Saba’s school boards’ members resign after education inspection

All the members of Sa­ba’s two school boards have re­signed following a visit by Dutch government education inspectors April 9-16, according to state­ment issued by Saba’s Executive Council on Monday.

This comes about four months after eleven staff members of Sacred Heart School (SHS) and Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) were laid off because of the schools’ financial constraints.

The lay-offs occurred several weeks before Christmas and were criticised at the time by Is­land Council Members Rolando Wilson, Elsa Peterson and Vito Charles. The three elected offi­cials said they had a meeting with Saba Foundation for Catholic Education SKOS and Saba Edu­cational Foundation (SEF) last August and the two boards gave “no signals of the financial chal­lenges.”

Anton Hermans, Executive Di­rector for both SKOS and SEF, resigned about a month after the lay-offs, around the same time that the Dutch government stepped in to “closely monitor the financial situation” at SHS in 2024. Now the entire SKOS and SEF boards have followed Her-mans and tendered their resigna­tions, which came after they had a confidential meeting with the four education inspectors on April 15.

“While this news may be concerning the continuity of education, we are active­ly liaising with the [Dutch ­Ed.] Ministry of Education to seek urgent support,” the Executive Council said in its statement.

The Executive Council said it has received the gen­eral findings of the inspec­tion, which covered the ar­eas of quality of education, school board management and financial administra­tion.

“The general findings re­vealed a decline in the qual­ity of education in primary school education since November 2022, when the school received a basic lev­el of quality,” the Executive Council said. “[We] will be engaging with the Ministry of [Education, Culture and Science] and the Inspector­ate to initiate discussions on improving education qual­ity on Saba and preventing further decline. This will be in close cooperation with the school, where an im­provement plan is already in place.”

The inspection report will undergo a review process and the first draft is ex­

pected in 6-8 weeks. The schools will have a chance to respond before the final version is submitted to the Dutch Ministry of Educa­tion, Culture and Science. `As the financial admin­istrative investigation is still ongoing, the Executive Council is closely monitor­ing the situation and re­mains in contact with rel­evant authorities to provide necessary support. We will continue to keep the public informed as more informa­tion becomes available,” the Executive Council said. The schools’ money prob­lems were first mentioned in a joint statement by SKOS and SEF at the end of November 2023.

“Regrettably, unforeseen financial difficulties have emerged, necessitating a re­evaluation of staffing needs and expenditure. This chal­lenge primarily stems from the higher-than-expected cost associated with the new primary school build­ing, the number of staff members employed, higher operation cost, as well as less income projected for 2024,” the joint statement read.

The Dutch Ministry of Ed­ucation, Culture and Sci­ence and the Netherlands’ study financing implemen­tation agency DUO said in January that it would “closely monitor the fi­nancial situation at SHS in 2024.”

This higher supervision is part of an agreement be­tween the ministry, DUO and the local school board, which also involves “an ad­vance payment for the year 2024, which will be utilised to ensure salaries can be paid as well as to rebuild the school’s reserves,” ac­cording to a press release at the time.

Despite this advance pay­ment, the release also re­ported that an undisclosed number of staff contracts will not be renewed after July to “ensure long-term financial stability and main­tain a healthy fiscal opera­tion at both schools.” Ad­ditionally, Hermans’ old position will not be filled “taking into consideration the financial challenges.” Hermans gave no indica­tion that his departure had anything to do with finan­cial mismanagement, in­stead saying that his resig­nation was “due to a career change in alignment with personal goals.”

The Daily Herald.

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