Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler says the recent revelation in Finance Committee that 61 teachers will not be returning to their posts reflects a yearly occurrence within the teaching ranks, and in fact, teaching numbers will need to be boosted over the next few years to meet future education needs.
The Caymanian Compass reported recently that 20 teachers were not offered new contracts, 14 resigned, 11 are not seeking contract renewals and a further 16 are retiring.
‘Obviously, we can’t go into detail on personal issues, but I can say generally that decisions on renewal of contracts are made in accordance with the recommendations of principals as supported by their learning community leaders and are based on issues of school staffing needs and individual performance,’ said Mrs. Wahler.
Non-Caymanian teachers on fixed term contracts may choose to request renewal when their two year contracts come up for review.
‘Of those who choose not to request renewal, the reasons are as varied as the individuals,’ said Mrs. Wahler.
She said the same is true for resignations, which include those members of staff leaving in mid-contract. She says some have chosen to leave to return home, others to new jobs elsewhere, some for family reasons and others to pursue studies abroad.
‘This is obviously a personal decision, which we can only accept,’ said Mrs. Wahler.
With regard to those teachers who are retiring, Mrs. Wahler said all retiring teachers have met the requirements for receiving their pensions.
‘In most cases this is because they are at, or in some cases well past, the standard retirement age of 60, but could also be because they qualify for retirement under older regulations or because of ill-health,’ said Mrs. Wahler
She said she wanted to clarify that the issues of teachers leaving the service and the number of teachers needed between now and 2010 to accommodate the opening of new schools are not related.
‘Teachers leaving the service happens every year,’ said Mrs. Wahler.
She says in no way is there an intention to downsize the teaching corps.
‘When answering the question on future teacher needs in Finance Committee, I think Minister McLaughlin’s point was that the number of educators we now employ should be sufficient to staff the new schools with more efficient deployment,’ said Mrs. Wahler.
‘However, if we need to fine-tune the number of teachers in a particular department or with specific expertise (say we need an additional technology teacher and one less history teacher, for example; or a technical drawing teacher with CAD vs. traditional skills), the point at which we have staff turnover is the ideal opportunity to seize,’ she said.
‘Similarly, we are being very proactive in trying to recruit staff to teach the curriculum we aspire to deliver rather than the curriculum we have been accustomed to deliver.’
Mrs. Wahler says when it comes to hiring, the nationality of teachers is not an issue per se, but mastery of English clearly is a priority, as is appropriate qualification and certification of applicants.
The policy is that teachers must possess the equivalent of an accredited North American BA/UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject area as well as formal teaching qualification at a professional level.
The Department of Education Services maintains a list of recognised institutions in the Caribbean, and use the regional accreditation lists for the US.
The issue is somewhat clearer in the UK and Canada where the government has to authorise tertiary institutions and there are far fewer than in the US.
‘There are other details, such as demonstrated attainment at a minimum of college-entry level in both English and math, for example, no matter what the subject area, and appropriate computer skills, but that is the essential piece,’ said Mrs. Wahler.
‘Obviously, there can be some research involved if we have applicants from countries outside our normal recruitment regions, but we have ample expertise on staff now to investigate and evaluate standard teaching credentials. However, we are quite firm that qualifications must be from recognised accrediting bodies.’