Minister Arrindell blast S4-board for dismissing director Richardson

POSTED: 05/7/12 9:42 PM

St. Maarten – Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, Dr. Rhoda Arrindell says she is “terribly disappointed and seriously concerned” about the recent dismissal of St. Maarten Student Support Services director Drs. Marva Richardson by the board of the S4 Foundation. In an extensive press statement, which we publish verbatim below, the minister questions the board’s motives for the dismissal, suggesting that the dismissal of a staff member who had a relationship with the president of the board had something to do with it.

“This comes at a most inappropriate time, seeing that preparations for the new batch of students going to study in the Netherlands this year will soon begin. I am terribly disappointed and seriously concerned about the latest developments,” Minister Arrindell said in her first public comments on the dismissal.

“Of course, as a private foundation and employer of Drs. Marva Richardson, the S4 board has every right to act in the way it deems fit. However, the foundation was established by the St. Maarten government with the sole purpose of taking care of St. Maarten students in the Netherlands, thereby replacing the former SSNA which performed that function before,” the Minister noted.

“What concerns me most is that the reasons given by the board are so vague and unsubstantiated,” Arrindell added.

Recalling events that apparently led to this new situation, Minister Arrindell said: “On March 6, 2012, I held discussions with members of the S4 board at a meeting I had convened in my office and informed them that based on the actions of the S4 board and reports in the media, I had concerns that the board was not following the same path as the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Youth Affairs regarding its study financing policies for students abroad. I also made it clear to the board that as minister, I was very satisfied with the functioning of S4 director Drs. Marva Richardson. I stressed that, in my opinion, the director had been executing the ministry’s policies almost to the letter.”

“At the aforementioned meeting, the S4 treasurer assured me that there would be improved communication between the S4 board and the Ministry. However, rather than improve, communication between the S4 board and the Ministry became almost non-existent while, at the same time, the board prohibited the S4 director from communicating directly with the Ministry, contrary to the explicit stipulations of the existing Service Level Agreement between government and S4.”

“The following facts may shed some light on what is happening at S4:

“The S4 board consists of five members—none of them from St. Maarten, and none, with the exception of the treasurer, who recently moved to St. Martin to work, have ever lived in St. Maarten and therefore cannot relate to the reality of the St. Maarten student. The S4 director is a St. Maartener, who has a profound understanding of the students’ needs and government’s policy direction.

“The treasurer, a prominent member of the S4 board, the one who apparently orchestrated the demise of the S4 director, has been parading himself as the advisor to MP Romain Laville and the NA faction. Among the personal reasons he may have for wanting to dismiss the S4 director is the fact the S4 director had dismissed a staff member with whom he reportedly had a relationship at the time.

“Could it be a coincidence that the S4 director was fired immediately after the so-called “Carnival coup” to bring down the UP-led coalition government? The episode brings to mind the riveting 1999 play, “Coups and Calypsos” by award-winning author and playwright, Marlene Nourbese Philip.

“At the meeting with the S4 board I mentioned earlier, the same board member had inquired if by expressing my confidence in the S4 Director, it was implied that the board should take their “hands off” her.  I answered that basically that was the idea because she was executing the ministry’s policies very well. Her subsequent dismissal shortly thereafter could therefore be construed as a power play: the board trying to show that it could do as it pleases, regardless of the minister’s opinion.

“It is certainly worth noting that this is not the first time the S4 Board has had problems with its directors.  There have been only two Directors since S4 was established, both of them highly qualified St. Maarten women and both of them unceremoniously dismissed by the board. How can a person have a problem with all his neighbors and the neighbors all be the problem?

“In the past two years the S4 director has been able to save government over a million guilders. When she cooperated with government to have the funds returned to St. Maarten to use for other education projects, she was reprimanded by the board.

“In February of this year, as part of its efforts to undermine the S4 Director, the board hired a so-called “coach” at a fee of €14,000 ($18,322) per month, even though she does not work full-time. When I raised the issue of where the board would find the money to pay her, I was informed that her appointment was just for a month. Yet the “coach” remains employed up to this day.

“I am sure Drs. Marva Richardson is very capable of defending herself against the media campaign unleashed against her by the S4 board following her dismissal. However, I want to make it abundantly clear that the interests of the over 200 St. Maarten students in Holland is certainly not best served by the modus operandi of the current S4 board.”

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