal cannot work. He questioned whether the ministry would also be replacing teachers and other school personnel who are also paid for their services to the CAP.
Higgins added that he had not been formally advised by the ministry, and said he received his information about the move from a staff member associated with the CAP. Similarly, several other principlas with whom the Observer spoke, said they had not personally seen the communiqué, but they are against the change.
Its understood that the 73 JEEP participants were selected by officers of the education ministry, and participated in a week-long training exercise, ahead of today's deployment.