Opinion

Was Evans set up for failure?

  • Freddie Evans (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

This past week has been very disheartening and unfortunate for the senior management team of the Department of Education.

How is it that the first dedicated Bermudian male Commissioner of Education was subjected to a breakdown in a routine human resource process, ie, probation management protocol?

How was it that he was supposedly fired one day and reinstated the next?

On October 2, the Minister of Education made his position clear in regards to the so-called dismissal of the education commissioner: “This government is serious about progressing public education in Bermuda and, as such, supports the Board of Education and the Public Service Commission in their efforts to employ the most suitable people to lead our public schools.”

But now the Ministry of Education and the Public Service Commission are tracking back on the firing, calling it an “administrative error”. These comments are expected, as the minister and Cabinet have been kept abreast of the situation from the very beginning. What have they done to remediate this matter and bring it to a conclusion? It appears they would rather sit back and watch the very unfortunate matter unfold to the detriment of our students and the delivery of educational services.

This untenable position has dramatically impacted the confidence in leadership, the delivery of Bermuda educational services and Freddie Evans’s professional career.

What is going on in the Ministry of Education and the Public Service Commission? Why in the first instance did the Ministry of Education release an unauthorised statement that indicated that Dr Evans was relieved of duties, and then a few days later, the Public Service Commission states that there was an administrative error, and that Dr Evans was reinstated but not permanently confirmed in the post? What is the hidden agenda, and who is driving it?

Was the commissioner positioned to succeed?

When the commissioner took on the role, why was he not provided with a proper professional development plan? In addition, why during the probationary period was he given positive interim performance reports, which were presented to the Public Service Commission, but when it came to the final assessment, he was deemed to be woefully lacking? What event or events took place that led to this unfavourable appraisal?

In light of the above, because of not adhering to the PSC’s probationary management protocols, it appears that the Government may now end up in court owing to the senior level of the Ministry of Education and the PSC not following due process.

A dark cloud now hangs over the competence of the senior team at the Ministry of Education, and the delivery of educational services to all of Bermuda’s students.

Given all this, is now the time to provide governance training and support to the senior management team at the Ministry of Education so that these human resource challenges do not recur?

Had I continued as education minister, I would have consulted with the public to broadly explore the concept of extending an “authority” approach to education similar to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, given its success. Our children have been exposed to the ebbs and flows of politics for too long. They need a system that provides consistent, professional and accountable leadership so that public education can work for this and future generations.

Like the rest of Bermuda, I believe that this matter must be satisfactorily resolved so that these issues are placed behind us. The ministry’s senior management team must focus sharply on the completion of the new national multiyear strategic plan, which sets out national priorities and educational initiatives that the people of Bermuda have identified.

The ministry must focus on the delivery of Bermuda’s educational services, and the development of empowered, successful young people who are equipped for the workforce and for tertiary education.

Cole Simons is the opposition MP for Smith’s South (Constituency 8) and the Shadow Minister of Education. He served as Minister of Education from February 2017 to July 2017