School funding slashed after teen basketball star had started school in US
Scholarship funds for one of the Cayman Islands’ most promising young female basketball players were slashed by more than half just days before the teen was due to start classes at a private U.S. high school in August, according to her father.
Richard Parchment, who served as political assistant to former premier McKeeva Bush, agreed to speak to the Caymanian Compass about his daughter’s situation after Premier Alden McLaughlin revealed in the Legislative Assembly that Hannah Parchment was one of the beneficiaries of Mr. Bush’s Young Nation Builders Scholarship Fund.
According to information provided to the Compass by Mr. Bush, Ms Parchment received just less than US$70,000 for the 2012/13 academic year to attend IMG Academy, which features sports as a major part of its curriculum. Among those who have attended the school are tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and basketball legends Karl Malone and LeBron James.
Ms Parchment was slated to receive the same amount for the 2013/14 year. However, Mr. Parchment said he was informed about a week before the start of the school year at IMG that the scholarship money from the Young Nation Builders fund had been cut by some $40,000, making it financially infeasible for his daughter to attend. She had to return to Cayman to attend classes at Triple C School at the start of the year. She was then accepted to Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg, Virginia, and left to attend there.
“It was a nightmare,” Mr. Parchment said of making arrangements after the school year had started. However, he points out that Ms Parchment is doing quite well in her studies at Walsingham and recently posted a great game for Walsingham’s basketball team over rival Summit Christian Academy, scoring 14 points, nine steals, nine assists and four rebounds from the point guard position.
Ms Parchment had also posted a 3.3 grade point [B+] average for the 2012/13 academic year, Mr. Parchment said, well above the requirements for maintaining participation in the Young Nation Builders Scholarship Fund.
Funds cut for all, government says
According to earlier statements by government officials, all students receiving more than the Education Council maximum of CI$20,000 for undergraduate studies and CI$25,000 for post-graduate studies received letters in October informing them that their funding would be cut.
Mary Rodrigues, chief officer with responsibility for education, wrote in the letter: “Cabinet has indicated that it is minded to adjust the terms and conditions for the level of funding provided for scholarship awards previously made under the Young Nation Building Scholarship Fund to be consistent with awards made under the education council scholarship program.”
The letter indicated that students will now be eligible for a maximum of one government scholarship and that the changes are in place for the start of the 2014 academic year.
Questions were raised by the ruling Progressives government, as well as by the auditor General’s office, regarding disbursements of scholarships from the Nation Building Fund during former Premier Bush’s previous administration, including questions about the US$70,000 award given to the daughter of Mr. Bush’s former top political assistant.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said recently in the Legislative Assembly that thousands of dollars of scholarship money were doled out through the fund for colleges that do not exist. He has alleged that the system was run “out of the back pocket” of Mr. Bush, who he said handed out large scholarships to the children of political allies, while other qualified students received nothing. The premier referred to the scholarship fund under Mr. Bush’s government as a “complete and utter shambles.”
Other students, aside from Ms Parchment, also received Young Nation Builders grants of more than three times the maximum of $20,000 ordinarily handed out through the Education Council, Mr. McLaughlin said. He added that some students received separate scholarship grants from three different government departments and that Mr. Bush was the ultimate decision maker as to who received scholarships.
With regard to the scholarships given to student athletes who attended IMG Academy in the U.S., Mr. Bush said Monday that three students, two females and one male, received $60,000-plus scholarships as part of the Young Nation Builders Scholarship Fund program. One of the students’ parents are supporters of the Progressives political party, Mr. Bush said.
“I make no apologies in trying to help children, some of whom who would not usually be helped by the Education Council system,” Mr. Bush said Monday.
Mr. Bush, during a Monday public meeting on the National Conservation Bill, handed a member of the local press copies of application forms filed by Ms Parchment under the Young Nation Builders Scholarship Fund for the grant to attend IMG Academy.
Documentation provided by Mr. Bush included a letter of support for Ms Parchment and another young female basketball player to attend IMG, signed by the government’s Director of Sports Collin Anglin and basketball coach Victor “Voot” O’Garro.
“Both [the other athlete] and Hannah Parchment have been involved in local basketball from a young age and it was evident early in their budding careers they were both gifted and had the potential to succeed and represent our country at high levels,” the letter dated Aug. 21, 2012, read. “We thought it would only aid their development if they are able to be evaluated by professional and world class coaches.”
A letter sent from the Office of the Premier on Aug. 20, 2012, had already confirmed Ms Parchment’s receipt of the scholarship funds for the next two years to attend IMG Academy at a cost of US$69,590 each year. Mr. Bush also produced documents setting out the requirements for the scholarship recipients, including that they be Caymanian, had resided in Cayman for five years prior to the scholarship application, produce proof of acceptance to the school they sought to attend, be of good health and character and that they return to Cayman after the completion of their studies.