Schools chief to lead gov’t reform unit

Mary-Rodrieguez-L

Schools chief Mary Rodrigues is leaving the Ministry of Education after being appointed to lead a new unit responsible for making cuts across the civil service. 

Ms. Rodrigues will be in charge of putting the findings of Ernst and Young’s report on the “rationalization” of public services into action. 

The move is a permanent switch for Ms. Rodrigues, who has led a period of reform in Cayman’s school system since taking the job in 2009.  

Her deputy, Christen Suckoo, will take over as acting chief officer in the Ministry of Education, Labor and Gender Affairs for at least six months while a recruitment process takes place, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said on Wednesday morning. 

The EY report was being presented to Mr. Manderson – the head of the civil service – by the consultants later on Wednesday, prior to its public release. 

He said the project, which is expected to see some government services sold off or privatized, is critical to the future of the civil service. 

He said he had persuaded Ms. Rodrigues to lead a four-person team charged with ensuring the report’s recommendations were acted on quickly and effectively. 

“One of the criticisms of civil servants and of government in the past is that we are really good at getting reports but we are not so good at implementing those reports. I am keen to ensure that does not happen under my watch,” he said. 

Speaking at a conference for teachers at Mary Miller Hall to launch the new school year, Mr. Manderson said it is essential to cut the cost of government. 

“The report will determine what services we should stop doing; what we can combine, amalgamate or sell off to the private sector. 

“We are doing this because government has made it very clear to us that our personnel costs are too high. We have a vision of a civil service that is leaner but better paid. 

“If we are going to ask the government to pay us better – and we are – we should ensure that we are only doing the work that government needs us to do. Do we need to be in the garbage collection business, do we need to do all the other things that we do? 

“We really need to focus in on all the key functions of the government.” 

Speaking prior to the announcement, Ms. Rodrigues gave a presentation to teachers highlighting the improvements in exam results across the school system. 

She said, “This is a very exciting time in the history of our education system. For the past several years we have been engaged in a very ambitious reform agenda.” 

She said the secondary education system had been restructured, long-standing issues in teaching literacy and numeracy had been addressed and a new national curriculum implemented for “early years” alongside the re-introduction of reception classes for young children. 

She said exam results have been on a consistent upward curve since 2007, from 25 percent of students achieving five high level passes to nearly 70 percent last year. 

Mary-Rodrieguez
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8 COMMENTS

  1. I do congratulate Ms. Rodrigues on her appointment to this position and hope that she is able to complete her work in a timely manner.

    I noticed that one of the areas specifically mentioned by Mr. Manderson is the garbage collection business and while this might be a service that should be privatized it is important that any reduction in government personnel expenditure not result in additional costs for the residents of these islands.

    I am also keen to see what the EY report says about the potential overall economic and social impact of any significant increase in unemployment and what it says about the actual positions of Governor, Deputy Governor and the size of the legislative assembly itself in a smaller and leaner government.

    Also, what happens to Ms. Rodrigues and her team once the reforms have been implemented?

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  2. Now what a lofty task to hand off to any individual,let alone hand it off to an individual who has managed to achieve little or next to nothing while at the helm of education.

    If there is a massive cut to the civil service numbers, one would have to ask where are they going to go. Lets face it folks, outside of the civil service and the service industry in general, there is little left to do in the country. People cannot be retrained to work in natural resources and other such industries as we simply don’t have them.

    So governments have been elected in the past on the many promises of creating jobs in the government. Its somehow like Mount Trashmore as we pile it higher it simply causes more grief. So now, we are going to try and make the pile in the employment numbers smaller. Why not use the same philosophy for the dump.

    Good luck on this monumental task at cutting the civil service.

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  3. I keep hearing mr. Manderson talking about expenses are to high. I would thought a start would be to take away credit cards or have the cards paid from one’s salary? Don’t think we need an EY report which probably cost us hundreds of thousands to support lowering expenses.

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  4. I wish good blessings to Ms Mary Rodrigues in her new position . Mr Suckoo is a Caymanian with extensive experience in that field and I am positive he can hold the fort as deputy and move into the available position of Chief Officer.
    On another note maybe it may be a good idea that Mr Manderson do some house cleaning of the department so that reports received are well implemented in the future. Cuts across the Civil Service maybe needed but hopefully Caymanians can still find bread and butter to put on their table.

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  5. Two recommendations that might not be that popular but would significantly reduce government expenditure is the complete privatization of education and the centralization of health insurance coverage.

    Most people are not forced to have children so there is no reason why eduction should be a government expense. The government should do everything in its power to keep the cost of education down but should not take on this expenditure.

    I was recently told that many people once they retire are finding it difficult to continue to pay for their health insurance under their previous employer’s policy or are being dropped from their previous employer’s health insurance policy. These people will have to eventually turn to the government for assistance so it is only logical that the government should be collecting premiums from them during their younger years when they are healthy if they are going to have to eventually provide health coverage when they are older and mors in need of health care.

    These two changes alone would put the government in a strong financial position.

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  6. The department of education is a mess, with blame being cast in every direction. And they hire the chief of education.

    Civil servants you have nothing to worry about! Nothing will ever get done, and blame will be cast in every direction.

    Status quo for cayman!

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  7. The easiest and most logical reduction in personnel expenses is to equalize the pension and health care contribution in line with the private sector.

    Private sector generally allocates 10 percent towards pension and there is a shared responsibility between the employee and employer each paying half. Why does the civil service get 12 percent AND the employees pay nothing … or in other words the private sector (ie the rest of US)) have to pay their share??? Makes no sense.

    Similar for health care. Why do govt employees get a free ride while private sector employees have to pay half … and indirectly through taxes and duties also have to pay a portion of the govt employees half???

    Looking at the govt finances if govt employees paid their fair share it would save the taxpayer around 32 to 35 million dollars each year. And without one job lost.

    And simply put it is the right thing to do.

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  8. Am I the only one who finds it interesting, that just as the Schools Chief makes her exit, to institute a series of recommended cost reductions-all teachers are having a comprehensive review of their salaries and perks-with Minister Rivers saying that teachers should be reviewed as a special category? I’ve commented on the timing of government actions and public perception of same before.

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