Merl Grove dispute escalates
Past students threaten to withdraw support from schoolMonday, September 20, 2021
BY DESMOND ALLEN
THE influential joint Merl Grove High School past students' associations of Canada, the United States and Jamaica have warned that they are prepared to withdraw all support of their alma mater unless suspended Principal Dr Marjorie Fullerton is reinstated tomorrow.
President of the grouping of past students, Canada-based Simone Thomas, fired the latest salvo in a letter to the Reverend Anthony Whyte, head of the Associated Gospel Assemblies (AGA) which operates the all-girls school on Constant Spring Road, St Andrew.
“We wish to also advise you and have it documented that in the event we cannot resolve this matter, we are prepared to withdraw all support, sponsorship and participation in activities at the Merl Grove High School, effective September 21, 2021,” Thomas said.
September 21 is the date for Dr Fullerton to appear at a disciplinary hearing set by the AGA-dominated board of management to decide on her fate, following the September 10 suspension for actions said to have impacted the school adversely.
The past students are known to be critical to the financial operations of Merl Grove, as well as its scholarship and school feeding programmes for needy students.
Their letter was also sent to Minister of Education Fayval Williams whose intervention last Friday failed to satisfy the past students; Dr Grace McLean, permanent secretary; Dr Kasan Troupe, acting chief education officer; Dr Dorrett R Campbell, deputy chief education officer; Dasmine Kennedy, assistant chief education officer; and Joan Gordon Shaw, education officer.
Principal Fullerton and Vice-Principal Loretta Ricketts have been the main antagonists in a long-running struggle dating back to 2015 over how to run the school. The in-fighting escalated when the board, led by David Hall, appeared to side with Ricketts.
On her return to work after a summer break, Fullerton threw out plans for the reopening of school instituted by Ricketts, who the past students accuse of overturning plans previously set in train by the principal.
But the board suspended Fullerton, saying her actions had caused unrest at the school.
The past students described the suspension as “an orchestrated coup” and have been calling for her reinstatement, as well as the dismissal of Hall.
In the letter to AGA's Whyte, the past students — who largely have the support of the parent-teacher association — are also opposed to Tuesday's hearing on grounds that the three board members who have been empanelled as the personnel committee had voted to suspend the principal, and thus she could not get a fair hearing.
“Given that the parties who comprise the personnel committee are also members of the AGA on the board of management who voted en bloc for the suspension of Dr Fullerton, we take this opportunity to register our objection to this hearing, citing that the process is flawed, prejudiced, their minds poisoned and will not allow for natural or procedural fairness,” wrote Thomas.
“We note that in a court of law, the 'trier of fact' — the judge and jury — cannot be the same. Here, the chairman and the empanelled committee are the same persons who wrote, tabled and voted on the motion to suspend the accused party. The accused party cannot therefore be tried by these members. A completely impartial committee is required for justice to seem to be served.”
She also complained that since the suspension, efforts have continued “to tarnish, berate, and undermine the integrity, character and professionalism of Dr Fullerton, particularly in the court of public opinion”.