SDA Mis­sion Re­sponds to Wall-To-Wall Cover-ups

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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.

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