The report had been completed following a three-week inspection led by U.K. consultant David Moore in November 2012, but it was not published until June 2014 when Opposition lawmakers tabled two versions of it in the Legislative Assembly.
The “original draft” was a 28-page document that contained pointed critiques aimed at particular schools (such as John Gray High School) and that was armed with substantial recommendations (such as giving principals greater powers to fire incompetent teachers).
The “sanitized version” was a 15-page document stripped of specifics, bereft of important findings (such as problems with sex abuse reporting) and padded with all manner of “positive-sounding” filler. Officials deemed even the toned-down draft too hot to handle, so they “buried” both reports for some 18 months before lawmakers effectively “leaked” them to the public.
Last year, this Editorial Board posed the following query: “Who ordered the editing of the report and who did the actual editing?”
The response from our officials was silence. Their reaction to an open records request lodged by a Compass reporter was a more active refusal. Only following many additional months of delay, and intervention by the Information Commissioner, did the ministry reluctantly release the relevant emails, primarily a dialogue between the ministry’s senior policy adviser Jo Wood and Mr. Moore.
Excerpts from a pair of those emails serve as the double-barreled smoking gun, and provide us with the answers we sought.
In February 2013, Ms. Wood wrote to Mr. Moore in regard to his original draft, saying, “Mrs. Rodrigues has asked [local educator and deputy lead inspector Favourita Blanchard] to almost rewrite the report until it meets the expected standard.”
(For the record, in the same email, Ms. Wood stipulated that Ms. Blanchard “decided she should not tamper with the integrity of the report” — which supports Ms. Blanchard’s later disavowal of responsibility.)
In September 2013, Ms. Wood wrote again to Mr. Moore, saying, “Favourita and I continued to work on the report after Mrs. Rodrigues had a [quality assurance] check done on it. We used your executive summary as the basis for this report, rather than the fuller report, which is still being used for internal purposes.”
And there we have it: the who, the where, the how and the why.
Unfortunately, while the ministry has been dragging its feet — first on the report, then on the emails — years have passed, and hundreds of students have passed through schools riddled with identified problems that officials wouldn’t publicly acknowledge.
Mrs. Rodrigues has moved on from her post atop public education to a different but equally important role, spearheading a special team tasked with implementing the EY report on streamlining Cayman’s public sector — an initiative from which we still await tangible results.
In regard to the Ministry of Education, now led by Minister Tara Rivers and Acting Chief Officer Christen Suckoo, a new Education Bill has been unveiled that would modernize Cayman’s current legislation and provide a flexible framework for schools funded by the government, but run by the private sector. Currently, we anticipate with great interest the results of a new “baseline inspection” of all government schools, to be produced by U.K. consultants who began their work last year.
We don’t know what the new report may say, but we can promise you that this and any report on Cayman schools will draw intense scrutiny from the Compass.
Providing a superior education to our children is not only the most important issue facing the country today, but, in terms of the success or failure of future generations of Caymanians, it is arguably, in the long term, the only important issue.