In a surprising move that has left some in the education system happy and others scratching their heads, it appears that the Government is set to appoint Mr. Dominic Jeremiah as the new Chief Education Officer.
His experience as a principal and his years of leading the Principal’s Association is undoubted, just as the fact that he would represent a step up from previous appointments. However, his limited exposure to modern educational trends, current educational methodologies and his advanced age are equally undoubted.
The decision has raised questions in some circles about the selection criteria especially as it is said that Jeremiah had never applied for the position, and that a candidate from a secondary school in the St. Andrew’s area had applied, was interviewed along with some others, topped the interview, but was unceremoniously overlooked by the Public Service Commission.
The overlooked candidate, a young and dynamic principal boasting nearly ten years of hands-on experience as the leader of one of the largest schools in Grenada and who is on the cusp of completing a doctorate in education with the University of the West Indies, was widely seen as a frontrunner for the role.
Her youthfulness, experience, expertise and familiarity with contemporary educational strategies could have been a potential game-changer for the education sector.
While some may make the argument that Jeremiah is much more experienced than the young principal and may point to his years of exemplary service as the principal of PBC, one of the top schools in Grenada in terms of academics, one may counter that being the principal of a school with a population of three hundred high flying boys and managing a staff of twenty odd teachers is a far cry from leading a school of seven hundred plus boys and girls of varying abilities and a staff of fifty odd teachers.
Additionally, the school that the female principal leads is arguably one of the top all rounded schools in Grenada. Furthermore, it is known that the young female principal took over the school at a time when there was a rapid turnover of principals and brought some much-needed stability to the position, which speaks highly of her longevity as a young educational leader.
Moreover, she also did a stint as an executive member of the GUT which would no doubt have stood her in good stead to heal the relationship between the Union and the Ministry which was severely fractured during the era of the last Government.
This decision is thus viewed by some in the education system as a retrogressive move which contradicts the government’s narrative of embracing change, innovation, and progress.
The decision to overlook a promising, highly qualified candidate in favour of an individual who may lack familiarity with contemporary educational paradigms and who is close to the retirement age stands in stark contrast to the government’s proclaimed transformative agenda, especially given that the Prime Minister and a significant portion of the Cabinet are composed of young leaders.
Furthermore, it is not in congruence with the Prime Minister’s mantra of giving jobs based on merit as the young principal checks every requirement box.
The debate over this appointment raises fresh concerns about the decision-making process employed in selecting top positions within the public service and throws the spotlight on the Public Service Commission.
Many are saying that the new administration never backed up its utterances of transforming the public service with suitable action.
The appointment of a bunch of retired, old, hard baked minds, set in their ways, to the Commission was a mistake from the start. The Government missed a golden opportunity to appoint young, progressive and knowledgeable individuals as Commissioners, individuals who would have complemented the transformative agenda.
Sadly, the appointment of Jeremiah appears to be the doing of an old, stale and backward thinking Public Service Commission, incapable of transformative thoughts and decision-making.
It is believed that many individuals in the education system, including members of the Teachers Union have expressed disappointment and frustration at the impending appointment, citing the missed opportunity to bring in a young CEO, well-versed in innovative approaches and equipped with a deep understanding of the challenges facing education in the 21st century.
They point to the fact that by the time Jeremiah begins to fully understand the dictates of the position, it will be time for him to retire, and keeping him engaged on a contract for a few years after retirement as some seem to suggest will be an archaic, non-transformative move.
The education sector plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of any society, and the appointment of its leaders should reflect the commitment to progress and excellence. It is thus the hope of many that a reconsideration of the appointment process will be prompted, ensuring that young and forward-thinking leaders are entrusted with the responsibility of steering education towards a brighter future.