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Mar 26, 2019

Another Sit Out at Bishop Martin High School

In February, nine teachers at the Bishop Martin High School, with the support of colleagues, initiated a sit-out calling for action to regularize their employment status. There has been some movement, but four teachers remain in limbo. Today, the teachers went to school, but not to teach. They carried out another round of a sit-out, but inside the classrooms, substitute teachers took over. According to a spokesperson, those teachers that do not want to sub are being threatened. News Five’s Duane Moody was at the high school today and files the following report.   


Duane Moody, Reporting

Since Monday, several teachers at the Bishop Martin High School in Orange Walk have staged a sit out. The teachers are at odds with the administration and the managing board of the school because for at least four, their status in the classroom can only be described as illegal. “Illegal” because they are yet to receive employment letters or even a letter of appointment to the school. This is over a month after the teachers staged a first industrial action back in February since the documentation of nine teachers with the Teaching Services Commission was outstanding.


Carmen Trejo

Carmen Trejo, Spokesperson for Disgruntled Teachers

“We asked for an update on Tuesday and this is the letter that we got. The first pointer tells us that the approval from ministry for the new teachers is still in process with the most recent update earlier this week that the paperwork was on the desk of the C.E.O. awaiting final signature. We want to know why it is taking so long for us to get that one signature from the C.E.O. if the board says that they have forwarded all our papers. We want to know why it is taking so long.”


Today at the school, we found the aggrieved teachers in the staff room; they have refused to enter their classes. But it seemed like an ordinary day for the students who were seated in their classrooms with lessons being taught. News Five has since received a copy of a letter issued to a teacher who has refused to substitute for the teachers carrying out the sit-out. The letter ends by saying that the Board considers the refusal as offences under the Education and Training Act of 2010.


Carmen Trejo

“We asked the teachers to support us. We are sitting out because we are the ones that are affected directly. We ask the teachers for their support which most of them are giving us by not doing our substitutions; however, they have been asked to sign a paper when they say they are not doing our substitutions. Now remember these are teachers that are permanent teachers here and if it was me, I would be scared for my job. So if I am supporting a teacher and then I am being asked to sign a paper why I am not doing their substitutions, why is that happening? Why is that a form of threat to a teacher? From the minute you are asked to sign something then that means that that it is going on your record; why is that necessary?”


In February, there were nine teachers affected, two have given up the fight while another two have left Bishop Martin and are now working at another secondary institution. Those teachers have since received their formal letters of employment. So who is at the root of the delay at Bishop Martin, especially since it comes at a tremendous cost to these teachers?


Carmen Trejo

“Two of them have left the school which means that they have lost all benefits. If they were here three years or more, they have lost all of that; they are starting their first year. Of the seven of us, who decided to fight our cases, three have gotten appointment letters from ministry and so four of us remain. However, those teachers, who have gotten their appointment letters, their date of employment is just this year, which means that all the years that they were here and served Bishop Martin are not accounted for. And even though the board has told us that they plan to compensate, we have not gotten that to say on a dollar amount or how that’s going to be done because we know those are public funds. So how will they do that if the commission has told us that the ministry will not do that; they will not backdate our date of employment.”


The teachers are asking for support from the parents.


Carmen Trejo

“We are also asking for parental support for the students because this is affecting your children. While we are not in class, who is teaching your children? Are they even being taught? This is affecting the school; this is affecting your child. We are here fighting for our jobs; we are not here to destroy the school. We are here to make sure that it remains open and that the teachers who are here serve their purpose.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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