Ernst & Young Managing Partner Dan Scott has been appointed to lead the Cayman Islands government’s Education Council, replacing the chairmanship formerly held by the education minister.
The change to a private sector professional rather than a politician chairing the council was mandated by 2016 amendments to Cayman’s Education Law. Mr. Scott is the first chairman appointed under the revamped legislation.
Mr. Scott, who has previously served with Cayman Finance and as chair of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, said education is an issue that has been “near and dear” to his heart, in large part because of his father, the late Layman “Teacher” Scott, for whom the Cayman Brac High School is named.
“With the talented people on this council … we have an opportunity to co-develop what we really need to do around education,” Mr. Scott said. “Our country’s economy is really a knowledge-based economy and we need to look at what we are doing to maintain standards, giving Caymanians every opportunity to excel.”
Mr. Scott is not the only new face on the council, and there is still a political presence. Progressives backbench MLA Barbara Conolly, who is also the councilor for education under Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, has been named deputy chairwoman. Ms. Conolly said the new membership will include Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Managing Director Cindy Scotland, as well as Maples attorneys Maxine Bodden and Christina Bodden.
Returning council members include Foster’s Food Fair Managing Director Woody Foster, specialist education experts Jacqueline Ebanks and Debra McLaughlin, and private schools representative Deborah Thompson.
Ms. Conolly said she’s hopeful the council will become “less political” and more focused on the law itself and getting results from the local education system. She said she hoped the new board membership would indicate a renewed focus on all Cayman schools, not only the ones government operates.
“With the new membership [on the council], it brings a wider perspective on things,” Ms. Conolly said.
The updated Education Law gives the minister responsible significant authority to delegate education-related matters to the council, although the body is merely considered advisory to the minister.
The revamped law allows the council to directly make decisions on matters delegated to it, including the registration of schools, preschools and day cares and “otherwise regulate the teaching profession in accordance with standards set by the ministry.”
One issue that has raised significant public concern in recent years involves the scholarships handed out by the Education Council which are limited to $20,000 per student each year they are in tertiary education, as long as they maintain a certain grade average. Ms. Conolly said there have been many requests to increase that amount, but she’s not certain that can be supported in the next budget cycle [2018-2019].
“We would like to [increase the amount], but it’s based on budget,” she said.
The government will decide its spending plan for the next two years after the new budget is presented to the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 13.
The new law was unanimously approved during the last term of the Progressives-led coalition, replacing 1970s era legislation that allowed corporal punishment for children, among other issues.
The new legislation creates a framework for charter schools, as well as an independent schools inspectorate.
A number of local private schools receive some funding in a stipend from government, similar to charter schools in the U.S., but that total funding has never exceeded $2 million per budget year.