‘Nothing unusual’ in teaching departures

The Department of Education and private schools are insisting that despite teaching departures, all vacancies will be filled in time for the new school year.

At the end off 2008’s school year 20 teachers at government schools were not offered new contracts, 14 resigned, 11 did not seek contract renewals and a further 16 retired from public schools. However, this year those numbers are down, with eight contracts not being renewed, seven people resigning, three not seeking contract renewals, and five retiring.

‘It is absolutely typical for teachers to depart at this time of the year,’ explained Gina Matthews, Director of Corporate Communications at the Ministry of Education.

With regard to exactly why contracts are not restored Ms Matthews said, ‘There are a number of reasons why contracts may not be renewed, and it may not have anything to do with the quality of teaching and learning’.

In an effort to ensure the public that the Ministry of Education is on top of things where the replacement of the 23 vacancies is concerned, Ms Matthews said, ‘All of these people will be replaced; the children of the public schools will not suffer.’

What are the requirements for hiring new teachers to public schools? According to Chief Education Officer Shirley Whaler in a previous interview with the Compass 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.

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.

St Ignatius’ Gary Clarke explained, ‘A few of our teachers are heading to other countries, one is going to Brazil, one to Germany and another to Portugal.’

Why the shift to other countries? ‘I suspect they wanted new adventures. They are all single and want to try to live in another country,’ said Mr Clarke.

‘We also had to cut a position. We didn’t need two art teachers so in order to try and cut costs we took that route,’ he added before explaining that enrolment numbers at St Ignatius remain the same, and that all vacancies have already been filled.

Speaking specifically about the Cayman Prep High, office manager Kerrie McMillan said, ‘A science and a geography teacher left but we have already filled those positions.’

Wendy Forman of Cayman International School explained that one teacher is leaving the island, another left for personal reasons , two have left to get a different experience and two have left due to pregnancy. However, the school will this year have an increase in staff by five.

‘We have an increase in enrolment so our vacancies will be filled and as we get bigger we keep on adding staff. This up coming school year we will even be having a principal for the high school,’ said Ms Forman.

The Ministry of Education and all schools interviewed did not believe that teachers have left the island due to the down turn in the economy.

‘It is a natural movement we experience at the end of every school year, and at the moment the economic down turn does not seem to be the reason,’ said Ms Forman.

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