Matthews urges ‘drastic rethink’ by Richards

  • Ever hopeful: Lou Matthews (File photograph)
  • More than capable: Kalmar Richards (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Bermuda’s new education chief must fix the island’s public schools, which are failing young black men, a former acting commissioner said.

Lou Matthews said Kalmar Richards faced a variety of problems.

He added that the island had to make a “radical change” in education funding to give more power to schools.

Dr Matthews said a “drastic rethink” was also needed because public schools “are ill-suited for the development of black men and healthy, trauma-free communities”.

He said: “My big hope is that we can move through to this and that Ms Richards can lead our system courageously into this space.”

Dr Matthews was speaking after Ms Richards, former principal of CedarBridge Academy, was confirmed as Commissioner of Education on Tuesday.

Ms Richards was appointed as Acting Commissioner last December after Freddie Evans was removed from the post two months earlier.

Dr Matthews said Ms Richards’s appointment came as no surprise and that she was a “consummate professional and leader, with a great deal of experience, passion and expertise in public education”.

Dr Matthews added: “She will be great for the country.”

He said the greatest challenges Ms Richards faced was the same as her predecessors.

Dr Matthews added that past commissioners had “always been confined by political meddling and shortsightedness, budget instability and bureaucracy”.

He said that Ms Richards would have to “wade through these waters”.

But Dr Matthews added: “She is more than capable of doing so.”

He warned that Ms Richards had a mountain of work ahead of her.

Dr Matthews said: “We have to improve the learning conditions that teachers and students are required to work in and shift to more culturally responsive education.

“The biggest challenge is whether we can give her and her teams the full fiscal and strategic autonomy and support to lead education beyond political and bureaucratic interests.”

He added: “I wish her the very best and will support the nation’s efforts where I can.”

One Bermuda Alliance senator Nandi Outerbridge said that she was “confident Ms Richards has what it takes to be an excellent Commissioner of Education”.

She added: “I congratulate her on this opportunity to lead all students in Bermuda and towards the successful implementation of Plan 2022.

“Although there may be challenges ahead, Ms Richards has a record of excellence and I wish her every success as good leadership and stability in education is what our children need.”

Ms Richards’s 35-year career in education began as a high school teacher in 1983.

She has also worked as a primary school principal before moving on to CedarBridge.