Methodist school board declines to react to dismissal pregnant teacher

POSTED: 05/25/12 2:13 PM

GREAT BAY—The Superintendent Minister of the Methodist Agogic Center and Chairman of the School Board Reverend Charles Seaton has indicated that the president of the Windward Islands Teachers Union Claire Elshot did not “give the facts” of the matter with regard to the teacher who was fired because she became pregnant while in the employment at the Methodist Agogic Center.
Reverend Seaton who preferred not to respond to a newspaper article which stated that the teacher who had signed a contract which apparently stated that no teacher should become pregnant out of wedlock has confirmed that he had an audience with the president of the Teachers Union Claire Elshot and had explained to her that they were busy with the matter. He was surprised when he saw the article in the newspaper even though it did not mention that the teacher was from the Methodist Agogic Center.
Elshot said at a press conference that the incident had happened at a “faith based school” but did not indicate that it was at the Methodist Agogic Center. However in investigating the matter the Today newspaper learned that the incident had happened at one of the campuses of the Methodist Agogic Center.
Meanwhile, at a press conference held this week Elshot said that the teacher has not been paid her salary since January even though she was terminated during her maternity leave and noted that the union will have to take the matter to a “higher level” if the teacher is not paid her remuneration for the months that is due to her.
She explained that the matter came up because in the press briefing some two weeks ago the issue was raised about contract of workers in general. All she was doing was cautioning the teachers to take measures before signing contracts immediately without having it perused by either the union the labor department or an attorney at law. Over the years teachers have been advised to sign their contracts immediately without getting the time to have it studied properly.
This way, if the contract is signed immediately it would enable them to receive their salary for the first month they are employed. “This is used as a tool to treat people as they wish. They must be able to get a draft of the contract and have it properly vetted by having a legal opinion,” Elshiot said.
She continued: “This is not the situation at one faith based school but also in public education where contracts have been used negatively against the teachers,” she said. This was the situation with the St. Maarten Academy noted Elshot. She maintains that it was not her intention to mention the name of the teacher or the School Board but cautiously mentioned that it was a “faith based school board.”
Elshot said she had mentioned these facts to educate her membership to have their contracts checked out and also educating school boards that prior to giving the contracts to the teachers it should be taken to the labor department to ensure what is in the contract “is in keeping with the standards of the laws of the land.”
After the teacher had completed her maternity leave she was granted an extension of sick leave following a medical operation. She was deemed fit for work on April 2 by her doctor but was not placed back in the class room. The teacher is now substituting at another school, Elshot said.
She is of the opinion that since the majority of the school boards are faith based they feel that they have the right to put the “moral values” in the document. She stressed that these school boards should take some time out to have their labor contracts perused by the labor department. “I am quite sure that the department head will advise them that such matters should not be in a contract,” Elshot said.
She added that school boards are wrong when they feel that they can automatically terminate a contract without going to the labor department.” They must submit a request for that termination at the court and that did not happen. It was expected that following the meeting with the school board they would have done the research and get a legal opinion on the contracts.”

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