SDA Mission Responds to Wall-To-Wall Cover-ups
The following is a statement issued on Monday, August 7 by the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church operates four schools in this country: three primary schools and one secondary school. Our secondary school, the SDA Academy, has been educating the children of our nation for over 50 years. The alumni of the Academy are shining luminaries in all walks of life both here and abroad. They have taken their rightful place in society among the best in the nation and internationally. Our school has produced outstanding civil servants, doctors, lawyers, academicians, educators, successful entrepreneurs and CEOs, leaders in government including a prime minister of this country, to name a few.
The SDA Academy aims to instill in students not just academic excellence, but also values and principles that will help them develop quality character that will position them for service to God, to their country and to humanity; character that will equip them for success.
The spiritual, moral, and ethical values and principles embraced and instilled at our schools and at the Academy, are second to none. While as a redemptive institution, the SDA Academy over the years has given second and even third chances to many students who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks, the school does not tolerate immoral, violent or disruptive behaviour by students, teachers or anyone associated with the institution.
Wall-to-wall cover-up simply does not apply to our school, its board or the leadership of the Saint Lucia Mission of SDA. Over the past school year only one matter involving a sex-tape scandal was brought to the attention of the school board and the administration of the Saint Lucia Mission of SDA.
The school board cautiously deliberated on the matter of the sex tape. The discussions were prioritized around three serious concerns: (1) The best interest of the student body, the children that parents have entrusted to our care. (2) The best interest and future of the young lady who was at the centre of the scandal, and (3) the reputation and image of the school and the ability of the school to continue to uphold the high moral values that have been its hallmark as a Christian institution in this country.
Even though it was painful, the board made the decision to expel the young lady in the best interest of the students and what the school represents as a Christian institution. I can recall very clearly the school board asking the administration of the school to visit the home of that student to help the parents and the child find an alternative path to prepare to write her CXC subjects because of our concern for her future.
While we try to be redemptive, we uphold our emphasis on discipline and proper conduct. We expect students and teachers who become aware or who know of immoral or any unacceptable behaviours to report same to the principal, the vice principal or someone in the administration of the school. We can assure the parents, our school constituency and the public that we are working all the time to improve how we respond to such reports in the best interest of all concerned.
When it comes to teacher turnover, it is not uncommon for young persons coming out of A-Levels or CAPE to take a job as a teacher for a year or two, and in some cases even for a few months on their way to pursuing their desired career. The SDA Academy is not the only school which has had to deal with that kind of situation, but in our case, those young teachers usually serve for a full year or a full term, as the case may be, and the school usually finds suitable and qualified replacement in a timely manner so the students are never left without teachers.
During the last school year, we have not had any high teacher turnover at the Academy. In December of 2016 we had one teacher who left the SDA Academy due to salary issues. School was closed for the Christmas break at the time of her departure, but when the students returned to school on January 1, 2017, there was a capable and qualified replacement; a teacher who had taught the students during the study leave of the outgoing teacher.
In May 2017, a young lady who had taken up a temporary teaching job at the Academy left to pursue medical studies. While we were disappointed that she could not finish the school term, the students were not left to suffer. The vice principal, a highly qualified and capable educator, immediately took up the class and taught for the rest of the term.
When it comes to SBAs we have had some challenges in terms of submitting them early, but we have always been able to submit SBAs on time for CXCs. We are working hard to improve things in that regard so that parents and students can have the comfort of knowing that SBAs are submitted much earlier.
As we close the school year, we are aware that a number of the young teachers who were with us at the Academy during the year will not be returning. However, we have had a lot of applications from very qualified and capable prospects for teaching positions, some of whom have already been employed so we expect no problem for teachers come September.
We continue to work hard to improve the product that we offer. We have appointed an Education Reform Committee and work is ongoing, including incorporation of a comprehensive life skills programme to assist students in making wise decisions and dealing with challenges of sexuality and growing up in today’s environment, drawing from experiences with the Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) framework (Servol and CARE; and the International Youth Foundation Passport to Success and NSDC Life Skills Programmes).
St. Lucia owes the SDA Academy a lot of credit for the work it has been doing over the past 50 years and the kind of contribution it has made to the country in the quality of students that have left its walls to serve and advance the development of the nation. Whereas most of the leading schools on the island have high cut-off points of 70% pass and above for accepting common entrance students, the SDA Academy has saved as a safety net, accepting, alongside the very bright students that come to our school, those that are struggling, and who might not have received a high-school education otherwise.
Isn’t it amazing that a school catering for such a mix-multitude, accepting all and sundry, so to speak, the brilliant and not so brilliant; the capable and seemingly incapable; both high and low percentages, is still able to consistently remain in the top ten schools in the country? No education institution is without challenges; whenever you have students, as wonderful as they may be, you will have problems. We will continue to strive to help our students become the best they can become.
The SDA Academy remains committed to delivering academic excellence in a spiritually charged environment, where high moral, ethical and spiritual values are taught, embraced and respected.