Board chairman a no-show at Merl Grove disciplinary hearingWednesday, September 22, 2021
By Desmond Allen
Past students of the beleaguered Merl Grove High School (MGHS) said yesterday they were left aghast at the non-appearance of board Chairman David Hall at a disciplinary hearing into actions by suspended Principal Dr Marjorie Fullerton.
The heated charges and counter-charges in the weeks leading up to the hearing were expected to set off fireworks at the meeting. But, after a few minutes the planned session fizzled when the panel could not produce any of several items requested by Dr Fullerton through her lawyer.
In the end, the hearing was postponed to October 12, 2021 to give time to the board of management of the all-girls school which had triggered the meeting by suspending Dr Fullerton on September 10.
The first sign that things had gone awry came with the no-show of Hall, who has found himself in the middle of a bitter impasse between the principal and the vice-principal for lower school, Loretta Ricketts, over the handling of school affairs.
Hall, who subsequently took Ricketts's side, did not return calls or respond to WhatsApp messages seeking his comment on why he did not turn up for the disciplinary hearing which was set by his board.
There was speculation that Hall withdrew from the hearing panel after the past students complained that three people — including the board chairman — who had voted to suspend the principal were the same ones who would be trying her and could not give her a fair hearing.
Other participants in the imbroglio were scarce yesterday or were deliberately maintaining radio silence. The only one who returned a call to the Jamaica Observer was Rev Peter Garth, the school chaplain, who said he did not attend the meeting and had not heard about the outcome.
Simone Thomas — head of the Merl Grove High School Past Students Association Joint Committee comprising Canada, United States, and Jamaica — said her colleagues were “pained by the fact that the dispute is being further drawn out, without any thought for the students who are the real victims in this”.
But the postponement seemed inevitable after the board-assigned personnel committee, when asked by Fullerton's lawyer, could not produce the minutes and recordings of the meeting that voted for the suspension, nor the reasons for the suspension, which were not documented.
The suspension letter to Fullerton signed by Hall read:
“The board of management of the MGHS, 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.
“Please ensure that you provide to the Vice-Principal Mrs Loretta Ricketts and the Bursar Ms Merlene Lawrence the relevant passwords, accounts, keys and other pertinent assets allocated to you in your capacity as principal to allow for the seamless continuity and efficiency of the school's operation in your absence.
“Please also ensure that key staff under your management, specifically the system administrators and the secretary to the office of the principal, are advised of the change of management during this period.”
The past students are solidly in Fullerton's corner, with support from the Parent-Teacher Association, who believe that the principal has been a credit to Merl Grove High School and is being opposed by Ricketts and a few disgruntled staff members, backed by the church-dominated board.