Education Minister Diallo Rabain announced today the Government has made the decision “to close TN Tatem Middle School permanently”.
Speaking at a news conference this morning, the Minister made the following statement:
First, I’d like to say that I understand that this has been a difficult process for many in our community, including students, staff, parents and alumni.
I appreciate the valuable time that many people took to participate in the pre-consultation and consultation processes by attending the pre-consultation meetings, the consultation meetings and/or submitting consultation responses.
Second, I would like to share that this has been a very detailed and deliberative process. It has also been a transparent process, as demonstrated by the Consultation and Decision Report, which will be published on the Ministry website later today.
My remarks today give a synopsis of information included in the Consultation and Decision Report.
The Report provides:
- An overview of the consultation
- The number of participants
- The key points and issues raised in the consultation, and
- The actual written consultation responses.
It also communicates the decision and the reasons for the decision on TN Tatem Middle School.
By way of background, after the pre-consultation meetings, the Ministry launched a consultation on whether or not to close T.N. Tatem Middle School based on data and information showing that all of our middle school students can be accommodated in the other four  other middle schools.
The consultation period extended from November 8th, 2019 to December 20th, 2019 and the consultation document was made available on the Ministry of Education website. Critical and other community stakeholders were invited to participate in the consultation directly via email, and radio and social media advertisements.
Consultation meetings were held with:
- Staff Members of the Bermuda Public School System
- The T.N. Tatem Middle School Community
- Other School Communities and Members of the Public
- Executives of the Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Bermuda Public Services Union [the Executive of the Bermuda Industrial Union was unable to attend], and
- The chairpersons of aided middle schools.
Along with technical officers, I attended each of the consultation meetings and listened to the information, views and responses provided by critical stakeholders.
A total of 25 individuals attended these consultation meetings.
The Ministry received a total of 53 consultation responses via the online consultation response form and email.
All 53 written responses are included in the consultation and decision report, and I have carefully read each consultation response received.
As communicated publicly, I had committed to announcing a decision by the end of January 2020.
However, as a result of the grievance received by some staff members of T.N. Tatem Middle School, dated January 23rd, 2020, I decided to delay making a decision on T.N. Tatem Middle School until I was able to consider the points in the grievance that were specific to the consultation. This helped to ensure that the consultation process was fair, and that any decision taken would be in the best interests of the Bermuda Public School System.
I therefore considered the grievance points in relation to the consultation as part of the decision-making process, in addition to the responses provided during the pre-consultation and consultation.
The key issues raised during the consultation, including from the grievance were:
- Accommodating students, class sizes and the maximum enrolment
- Budget and resources
- Transportation and proximity
- Transition and integration of staff and students
- Future building and site use
- The Warwick community and history, and
I have considered:
- The issues and points raised during the pre-consultation process
- The issues and points raised during the consultation process
- The points for and against closure
- The responses by the Ministry of Education and the Department of Education to the issues and points raised during the consultation process
- The alternative option of reopening the school, and
- The effects of closure.
Following the consideration of the above, I have decided to close T.N. Tatem Middle School permanently.
The reasons for my decision are as follows:
All of the Island’s public middle school students can be accommodated in four  middle schools as a result of:
i. The Decrease in Enrolment
Enrolment for the Bermuda Public School System, including middle schools is continuing to decline. The current and declining student population can be accommodated within four  middle schools.
ii. An Adequate Staffing Complement
The majority of the staff at T.N. Tatem Middle School were transferred to other schools for the 2019-20 school year. Each middle school has a staffing complement that meets or exceeds the requirements to educate and support the number of students for each middle school.
iii. Class Sizes are Within the Maximum Enrolment
The maximum enrolment for middle school is 25 students per class. The current sizes of middle school classes both for core [e.g. English, math, science and social studies] and encore subjects [e.g. family studies, design and technology and French] are below the maximum class size.
iv. Adequate Physical Space
There is adequate physical space. Although there are a few teachers required to share instructional spaces at Dellwood Middle School, students are physically accommodated for every class.
v. Additional and Redistributed Resources
The Department of Education has redistributed resources from T.N. Tatem Middle School to other middle schools. In addition to staffing, which make up over 90% of the T.N. Tatem Middle School budget, the other middle schools have received increased and improved information technology, funds for supplies for additional students, as well as photocopiers, chairs, tables and desks. Additional and redistributed resources have and will continue to be provided to middle schools.
vi. Available Educational Programmes
The educational programmes offered at T.N. Tatem Middle School are available at the other middle schools. Sandys Secondary Middle School, Dellwood Middle School and Whitney Institute Middle School provide programmes that are the same or in addition to what was available at T.N. Tatem Middle School, and
The Department of Public Transportation has worked with the Department of Education to provide transportation for TN Tatem Middle School students to and from the other middle schools. The Department of Education is working with the Department of Public Transportation to respond to challenges regarding the need for additional capacity.
I acknowledge that there have been challenges that have come as a result of the temporary closure of T.N. Tatem Middle School. However, I am thankful to the Department of Education leadership team, middle school principals and middle school staff who have worked diligently to resolve those issues, as well as our parents and students.
The Ministry and Department of Education are committed to the development of a detailed implementation plan focused on:
- Communication and collaboration
- Updating the maximum enrolment for middle schools
- Enrolment of current P6 students
- Reinvestment of resources
- Transition and integration of staff and students
- Transportation, and
- Honouring the Warwick community and history
As I have now made the decision, the Department will engage first with principals in order to develop the implementation plan. However, there will be opportunities for input from other critical stakeholders in the coming weeks. Once the implementation plan is finalized, it will be made public and regular progress updates will be given.
I would like to highlight, specifically as it relates to the T.N. Tatem and Warwick community, that the Ministry of Education will develop and implement a proposal with community input to honour the legacy and preserve artifacts [e.g. trophies, plaques, photographs, et. al.] from T.N. Tatem Middle School and its precursors, Spice Valley Middle School and Warwick Secondary School.
Before I close, I would like to remark on my day yesterday.
I was able meet and communicate the decision to:
- Department of Education staff
- Middle School principals
- Mrs. Lucille Parker-Swan, one of the daughters of Mr. T.N. Tatem, of T.N. Tatem Middle School, and
- T.N. Tatem Middle School staff.
I was in awe of the commitment to public education, and appreciated the questions, feedback and comments shared with me yesterday.
I had also invited parents of TN Tatem Middle School to meet to hear the decision from me in person. However, the meeting was cancelled due to lack of attendance. The decision is being communicated to them in writing today. They will also be invited to send any questions about the decision to the Ministry.
I think that the words of Mrs. Parker-Swan reflect what many will feel about this decision: That it is regrettable, but understandable.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that this decision was made with great care, thought and consideration, and in the best interests of our students in the Bermuda Public School System.
Again, I thank all those who participated in the consultation process for their comments, observations and suggestions. Your input has been invaluable and has helped me to make this very difficult decision.
I will now take questions.