Cayman teacher turnover reviewed

A Department of Education decision earlier this year not to extend contracts for a significant number of Cayman Islands public school teachers has been reviewed by Education Minister Alden McLaughlin.

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler has never stated exactly how many teaching contracts were involved. However, she confirmed in March that a number of teachers were informed that their working agreements would not be renewed at the start of the 2008/09 year. (See Caymanian Compass, 5 March)

Mrs. Wahler also said the turnover would not result in a workforce reduction at the public schools.

‘I did receive some complaints…so I investigated the matter,’ Mr. McLaughlin said during his recent budget debate in the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. McLaughlin said his ministry would not normally have become so directly involved in what is typically an internal staffing decision. However, he said complaints about teachers being ‘handed a letter and that was it’ deserved a closer look.

‘In this instance, I gave (the department) my very, very strong advice that the matter needed to be handled more sensitively,’ he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said each teacher whose contract was not renewed was offered the opportunity to sit down with a senior education official to discuss the matter. He said any Caymanian teacher whose contract was not renewed was offered another position within the Education Department.

However, Minister McLaughlin did not question the department’s ultimate decision.

‘High quality education depends on excellent teachers,’ he said.

Mrs. Wahler has said final decisions on whether to renew a contract are based on performance, accountability, needs of the school and whether or not a qualified Caymanian is applying for the job.

The teacher turnover has led to debate in recent months about what direction schools will take in relation to high school exams.

Education officials denied there would be a move away from Caribbean Education Councils certification in Caymanian schools. Mrs. Wahler said the department planned to continue to offer both Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams, as well as the English-based General Certificate of Secondary Education track to students.