Ruel Reid’s acceptance of a financial settlement in exchange for his resignation as principal of Jamaica College (JC) should allow the high school to settle in without the outburst of salacious controversy constantly being upon him. But the case leaves questions about the contractual basis on which the principals of Jamaican public schools are, or should be, hired. This should also, hopes this newspaper, relaunch a debate on the responsibility of teachers and the connection of their remuneration to performance.
With respect to the Ruel Reid case, we make two preliminary observations. First, this is a complex issue in which several of the problems are pending, thus limiting an in-depth discussion of their details and merits. Second, if indeed the Jamaican government pays most of the $ 23.3 million settlement with Mr. Reid, then the Holness administration is obligated to release the details of the deal. After all, it is taxpayers’ money that is at stake. And, given the special and unique circumstances that gave rise to this problem, taxpayers have a right to be assured that the arrangements are completely honest.
None of this, however, should be taken to mean that Mr Reid is not entitled to the best deal he could negotiate, or that, because he is a politician over whom serious allegations weigh. baton, he is not entitled to natural justice and due process. Thus, for the avoidance of doubt, this newspaper does not comment on Mr. Reid’s guilt or innocence on the allegations made against him. These issues will ultimately be decided by a court.
Ruel Reid, former president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), was appointed in the mid-2000s as director of Jamaica College, a former and prestigious Jamaican high school for boys where academic performance and discipline were plummeting. He is credited with halting the decline and putting the school on the path to recovery. During his time at JC, Mr. Reid was an advisor to Andrew Holness, the current Prime Minister, who was then Minister of Education. Mr Reid himself became Minister of Education in 2016 in Mr Holness’s cabinet.
In order to occupy this ministerial post, Mr. Reid, then a senator, was granted a five-year secondment from his post of principal. However, in March 2019, faced with allegations of corruption within the Education Department and related agencies, some involving him, Mr Reid resigned. He was then charged with fraud.
BUSINESS IS COMPLICATED
Things, however, have gotten even more complicated recently. On November 20, Mr. Reid’s secondment from JC is said to have ended. That meant Mr. Reid would be reinstated as JC’s principal – something the school governors didn’t want, given the cloud hovering over his head. Among the potential scenarios was the acting director, who would have done a good job, being either kicked out or demoted.
Another twist is that the governors at JC did not believe they had grounds for disciplinary action against Mr. Reid, as none of his alleged infractions occurred during his supervision at JC or directly involved the school. .
As a result, the principals of the school asked the Department of Education to extend Mr. Reid’s secondment for five years, which would give everyone time to work out the problem. In addition, the government would continue to pay the bulk of Mr. Reid’s salary. The Ministry of Education opposed it.
In the absence of all the details of the deal, the settlement appears to be a relatively inexpensive way out of the potentially long and thorny legal dispute that would be inconvenient for JC and his students. Ruel Reid’s name would not be mentioned without being followed by Jamaica College. Hopefully now the school can focus on providing its students with the best education it can offer.
However, the case raises questions about what the tenure of public school principals should be, especially when they are recruited from the ranks of the education system. Much of the public debate over Mr Reid’s settlement negotiations has focused on the likely size of his separation package. It was speculated that the payout would have to account for Mr Reid’s emoluments until he retires a decade from now, at age 65, according to public sector rules. In this case, the payment should be much higher than the stated amount.
But, beyond the dollar figures, or the specifics of the Ruel Reid affair, policymakers should consider whether principals, once appointed, should be permanent in these positions – or in high-level jobs. equivalent – unless they engage in specific referral behaviors, which are then subject to special hearings and quasi-judicial review.
But schools are highly sophisticated businesses where talented leadership matters. Managers, CEOs, shouldn’t expect an easy ride. Rather, they should operate on the basis of time-bound, performance-based contracts, which may – or may not – be extended, depending on their performance against established deliverables.
If a school principal is promoted beyond his competence and has to return to the classroom after a stint behind the principal’s desk, the system should be able to accommodate such a development. If they suffer a breach of contract, there should be redress in the courts. This approach would enhance the status and prestige of the post of principal, increase competition for such positions and raise the level of performance of principals.
Likewise, as this journal has repeatedly argued, performance-based fees for online teachers (assuming a stable educational environment) will, notwithstanding JTA’s claims, improve educational outcomes. We cannot design a viable arrangement that takes into account the disparities in Jamaican schools.