EDITORIAL – Standing with the parents at Savannah Primary

Savannah Primary School has an aspirational logo that includes an inspirational message: “THE BEST ALWAYS.”

Oh, the irony …

Savannah Primary School also has a Parent Teacher Association that could be – should be – the model for involved and engaged parents everywhere who refuse to sit passively by as the education of their children (translated: the future of their children) is torn asunder by low standards, low expectations and under-allocated or misallocated resources in the classroom.

It’s one thing when under-motivated, apathetic students are failing. It is quite another when the school system itself is failing.

This PTA took the old-fashioned “sign-here petition” and modernized the model by posting it on the Internet where (in combination) more than 300 supporters signed their names to the plea for resources. (There are only around 500 students in the school).

The petition (call it what you will – a call to excellence or a call to arms) was presented Tuesday to Chief Officer Christen Suckoo in the Education Ministry. As a first step, Education Minister Tara Rivers should meet with the PTA to discuss their concerns.

The opening sentence of the petition states, “We, the parents of Savannah Primary School students are gravely concerned at the unsatisfactory level of academic achievement and the increased behavioural related issues within the school. This is as a result of inadequate staffing resources being allocated to the school.”

Parents had the option of including commentary as well as their signature, and this is what one parent wrote:

“Two of my daughters have attended Savannah. My last one is currently attending. I have cried many nights watching my oldest daughter struggle and not having the resources she needs. I was told over and over not to seek tutoring because she was OK and that tutoring would only confuse her. The classes are too big and one teacher for the juniors is not enough. The materials needed for the kids are not available ….”

Indeed, we are aware that teachers at Savannah Primary have implored parents to help out by donating basic supplies, such as paper, to the school. Frankly, this should never happen in a country which collects nearly $1 billion in revenue each year. Something is very wrong with our national priorities.

Further, these pleas for minimal resources must be seen in the context of the $100 million-plus price tag for the construction of Clifton Hunter High School where no expense was spared on the physical plant while basic needs of the education system – including the hiring of top teachers and support staff – went begging.

When diagnosing the ills of an educational system, Cayman, unfortunately, fits the all-too-familiar pattern: Enormous (but ineffective) outlays (Cayman’s cost of educating one student for one year ranks among the highest in the world), misallocated resources, migration of influence from principals and teachers to central administrators and bureaucrats, and a breakdown of discipline and student behavior at the schools.

To these maladies, Cayman adds another: the segregation of public schools that purposely isolates local students from their expatriate neighbors. (So much for the value of “diversity.”)

It may take nothing less than a parental (meaning voter) uprising to put a stop to such practices that are so lethal to learning and so harmful to our young people.

The parents of the students at Savannah Primary School have made a good start. They, and we, must no longer accept second-class public education in our first-class country.

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  1. Savannah, una was the one that put these people in there knowing full well there was not a scrap of knowledge under the ministry to make things better at Savannah Primary. Remember many years back under Premier Bush and his ministers, how good Savannah school was doing? It was the envy of all island schools; every parent wanted their child there. But lessons have to be learnt, that don’t care how pretty a duck looks if he can’t swim, take him out the water.