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Video: Teachers Union Press Conference

[Updated] Bermuda teachers union [BUT] Holds a press conference this afternoon [Jan 7] We’ll have additional coverage later and in the meantime the live video is below.

Update: The live stream has ended and the 22-minute replay below is over

Update 8.01pm: Speaking today, BUT President Nishanthi Bailey said, “The Bermuda Teachers Union Executive Committee has made many efforts to engage and collaborate with the Ministry and Department of Education over the past several months.

“Our goal with the collaboration was to present a united front in the ongoing global pandemic of Covid-19 as we collectively facilitate the teaching and learning work of our public school students.

“The Department of Education and the Department of Education have not engaged us in cooperation as outlined in our collective bargaining agreement this school year, and are instead moving forward with policies that appear designed to fabricate in our members a sense of anxiety and fear linked to an unnecessary level of control. This will not hold.

“We have worked honestly with the Ministry and the administration since the onset of Covid-19 in 2020. Amidst ongoing wage cuts, intrusive testing regimes, sudden shifts in schedule, unspeakable pressures to perform at unreasonable levels, and simply outrageous media releases by the Ministry of Education Which did not represent the reality of what is happening in our public schools.

“This has become too much for us to accept quietly. Our efforts to address the concerns of our more than 800 members who do the inner workings of teaching and learning daily have been rejected by our employers, causing a once friendly alliance in the face of unprecedented circumstances to degenerate into many tense quandaries.

“We are at a point where we feel it is prudent to act. We have asked the Education Emergency Measures Committee, the EEMC to urgently reconvene and rethink the current start-up for back to school in massively failed January and align it with expert advice for those we have positioned to do so.

“The pitfalls on the part of the Ministry of Education are too many at a time when effective and proactive leadership is most important. Most important is their failure to convene an EEMC meeting where all stakeholders could have planned collaboratively and effectively to avoid the situation we are currently facing.

“Instead of the Ministry and Department of Education acknowledging the many shortcomings in their return to school plan or lack thereof, teachers are now being asked to comply with irrational directives, some of which go against the advice of the national government and are threatened with payment of their salaries docked to take reasonable action.

“Enough is enough. Bullying, demonization and finger-pointing must stop immediately if we are to make our way through this current situation. Teachers are not the villains of this narrative and no one should feel intimidated, threatened or punished by unreasonable requests that do nothing for help. In resolving the crisis we are currently facing, it will not, in fact, be tolerated.

“Our teachers are hardworking members of this community and are tasked with going into what is classified as a medium risk environment on a daily basis. They do this for the love of this noble profession and most importantly for their students. The school building is a place that receives contact from every corner of our community.

“Teachers are tasked with taking care of all students and therefore all families in our country. When we ask for an intermittent return to school or a rescheduling of the testing system or just sitting at the table with those who have decision-making power, it does not make anything more convenient for us. It is to protect our entire community during This health crisis.”

Ms Bailey added that “the anger that accompanies school not starting in person on time is nothing besides the anger” we would hear if starting school too early had directly led to another spike in this virus.

“We must do better,” she added. “Nearly two years into facing this virus. Two years of data points. Two years of last-minute decisions. Two years of unnecessary inconvenience to our teachers, students, parents and the broader community. Two years have passed.

“We should get it together now in most cases. We have tried enough scenarios to be able to plan collaboratively, appropriately, in time for these times we live in. For this pandemic to become a distant memory, the EEMC must work. The ministry is with all stakeholders, including this union.

“The Department of Education must listen more than they have recently shown their willingness to. Everyone with decision-making power must respect, think, and act on the advice of those most willing to give it.

“Bermuda, if we really mean we are in this together, everyone, including employers, must collectively do their part and demonstrate a level of understanding, rationality, flexibility, and most importantly, make sense.”

– Please note that the text is a manual transcription that is done as best as possible.

Update 8pm: Shadow Education Minister Ben Smith said, “Teachers in the Bermuda public school system deserve to have their voices heard. It was disappointing to hear Bermuda Teachers Union (BUT) President Nishanthi Bailey speak at the press conference. The last thing teachers need is to feel unimportant .

Besides having to go through these unprecedented times, which have been stressful to say the least, why do teachers feel that they are being bullied by the Ministry of Education?

“It is time for the Department to be prepared to take BUT seriously and work collaboratively for the betterment of teachers and students in the Bermuda public school system. This is not the time for discord.”

Update 10.20pm: The Department of Education responded, with its spokesperson, “The Department confirms that it has met with BUT today to discuss reopening public schools in Bermuda and is aware of BUT’s concerns shared in its press release today.

The University has raised several points that the Ministry has explained and clarified with all parties who agreed that the priority is to ensure the safe resumption of services to students.

With regard to the issue of deductions from wages raised by the union, the Ministry will investigate communications related to this.

Acting Education Secretary Taine Furbert stated: “We are working to establish strong channels of communication with BUT, parents and stakeholders as we manage issues related to the return to teaching and learning within the school. Communication between all parties is particularly critical as we navigate the protocols that have been affected. directly to the epidemic.

“The decision to open schools is a decision driven by the need to make 2022 different from 2020 and 2021; our children must be given every opportunity to resume important personal learning.”

A spokesperson added: “The MDLs testing plan was confirmed to safely reopen schools on December 13. It was shared with the department who then shared it with school leaders, staff and parents that same week.

Minister Furbert added: “After nearly two years of interruption in education for Bermuda children, parents and teachers have sacrificed much to do everything they can to provide valuable learning experiences, but nothing can replace an open school environment and personal contact between teachers and their students.

“This government is committed to working with all stakeholders who share this goal and is similarly determined to support working parents and guardians who invest so much in the public school system. It all starts with entrusting their children with the education and learning it provides.”

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