Former education minister said preparing to return as principal when vacation ends Nov 1


Sunday, September 22, 2019

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DISGRACED former Minister of Education and Information Ruel Reid is moving with haste to reassume his role as principal of the prestigious all-boy institution, Jamaica College (JC), the Jamaica Observer has been reliably informed.

Reid, who was fired by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last March at the height of allegations that he became embroiled in activities that could bring his office as minister into disrepute, has been keeping a low profile since, although he was spotted on the campaign trail during the by-election in Portland Eastern last April.

His name has also been linked with irregular conduct at the State-run Caribbean Maritime University which fell under his portfolio.

Investigations are said to be continuing into his role in both matters.

The Opposition People's National Party has also said that he has still been campaigning in the seat that he was approved to contest in the next general election — St Ann North Western — but the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, through its General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, has stated that Reid has been removed as the candidate, and denied that Reid had been continuing with campaign activities.

Word emerged midweek that Reid, through his legal operatives, was advanced with plans to get his job back at JC. He was seconded to the Ministry of Education after the JLP won the 2016 General Election. The formal two-year secondment was approved by the JC board, headed by Michael Bernard, and an extension was sought by the Government and approved by the board almost three months before the expiration of the initial agreement.

During the period, experienced educator Wayne Robinson was appointed to act as principal and has, according to members of the JC fraternity, earned a high level of respect for his stewardship of the institution that has graduated some of the most prominent men in the Jamaican society. They include two former prime ministers — Michael Manley and Bruce Golding, the latter who completed sixth form studies there and served as head boy — chief minister and premier Norman Manley, who also attended Wolmer's Boys' School; and current leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips.

The school, which is rooted to its establishment in 1789 by St Ann planter, Englishman Charles Drax according to instructions in his will, changed its name four times before it started to operate as Jamaica College in 1902. Although it has performed exceptionally in academic work, JC has been equally brilliant in sport as well, the highlight of which is the winning of more Manning Cup football titles in the competition's history than any other school.

It is understood that Reid, a 52-year-old married father of two and lay preacher, is demanding that he reassumes his role as principal by November 1 of this year at the end of his eight-month vacation, or legal action could be initiated. He is still being paid as principal, though another area of concern to the former education minister, an impeccable source has said, is the “top up” payment that he normally gets from affiliated fraternity groups, one in this instance being the old boys' association which discontinued the payment after the upheavel at the ministry. That top-up payment too, could also be the subject of litigation.

Top up payments are given by some schools to principals as an added incentive either in anticipation of good work, or a reward for outstanding achievements by the institution. Prominent schools like Wolmer's Boys', Kingston College, Munro College (Reid's alma mater), St George's College, among others have such a system in place, which is recognised and allowed by the Ministry of Education.

But a return by Reid to JC as principal could spark fireworks, as some members of the fraternity do not wish to have him sit in the principal's chair again. Several old boys are among those opposed to his return, and the Jamaica College Old Boys' Association had earlier this year written to the school's board, calling for Reid's employment to be terminated forthwith. The board had said then that it would seek legal advice on the matter.

Contacted last week, president of the Jamaica College Old Boys' Association, Major Basil Jarrett said that he would not comment on the matter at the time.

However, three other JC old boys who have played major roles in the growth of the school told the Sunday Observer on Friday that they were adamant that Reid should never return to the school, unless it is to collect his belongings.

“We don't want him back — that's a given. I think the old boys' association should just come out and say that nothing has changed in the quest to have Reid stay out. We really want to move on,” one said.

Another uttered: “I have heard the rumours that he [Reid] wants to return, but after all that has happened at education [ministry], would he have no shame if what I am hearing is true? Why would he really want to get back into an environment of bright boys with questioning minds with all those clouds hanging over his head?”

There is also the view, as expressed by another old boy, that a return by Reid could also disrupt the flow of operations at JC, as there was discomfort among the 98 members of staff, although, according to him, they were so professional that they did not express their true emotions in public. “It would be a very awkward situation. I do not think that there would be any peace at Old Hope Road if the former education minister were to go back there,” he said, referring to the institution's location in St Andrew.

One educator who served at JC not so long ago expressed surprise that Reid would “even contemplate” going back to the school. “He must be smarter than that,” the veteran suggested. “Why would anybody who has been embroiled in such controversy want to end up back guiding a school? I am aware that the Government is said to be investigating the allegations against him, but even if he is 'cleared', there will still be a stigma and fingers will always be pointed. He should think the matter over,” the educator stated.

Reid, who also served as president of this north Caribbean island's main teachers' union, the Jamaica Teachers' Association, was appointed JC principal in 2006.

Acting Principal Robinson could not be reached by telephone last week, and there was no response when the invitation to direct the query to his phone by way of text message was taken up.

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