Dr Carika Weldon.
Just the mere mention of this name should bring sheer joy and pride to the hearts of all Bermudians. The record books will show that our very own daughter of the soil led us through the COVID-19 nightmare. With sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones, it is due to Dr Weldon’s progressive training and acute understanding of viruses that Bermuda was able to outsmart the novel corona virus before it consumed our little island nation. She led and we followed. And though the war is not over yet, many of the battles have been won. For this, we owe her a debt of gratitude.
To think Dr Weldon’s credentials are being “questioned” is disheartening to say the least. What is this about? Is it because she is Bermudian? Black? A female? Is it because somebody doesn’t “like” her? Given our track record, it’s probably a weird combination of some, if not all, of these. Whatever it is, it’s another sad day for Bermuda. Our insistence on undermining and discrediting our own only serves to discourage our best and brightest from returning to serve our community.
So what’s going on?
The late Dr Eva Hodgson (RIP), Dr Muriel Wade-Smith, Dr Freddie Evans, and now Dr Gina Tucker. The list of highly trained educators who have been sidelined or dismissed in this country is mind-boggling. Unlike Dr Weldon, these, and many other educators (who may not have Doctorates) have not been given the opportunity to serve in the capacities for which they were specifically trained preventing us from benefiting from their collective expertise. Consequently, we will never know if their combined contribution would have ensured a 1st class Education system long ago.
Why is it that the level of respect given our medical doctors, lawyers and ‘Indian Chiefs’ is not given our educators? Why don’t we have the same high regard for those responsible for educating our children as we do for those responsible for caring for our sick? Why in 2020 would we set the bar for our ‘top education dog’ so low when most nations would not even consider someone without a Doctorate as a starter? Considering the court case, I am wondering if this was done only to ensure Mrs Kalmar Richards ‘got the job’ or are our standards/expectations for the one charged with leading our education system really that low? I think it’s both. We do not revere the profession of education as a highly specialized discipline.
Like Dr Weldon, Dr Tucker was trained to do this specific job; that is, she was trained to be an Education Commissioner/ Superintendent. This systemic “sidelining of specialized Bermudian talent”—over so many years—could explain why education is in the mess it’s in and why it cannot achieve excellence despite the millions of dollars spent.
Thankfully, the powers-that-be did not care if Dr Weldon was “liked”. I guess the possible outcome of the pandemic was dire enough that they dismissed anyone’s personal feelings for Dr Weldon. With “death at our door”, the powers-that-be cared only that we had the best person in place to do the job. Would Dr Weldon have had the opportunity without her specialized high-level training and her extensive experience? I would think not.
By all accounts, the trajectory of the coronavirus in Bermuda changed direction because the powers-that-be ensured this Black Bermudian female “expert” was provided the resources and the support needed to be successful, which is the formula for achieving the positive outcomes we seek.
So what’s going on?
Some would say we have had an education pandemic raging in this country for well over a decade. Remember Hopkins 2007? We have born witness to its outcome far too many times. I hate to say it, but it needs to be said. The outcome has been the death— aspirational, spiritual, and regrettably, physical—of many of our young Black Bermudian men.
My question is, why haven’t the powers-that-be ensured the same level of expertise is in place with the support and resources needed to combat the education pandemic as was done with the COVID-19 pandemic?
After serving over 20 years in numerous capacities within the Department including turning around the then troubled Victor Scott School, this PS will not give Dr Tucker the opportunity to use her expertise and training to help tackle this education pandemic. Clearly, she is only thinking about herself. She wants who she “wants/likes” irrespective and oblivious of what the system requires.
Like Dr Weldon, I’m sure Dr Tucker has had some progressive ideas about what needs to be done—as did I’m sure Drs Hodgson, Wade-Smith and others. However, this casual sidelining or dismissing of expertise in education has become pervasive, is costing lives, and is hindering Bermuda’s success. It is also sending a clear message regarding the lack of value placed on education as a profession and, ultimately, the value (or lack thereof) placed on young people.
So what’s going on?
I’m sure you know exactly what’s going on. Minister of Public Works, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, called it for what it is and hit the nail on the head when he stated, “its Black women who are planning and plotting to ensure Dr Weldon’s failure and that it started before she even arrived”.
Colonel Burch is speaking to that type of ugly jealousy you see exhibited by Black women against other Black women in this country. And it looks like Dr Tucker has been working against this kind of jealousy her entire career. As a principal she had Black female teachers/staff who continuously plotted and worked against her eventually aligning themselves with then Acting Commissioner, Wendy McDonnell, who plotted and conspired (with the then school counselor) to get Dr. Tucker removed from the school. Knowing Dr Tucker’s aspirations to become Commissioner, Wendy McDonell did whatever it took to ensure Dr Tucker’s failure.
In the case of Dr Tucker vs The Board of Education, we clearly see the appalling behavior of PS Valerie Robinson-James—another Black woman. She too did whatever it took to keep Dr Tucker from getting the job she rightly deserved. She plotted, conspired, and did the ultimate by breaking the law to achieve her goal.
As stated by Colonel Burch regarding the attacks on Dr Weldon, was jealousy the underlying motivation for the PSs behavior toward Dr Tucker?
Fortunately, Dr Weldon has ‘a Colonel Burch’ in her corner. Meaning, she has someone who is not afraid to stand up against this vindictive behavior and will not only call it out publicly but is prepared to name and shame the persons and their supervisors if it does not cease and desist. Now that’s leadership. It’s obvious he knows Bermuda will not be successful with this kind of behaviour and the time has come to confront it.
So, when will this behavior be called out in education? Does anyone have the courage?
Word to the wise, Colonel Burch’s stance should serve as a warning. While education reform is imminent, any efforts taken risk being undermined if we do not do as Colonel Burch did, which is to acknowledge the elephant in the room, call it out, and commit to its immediate removal through transparent action.
Lowered standards mixed with the absence of accountability at the top will only lead to frustration and resentment causing our best educators to lose faith and leave the system altogether. Sadly, with the exit of many (including Drs Evans and Tucker), it has already begun. But more importantly, the system will remain broken.
- June Love (pen name) is a community activist and mother of two Black boys. She cares deeply about public education and the role it plays in Bermuda’s future. A product of the public-school system, Ms Love is an advocate for public school education but feels the current system leaves much to be desired. Having served on the PTA Executive for several years, she is an active parent who is extremely involved in her sons’ education. Involvement in this space has enlightened her about why the current system “misses the mark”. Education is key to Blacks having a life that matters. If Black lives truly matter in this island, then “matters of public-school education” should matter to us all. With vested interest, Ms Love will explore what’s really going on in public education in Bermuda.