Minister of Education Emmalin Pierre has said government will continue the search for a Chief Education Officer (CEO) despite the recent appointment of Angela Finlay, who comes to the post poorly recommended by her peers.
Finlay is the former Chief of the Planning Unit within the Ministry of Education, where her leadership was called into question and a stinging indictment of her management of the Unit had been delivered by Finley Jeffrey, the former Permanent Secretary.
Responding to questions about Finlay’s appointment to the critical post of Chief Education Officer, Minister Pierre said while she is happy to work along with her the search will continue for a CEO.
“We are not at the place where we have concluded as a ministry that we are happy that we don’t need to continue the search for a Chief Education Officer in the interim and I am sure you have heard over and over, the cry that we should never have that office vacant”, she said.
Finlay had been at the centre of various problems within the Planning Unit and at one point had reported being verbally and physically assaulted by a junior member of her staff.
This complaint was investigated by a female attorney-at-law appointed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) which has not released the outcome of the probe.
Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY that during the investigation, a former Solicitor General who represented the Junior officer accused Finlay of being “a liar” and making up the story of being struck by the Junior officer as none of the eyewitnesses saw anything like that happening in the encounter.
The Education Minister said while the search will continue for another CEO, she respects the decision of PSC and believes the body would have conducted due diligence before making the appointment.
“I respect totally the decision by the Public Service Commission to appoint the individual in question (Angela Finlay) and I am certain there would have been deliberations and there would have been review of various documents and information to make that particular decision,” she added.
According to Minister Pierre, the Ministry was faced with a situation where there was a limited group of candidates on offer for the job of CEO.
“One of the things I think it is critical to mention here is that we have been in search for a Chief Education Officer for some time now and I recall former PS (Permanent Secretary Finley Jeffrey) also mentioning the last pool of persons, to whether or not we had persons there that we felt strongly, in terms of recommending forward for the interview, the pool was so limited.
I remember we had a pool of about six persons.” Minister Pierre stated that the scarcity of appropriate candidates had also prompted the ministry to consider making a regional call for candidates.
“There was even discussion as it relates to inviting persons regionally to apply for that position,” she remarked. “So there has been a search and there has been extension of that search on various occasions. So in the interim, the Public Service Commission has appointed Angela Finlay and we are quite prepared and happy to work along with Mrs Finlay in that position,” she said.
Minister Pierre indicated she has no evidence to suggest that Finlay would not perform in the role of Chief Education Officer. She said: “I can’t speak about her inabilities. I have not had anything that indicates to me personally that she is not able to perform this particular duty. We continue to support her in that regard.”
The female government minister also alluded to what she referred to as challenges within the Planning Unit which she said were not caused by Finlay’s leadership. “Let me say this…there have been some challenges within the Planning Unit, but I cannot say here…that I can conclude, or anybody can conclude that the issues in the Planning Unit were as a result of this particular Officer”, she said.
Minister Pierre stated that during a meeting with the Planning Unit staff they were asked individually whether the department could move forward without Finlay as the head of the unit given the issues faced and “every single officer said no”.
“The point I am trying to make is, if we speak about the Planning Unit, we can conclude that there have been some very general, broad issues and problems within that Unit so the source of the (leaked) information quite obviously has not briefed you generally enough, because I believe there are some deeper issues there that you should have been alerted to,” the Minister said.
However, Minister Pierre declined to elaborate on the problems which she alluded to. In correspondence to the Public Service Commissioner, former PS in Education, Jeffrey described Finlay as having “poor judgement and leadership skills” and that she also was lacking in “social skills”.
Officials at the Ministry of Education have charged that as head of the Planning Unit, Finlay could not manage a mere six members of staff and that the PSC decision to place her in the greater role of CEO was in “poor taste” and nothing but “an earthquake” to hit the education sector.