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A contractor who got several school repair contracts this summer acknowledged yesterday that he campaigned for Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald, and that he also has a pending drug matter before the courts.
But Carlos Lamm of JFK Construction told The Nassau Guardian that he is an honest contractor who does good work, and never received any contracts under the previous administration.
"My money can empower young, black people," Lamm said.
Lamm, 43, confirmed that he was charged about four years ago and returns to court next month. The Nassau Guardian understands a decision is expected to be handed down at that time.
According to court records, he was charged with possession of three-and-a-half pounds of marijuana with the intent to supply.
But Lamm has maintained his innocence and suggested yesterday this has nothing to do with the fact that he received school repair contracts.
Asked if he has campaigned for Fitzgerald, he said, "When he called upon me."
He said his company has existed for more than 20 years, long before he knew Fitzgerald.
Referring to the former
administration, Lamm said, "They tried to keep me out of progressing."
The Guardian contacted Lamm after former Minister of Education Desmond Bannister raised the matter in the Senate yesterday through a series of questions.
Bannister asked Government Leader in the Senate Allyson Maynard-Gibson to inform the upper chamber whether any of the school repair contracts were issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- this summer.
He questioned whether a contract was issued to JFK Construction for repairs at C. I. Gibson Senior High School in the amount of $49,000; repairs to Claridge Primary in the amount of $49,000 and Mable Walker Primary School in the amount of $40,085.98.
A government minister must get Cabinet approval for any contract exceeding $50,000.
"Will the honorable leader of government business inform this honorable Senate whether it is accurate to say that contracts issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- during the summer of 2012 exceeded $138,000 in total?" Bannister asked.
He also asked: "Will the honorable leader of government business confirm for this honorable Senate that neither Tender Board approval nor Cabinet approval had been obtained for the issuance of contracts exceeding $138,000 to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- prior to their issuance?"
Additionally, Bannister asked whether Gibson could confirm that no other person was issued school repair contracts "exceeding the consideration of the said contracts issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm".
Bannister's 13th of 16 questions in relation to this matter was, "Will the honorable leader of government business confirm for this honorable Senate that the said Carlos Lamm had been charged with offenses contrary to the Dangerous Drugs Act, prior to the time that the said contracts were issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- and that the said charges were still before the courts at the time that the said contracts were issued?"
He also asked whether other school repair contracts were issued for as little as $1,869.66 while Lamm's company received contracts exceeding $138,000.
Bannister also asked whether any school repair contracts were issued to public officers to repair public schools.
Additionally, he questioned whether notwithstanding these difficult recessionary times, some contractors were issued multiple school repair contracts to the exclusion of some other contractors who had previously completed summer repair contracts.
Lamm told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that he hired 13 people to carry out the repairs. He said he paid skilled workers $100 a day and other laborers $70 a day.
He also said he is from Marathon and Fitzgerald is doing a lot of good in that constituency.
When asked yesterday whether there is any rule or law that prevents someone charged with a criminal offense from receiving a government contract, a former minister of the last Ingraham administration said, "There's nothing that would cause a minister to know a contractor has a matter before the courts."
The former minister also explained that contracts valued at $50,000 or more that have to go to tender require a "pretty rigid means test" and it is at that time that such discoveries would likely be made.
"If there was a public notice of a charge then prudence would require the minister to take a step back," said the former minister, who did not want to be named.
The issue of the awarding of school contracts was also raised recently in the House of Assembly by Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
But Fitzgerald shot back last week in the House, confirming that he has no shares in JFK Construction.
He informed that the Ministry of Education will spend $3.3 million on repairs in New Providence.
Fitzgerald advised that those contracts were given to 74 contractors, 50 of whom had not received any work from the ministry in the past five years, and 20 had never received work from the ministry before.
"We at the ministry are proud that we were able to spread the work around and empower small contractors," he said.
"We estimate that the $4.5 million spent on repairs throughout The Bahamas created some 800 jobs over the summer."
Fitzgerald informed that of the 12 contracts awarded for repairs to the four schools in his constituency (Marathon) -- Claridge Primary, C. I. Gibson, L. W. Young and R. M. Bailey schools -- JFK Construction received three contracts.
"They were not the only contractor to receive three contracts as the scope of works in some schools were divided into three and four contracts," he said, adding that no company received more than three contracts.
"...I will not apologize to anyone for awarding contracts for school repairs in my constituency to contractors in my constituency. It would not be wise for me to do otherwise. Who else should I award them to?"
Fitzgerald also said last week, "It is unfortunate that after all the hard work my team at the ministry put in to ensure that school repairs got started earlier than any other time in recent memory, [Minnis] did not find it fitting to commend me and my team.
"Instead, he took a page out of his party's nasty, dirty handbook where they just dirty up anyone's name talking foolishness, even when they know better. It's just politics to them."
Fitzgerald could not be reached yesterday for further comment. He was reportedly out of the country.
In the United States, home-schooling has grown from nearly extinct in the 1970s to approximately 2 million school-age students, according to reports -- as parents dissatisfied with the public school system turned to the appeal of schooling their children themselves at home. In The Bahamas the lure of home-schooling children has also taken hold...
It was as if the good Lord himself wept on a sad day in the Catholic education system as the gates to two primary schools were officially closed after 153 collective years of educating the nation's youth. Because of the falling rain, the symbolic closing of the gates to the campuses of Our Ladys of the Holy Souls School and St. Bede's Catholic Primary School were canceled.
"It almost compares to the death of a loved one," said Renee Mortimer, the final principal at Our Ladys, located at Young and Deveaux Streets, of the school's closure after 86 years on Friday, June 14.
Mortimer said she was saddest for her students in Pre-K and fifth grade who were looking forward to graduating from the school but now won't get that opportunity.
When she took over in 2010, the enrollment at Our Lady's was 250 students. At the gate's final closure it was 205. At its maximum, Our Lady's School could accommodate 400 students. The fees were $850 per term.
"It's bittersweet because I can compare it to a funeral. "It's difficult ... you see the trophies and have to pack them away. I'm very sad that the school closed under my watch," said the principal of three years. She hopes that a place will be found to showcase the trophies that the school has won over its 86-year history.
Mortimer will be placed in one of the four Catholic Schools for the new school year in September. She does not know which one as yet, but she has been at all of them so far except for Xavier's Lower School. She started out teaching fifth grade at St. Francis/St. Joseph, then served as vice principal at St. Cecilia's School, then principal at Our Lady's.
St. Bede's Principal, Sister Marva Coakley, said she was saddened and had deep regrets about the closure of the school at Sutton Street that had a 67-year history. The principal of six years said she had to face reality and knew how to do it.
"I'm just trying to focus my mind on all the positive contributions and accomplishments that we have made over the 67-years," said Sister Marva of the school that also closed on Friday, June 14. "When you look at it, [St. Bede's] was always the smallest school, and in an area where those people of means did not want their children to go ... not because they thought it was a bad school, but because of fear of the location, and I must tell you that I can boast of our accomplishments and every year, our school, even before my time and during my time, has always participated in national events, and we have always stood with the best, and won on the national level."
Since she took over the school Sister Marva said enrollment had been declining due to the downturn in the economy. She went in with the enrollment at 185. At the gate's final closure it was 114. At its maximum, St. Bede's School could accommodate 250 students. Its fees were $785 per term, one of the lowest in the Catholic School system. Despite this, Sister Marva said many people still found it hard to make the payments, and that the hardest challenge she had while at the school was collecting fees in a timely fashion.
"There are some things that you can't worry about if you can't change it and to be fair to Archbishop [Patrick] Pinder and the Catholic Board of Education, they have been carrying us for a long time -- even before my time," she said.
With teachers becoming more qualified, and having to be paid for being educated up to the master's degree level rather than just having their teaching certificates, Sister Marva said having a teacher with a master's
degree teach a class of 11 children did not economically add up.
"The Catholic Education board has carried us for a long time, and even with the subsidies from the Ministry of Education, there was always a constant struggle. It was like taking from Peter to pay Paul."
But she says she takes beautiful memories away with her.
"The biggest thing about St. Bede's School was that it was a family school. We had people who graduated and then had their children come and their children's children. We had a whole yard full of children from one family," she said.
This week, both Sister Marva and Mortimer are packing up their schools. Sister Marva said she has found herself getting teary-eyed as she does it. But she's also thankful for the eleventh and twelfth grade students from Aquinas College who are helping them to pack and clean up during their community service hours.
Some of St. Bede's School's many trophies will be placed in a showcase in the St. Bede's Church hall, which will not be closing. The school's banner will also remain in the church hall to allow for some sort of presence as many of the children that attended the school, also attend the church.
Come September, Sister Marva will be at St. Francis Joseph on the administrative team under principal Jacintha Goffe.
The Honourable T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education Mrs. Elma Garraway, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education; Mr. Lionel Sands, Director of Education Mr. Julian Anderson, District Superintendent, Mrs. Myrtle McPhee, Principal, Anatol Rodgers High School Other Ministry of Education Officials and Officers: The family of the late Mrs. Anatol Rodgers School Board Members and P.T.A. Officers Staff and Students; Ladies and gentlemen, Good Morning. I am pleased to be here this morning for the official opening of the Anatol Rodgers High School. It was shortly after the school opened its doors in September, 2008 that the Government agreed to rename it in honour of Anatol Rodgers. We believed that this outstanding educator was due to have this modern state-of-the art edifice named in her honour.
The community-minded and public-spirited Oprah Winfrey often speaks of keeping a Gratitude Journal; an old idea which she made popular on her primetime daily show. The idea speaks to the importance of acknowledging those for whom we owe our gratitude.
Once again, the winning under-20 relay teams from the Scotiabank National High School Track and Field Championships are about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. Each year, the teams are afforded the opportunity to travel to the prestigious Penn Relays, courtesy of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA). This year's teams are the St. Augustine's College (SAC) 4x100 meters (m) and 4x400m girls relay teams, the C.V. Bethel Stingrays senior boys 4x100m relay team, and for the third consecutive year, the Moore's Island All-Age senior boys 4x400m relay team. Those four teams will leave for the 118th running of the Penn Relays today.
"The exposure to the great athletic competition, the scholarships that are available and the incentives that are provided gives the BAAA the incentive to contribute sponsoring the winning teams," said BAAA Public Relations Officer Alpheus 'Hawk' Finlayson yesterday. "I just want you athletes to know that you will get an opportunity to see the best athletes in the United States, the Caribbean and the rest of the world," he added.
The event, also known as the Penn Relays Carnival, is the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States. It has been hosted annually since April 21, 1895 by the University of Pennsylvania at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This year's event, which is expected to attract over 100,000 spectators, will run from Thursday to Saturday. On a regular basis, more than 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges, and track clubs throughout North America and the region compete in more than 300 events.
The manager of the team is Lyndon Johnson, and the coaches are Dianne Woodside from SAC, Rupert Gardiner from C.V. Bethel, and Rev. Anthony Williams from Moore's Island All-Age. For the past three years, the incentive has been provided by the BAAA to the winning under-20 relay teams from the Scotiabank high school nationals, but recently, there has been some controversy as reports surfaced about C.V. Bethel not being represented at the Penn Relays by the winning team from the Scotiabank nationals. According to reports, the coach had plans to take other athletes from the school as opposed to the ones which ran and won the relay at the Scotiabank nationals.
"Well it's an incentive provided to the winning schools," said Finlayson. "The schools are allowed to use whichever athletes from their school that they feel give them the best chance of winning," he added.
Be that as it may, order seems to be restored. As for the athletes, Shaunae Miller, fro SAC, said they're looking forward to doing their best, and hopefully coming out on top. Elroy McBride from Moore's Island All-Age said that they want to go out there and represent their school and country well.
"We feel that we have a very good team so we feel confident of our chances," he said. "The weather will be a bit of a challenge but we've been there before so we know what to expect. We're just going to go there and do our best," added McBride.
The uniforms for that Moore's Island team has been donated through the efforts of the National Workers Health Plan. The following is a statement released by that organization:
"We're pleased to assist the 4x4 relay team from Moore's Island and their dedicated coach, Rev. Anthony Williams. It's a tribute to Rev. Williams's Christian ministry that he has found a way to involve young men and young women in a form of discipline that has tremendously impacted the lives of the young people of Moore's Island and indeed the nation. What is unusual about Mr. Williams and Moore's Island is that as a pastor in a traditional fishing community he has found a spark that will change the destiny of many young men and women. The emergence on the scene in Moore's Island Track Club winning at the nationals, at CARIFTA, and being invited to compete in the Penn relays is a testimony to Rev. William's dedication. It is also a testimony of the national gift that lies in many of our out island children. Without the benefit of modern facilities, Rev. Williams has proven what is possible. His work and his faith is a hallmark for all of us to admire. We want Rev. Williams to know that we are in support of his team and the work he seeks to do to give each of them an opportunity to dramatically improve their lives. A light has been put in Moore's Island that will make a difference in its future; it is our moral responsibility to stand with Rev. Williams and the young men and women from Moore's Island. The National Workers Health Plan salutes Rev. Williams and the team from Moore's Island. We wish them well at the relays."
Also attending the Penn Relays this year, through their own arrangements, are the boys 4x100m and 4x400m teams from Queen's College, the boys 4x100m and 4x400m teams from SAC, the boys 4x100m team from Moore's Island, Queen's College's Jermaine Smith who will be competing in the 110m hurdles, and SAC's Danielle Gibson and Antonique Butler who will be competing in the long and triple jumps respectively.
By FRED STURRUP
NG Associate Editor
The national swim program is obviously headed in the right direction.
An upgrade to a Pan American Games(from 2007)bronze medal for the relay women and the eight medals from the recent Central American and Caribbean(CAC)Games provide ample evidence of the vibrancy of the program.
There is the caveat though. To avoid misleading readers about the true picture of swimming in the country, I must add that none of the successful strides being made in the sport include the participation of public schools.
While basketball, softball, volleyball, cricket, sailing, and athletics are items on the public schools'agenda for the respective students, ...
Greg Gomez, FNM North Abaco bye-election candidate, was an educator at least once in the Miami-Dade County Public School system, school officials confirmed yesterday.
Haitian children are out-performing Bahamians in the public school system, senior government officials have revealed.
No statistics were available to show the number of children of Haitian parentage in the public school system. However, one senior official said in some inner city schools the number is "large".
At a workshop for public school administrators and board members last Friday, concern was raised over Haitian children receiving all of the "benefits" of the Bahamian education system.
"We must never lose sight of the fact that the student, as the learner, is not only the center of the school system, but the only reason for its existence." This quote by R.B. Jackson gets to the heart of why schools exist.
Despite the new initiatives, the fancy educational terms, and the ever-expanding responsibilities of schools, we miss the point if we forget that students give schools its purpose. With this in mind, the foundational consideration of all educational institutions must be how best we can serve students. An equally foundational response must include adequate preparation for success in the wider world upon completion of school. Doing this in the 21st. century, however, continues to shift from creating workers with basic proficiencies for inevitable placement in monotonous, factory-type roles, to preparing students for innovative, creative, imaginative, ideas driven work, with the skills, competencies and attitudes which engender incredible flexibility and resilience. The former characteristics are decidedly fundamental for survival in our new and ever changing landscape.
However, creating the programs and the curricula necessary to achieve the above is secondary to success in education. Understanding and respecting the individual needs of each student is primary. Underpinned by the aforementioned, education, by its very definition is about eliminating barriers to student success. In short, education requires education practitioners to do all possible to ensure the success of students -- a complex and grand responsibility indeed.
One mandate of any education system must be to get students into and out of the system as expediently as possible. In order to do this, educational institutions must be focused not only on high impact teaching and learning, but also on understanding and eliminating the many barriers to student success. For example, that positive parental involvement increases a student's performance and success in school has been proven time and again in many different education systems and countries. Concomitantly, that the lack of positive parental involvement can be a barrier to student success is also true. More importantly, however, that multiple strategies have been innovatively employed, by many different education systems and countries, with great success, to overcome the barrier of an uninterested and or unable parent have also been proven.
Therefore, the tendency to blame parents for poor student performance rings hollow in an age where access to information and the huge potential for local and international collaboration exist. Moreover, it can be argued that today's pervading parental indifference is in itself due to the underperformance of our education system. Indeed, the education "crisis" has been long in the making.
Let's briefly examine another measure -- school dropouts. How many students drop out of Bahamian schools each year, and what are the main reasons? While accurate statistics appear in short supply in the Bahamian education system, according to a 2006 report by the ABC News Corporation, American students were dropping out of high school at a rate of 2,500 per day. A later report by the New York Times, estimated that 1.2 million American students had dropped out of high school in 2010. While we may not know the exact number in The Bahamas, we do know that both government and private organizations engaging in work with marginalized youth are being overwhelmed by the numbers of citizens requiring services as a result of dropping out of school. We can deduce, if only anecdotally, that we have a similar school drop-out issue in The Bahamas.
The reasons students drop-out of school can be multifaceted and complex. Sometimes though, the reasons are rather simple. According to the National Drop Out Prevention Centre at Clemson University, the top four reasons students drop out of school were -- they did not like school, they were failing and didn't feel able to catch up, they did not like their teachers, and they felt that they did not belong at school.
Other published research points to identical factors in jurisdictions outside of the United States and highlights that dropping out of school is more of a process than an event. That is, students experience feelings of inadequacy over time. When looked at together, what becomes clear is that schools have a lot of control over maximizing and or minimizing opportunities for student success and graduation rates. To state it in a more challenging way, schools have to decide whether their modus operandi create or eliminate barriers.
Unlike poverty, unstable home environments, drugs, violence, abuse and other insidious factors that can also play a role in students' decisions to leave school, the leading factors as mentioned above are within the realm of schools to address. This in no way underestimates the importance of positive parental involvement and community support. It is understood that in the best circumstances, students and schools would have a broad support base of parents and social partners. However, the absence of these supports does not have to be a fatal barrier for student and school success. In the absence of home and community support, schools must put their shoulders to the plough and bear the responsibility of securing the future of the society. Schools are best positioned to do so. Few other institutions have access to students in the same numbers or for the same length of time. Few other institutions can have the kind of impact schools can have on deciding the direction and influencing the degree of success enjoyed by a country. Key to success in this area is being bold enough to accept the full depth of the responsibility.
Of course, when dynamics such as presented above are at play, policy makers have to dig deep to ensure that schools are fully supported, both in terms of legislation, and human and financial resources. It is fully recognized that financial resources are in short supply all over the world, and so emphasis must always be placed on developing and supporting robust human resources, ensuring that the best people are in positions of power, and that professional development holds a privileged position in the organization. Indeed, in the end, it will be the people who get the job done.
So, what are the most important lessons here?
1. The old saying still rings true, even with the best educational programs, the most futuristic curricula, and facilities with all the bells and whistles, students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Education is doomed to failure if anything/anyone other than students gives it purpose and motivation.
2. The most successful school systems around the world create trends rather than follow them. Industries adapt to the innovations of schools rather than schools adapting to industry, and successful school systems have a no-excuses approach to student success, embracing the mantra as was done in Ontario, that schools control the conditions for success. If schools are to be more successful, they will need to embrace the full responsibility of motivating the country and giving themselves permission to take the leadership role and set the trends of tomorrow.
3. Barriers to student success can be obvious external impediments such as drugs and poverty, but even more often, they are the intangible attitudes and feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness held by students, that cost nothing more than a positive, attentive, and caring teacher to address.
This is our full responsibility.
Makia Gibson is a passionate educator, working to improve education for all Bahamians! More at www.yestoeducation.com