Education minister summons Merl Grove stakeholders to meeting tomorrowThursday, September 16, 2021
BY DESMOND ALLEN
EDUCATION Minister Fayval Williams has summoned embittered Merl Grove High School stakeholders to a meeting tomorrow to discuss the issues that have marred the smooth reopening of school and triggered the suspension of Principal Dr Marjorie Fullerton by the board.
Williams is said by aides to be deeply concerned by the brouhaha at the church-run all-girls' institution that has largely remained circumspect throughout its century-old existence at Constant Spring Road in St Andrew.
Both the board of management and the past students' association, which is solidly behind the principal, yesterday welcomed the intervention by the minister, although from different perspectives on the issues.
Board Chairman David Hall hoped the meeting would point the way forward but insisted a September 21 disciplinary hearing into actions by the principal would go ahead as planned, with three members of the board who have been empanelled.
The Simone Thomas-led Merl Grove High School Joint Past Students Associations believe the meeting should lead to the reinstatement of Principal Fullerton, as a first step towards resolving what she described as “a nasty situation which smacks of a hostile takeover”.
Thomas and her colleagues in the parent teachers' association (PTA) will go to the meeting armed with a September 10 online petition which garnered 1,012 signatures at the close yesterday, calling for the suspension to be rescinded and expressing no-confidence in Hall and his board.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Canada-based Thomas said she had learnt that the board had already decided the principal would not be reinstated, declaring that the past students and parents would not stand for such a premeditated action ahead of the hearing.
She charged that the board members empanelled were firmly against Fullerton and “there was no way she is going to get a fair hearing”. She expressed hope that the Jamaica Teachers' Association would play a positive role in resolving the crisis.
But Hall rejected Thomas's claims that the board members were opposed to Fullerton, saying that the panel was properly constituted according to the 1980 Education Code. After Friday's hearing they would submit a report to the full board for its final decision.
Intense interest in the imbroglio drew 932 parents of Merl Gorve students to a virtual meeting Tuesday evening to discuss their concerns about how the crisis was impacting their children and to get information, including timetables, about the new school term.
The PTA meeting was addressed by Rev Dr Peter Garth, chaplain of the school and former head of the Associated Gospel Assemblies which names Merl Grove as its flagship school. Garth was there to calm nerves, but with little success, the Observer was told.
Knowledgeable sources said the squabble at Merl Grove High dated back to 2015, after Fullerton left the United States where she was living to take up the job as principal, running into opposition from teachers supporting Vice-Principal Loretta Ricketts.
Hall confirmed yesterday that Ricketts was running the school in the absence of Fullerton but described the allegations as “unfair” and “untrue”.
The past students chapters in Toronto, New York and Jamaica and the parent teachers association frame the debacle at the school as a clash between a modern, visionary, hard-working principal who is devoted to her students and a group of old-timers who talked more than perform but have the backing of church-aligned directors.