'War' at Merl Grove High
Principal suspended by board; overseas past students angrySunday, September 12, 2021
BY DESMOND ALLEN
Months of bitter quarrels over conflicting governance styles at the Merl Grove High School community exploded last Thursday when the board of management suspended Principal Dr Marjorie Fullerton, setting off a crisis at the beginning of the school year.
Battle lines were firmly drawn last night as Merl Grove past students from the New York and Canadian chapters of their association joined their Jamaican counterparts and parents of current students in demanding the suspension be immediately rescinded.
In a well-supported petition, the past students said they had no confidence in board Chairman David Hall or other board members aligned with the Associated Gospel Assemblies which owns the all-girls school on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew.
Reached by the Jamaica Observer, Hall, an auditor by profession, accused Fullerton of actions which “adversely impacted” the running of the school and denied that anything “untoward” had been done to her. He insisted the suspension was in keeping with the Education Code of 1980 under the Education Act.
He did not spell out the adverse actions, but in a September 6 letter to the board, a copy of which was seen by the Sunday Observer, he said that after returning to the school from a trip overseas the principal had upended all arrangements put in place by Vice-Principal Loretta Ricketts and the orientation committee for the beginning of the school year.
Four days later, Hall told Fullerton by letter that the board of management, “by 10 votes to four votes, on Thursday, September 9, 2021, decided to take disciplinary action against you pending disciplinary proceedings on September 21, 2021, pursuant to Regulation 60 of the Education Act, The Education Regulation 1980.
“The board hereby suspends you from duties with effect from Friday, September 10, 2021 until its disciplinary proceedings are determined.”
Checks with several of the parties involved in the dispute revealed that the main protagonists are Fullerton and Ricketts, with the principal having the majority support of the past students and the vice-principal backed by the board members and some teachers.
Rev Dr Peter Garth, long-standing chaplain of the school, described the dispute as “ugly” and “untenable”. He appeared to support the board, saying its members were all professionals who wanted the best for the school.
But he acknowledged that Merl Grove had made solid progress under Fullerton and disclosed that he would seek to assist in finding an amicable resolution based on a request from the joint past students association led by Simone Thomas.
The past students insist that Fullerton was good for Merl Grove and had brought vision, hard work and devotion to the job, but was being opposed by non-performers with whom she refused to work.
Among their concerns expressed in the petition were: “The intervention of the chairman in the day-to-day activities and management of the school; the chairman's lack of communication with the principal in her capacity as CEO; the chairman's visits to the school and meetings with the vice-principal and teachers without knowledge and/or consultation with the principal.
“The continuous and obvious disregard to the office and authority of the principal by the chairman and some members of the teaching faculty; and the ongoing refusal of the vice-principal, Mrs Loretta Ricketts, to communicate with or attend meetings with the principal, to whom, she reports.”
Hall said the matter had been reported to the Ministry of Education but acknowledged that a representative of the ministry had apologised for not being able to attend the board meeting at which the suspension decision was taken.
Fullerton would be able to be represented by her lawyer at the hearing on September 21, Rev Garth added.
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