Archive for August 7th, 2014

Authorship of doctored report partially clarified

| 07/08/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS): In the fallout of revelations that a report on the behaviour of students at public schools was doctored tocut out many of the critical findings of the author, a former member of staff at the Education Ministry, Favourita Blanchard, issued a statement Wednesday in which she categorically denies being the person who amended the document. Shortly afterwards, the chief officer in the ministry issued her own statement in which she states that Blanchard did nothing wrong but fell short of saying she did not make the changes, only that she did not do so on her own. Without saying who had, in fact, cut out large parts of the critical report, Mary Rodrigues said that the consultant “actively sought the input” of both Blanchard and the ministry’s former chief policy adviser, Dr Jo Wood, who had oversight of the report.

In 2012 consultant Dr David Moore was hired by the ministry to do a study of the behaviour of students and how bad behaviour is managed. The resulting 2012 report was heavily redacted by someone, which resulted in a second sanitised version of the report in 2013. Among the many issues raised by Moore and his team was the sexualised behaviour of some primary school children and highly disruptive behaviour by a small group of students, particularly at the John Gray High School.

A long and comprehensive list of recommendations for the schools, the Department of Education Services and the ministry to adopt was also slashed to a few points.

The existance of both reports and fact that the initial document had been drastically altered was revealed during the recent sitting of Finance Committee. During the responses to questions in Finance Committee, and subsequent press coverage, the involvement of Blanchard, a former senior evaluator at the ministry was mentioned by Rodrigues.

“Following the recent press reportings on the Ministry of Education’s Behaviour Report, I was
named by the press in some instances, and in others it was implied that, I am the person who amended, edited, doctored (and other descriptive terms), the said report," Blanchard said in her statement.

"I wish to categorically state that, as a person of high ethical and moral standards, I would never change the content or indeed the findings of a report written by someone else and I deny any accusation of my having done so. These suggestions are false and indeed, libellous.

"I wrote to the Ministry of Education when this story was first reported in the press, seeking their assistance to publicly clear my good name. This entire situation has caused me undue stress and a stain on my professional integrity. I am requesting the press retract these statements immediately as they are without foundation.

"The Ministry of Education has assured me that they will be issuing a statement to clarify this situation and to clear my good name and I trust that this is done expeditiously and that the matter of any involvement by me in 'altering or doctoring' this report can be laid to rest," Blanchard stated.

In response, Rodrigues issued a statement on behalf of the ministry "to set the record straight that Mrs Favourita Blanchard did not unilaterally change the draft inspection report."

She said, "Mrs Blanchard, the only employee in the inspections unit at the time, was instructed by the Chief Officer to liaise with the consultant on any editing to be made to the draft report, to ensure the report met the quality standards required of all inspection reports."

Confirming that Blanchard did nothing wrong, but without exonerating anyone else from the ministry or clarifying who had written the amended document, Rodrigues said she "was only undertaking her duties as instructed by the Chief Officer. In all her time working with the Ministry, Ms Blanchard’s work was of the highest moral and ethical standards."

She continued, "It is important to clarify that from the very outset it was the expectation that the consultant would engagewith the local team throughout the drafting process, and that he actively sought the input of both Mrs Blanchard and the Chief Policy Adviser from the Ministry, who was assigned in an oversight capacity in the absence of a Chief Inspector."

Commenting on the work of Dr Moore, whose report had been heavily slashed, the CO said she "would also like to make clear that in no way is the credibility of the consultant being challenged, as he has many years of distinguished service and expertise, and his services were very much valued by the Ministry of Education." 

Relevant stories on CNS:

Report quality challenged (25 June 2014)

Secret report slams teachers (23 June 2014)

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Minister tours new facilities at WB Sports Centre

| 07/08/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): New changing rooms at the Ed Bush Sports Centre in West Bay have brought the stadium facilities in line with requirements for international football tournaments, governemnt officials say. Turnaround of the project took three months, from April to July of this year, and cost $1.493 million. Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden said the construction team. had "done a fantastic job in pulling this off. Any doubts I had about the time constraints were quickly laid to rest.” He said the project showed an “incredible value for the money put in” and hoped it would help to “solidify the government’s support for the future development of sport on-island, including sports tourism”.

The Public Works Department recently handed over the keys to the newly completed facilities in West Bay to the Ministry of Sports. 

The 5,884-square-foot building includes two changing rooms that each accommodate a 20 person team. Both have their own lockers, whiteboards, a coaches’ room, showers, and a restroom.

Players also now have direct secure access to the changing rooms, so that they do not have to mix with the press or other officials.

Other facilities include a medical suite, anti-doping control room, and a referees’ dressing room, all with their own restrooms and showers.  In addition a VIP reception area, secretariat suite, and media/press conference room all overlook the playing field.

Parking services now accommodate large buses and persons with disabilities. Meanwhile brand new public bathrooms have also been added to the building, as well as a concessions room with two roll-down grilles to serve the multitude of fans that attend football games in the district.

In addition the project management team designed and constructed the new structure with the future of the stadium in mind.. As such the roof of the new structure was engineered to provide the base for a possible new grandstand in the future.

Anson M. Stuart, Project Manager for Public Works, and Delano Bush, Site Manager at Arch and Godfrey, led the tour. Garth Arch, Managing Director at Arch and Godfrey, Pedro Theye, Senior Architect at DDL Studio, Alexi Ebanks, Architectural Designer at DDL Studio, and Joel Francis, Senior Policy Advisor in the Ministry with responsibility for Sports, Youth, and Culture, were also present.

Arch commended the efforts of everyone involved with the project, especially Project Manager Dean Gaffigan, and Site Manager Mr Delano Bush, both at Arch and Godfrey.

Government undertook the project to ensure that the stadium would be CONCACAF approved for all future tournaments, including the U-15 girls’ championship beginning on 6 August.

Officials expect the site to be furnished within the next couple of days, in preparation for the start of the tournament.

Representatives from CONCACAF and CIFA also did walkthroughs of the new structure to ensure that the building met all CONCACAF requirements for the upcoming U15 girls’ competition which gets underway this evening Wednesday 6 August 2014.

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Dog slaughtered on West Bay beach

| 07/08/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A man was arrested Monday evening but bailed following what appears to be a senseless and inexplicable slaughter of a young German shepherd mix dog. King belonged to 14-year-old Jimmall Facey, who was playing with the dog, which was not much more than a puppy, on West Bay public beach when he got into an altercation with a 58-year-old man in the area. In an effort to get away from the man, the teenager put his dog on a leach and got on his bike but as he began to ride off with some haste he dropped the leash and as a result the man grabbed the dog. Jimmall told the police that he watched as the suspect broke his dog’s neck and threw King's body in the sea. Horrified, the youngster retrieved his pet’s body and took it home.

According to reports on Cayman 27, it was Jimmall’s mother, Julet Facey, who then reported the shocking slaughter to the police.

“So if you would kill a dog, tell me what you would do to my child,” she asked on the TV news broadcast. “What message are you sending to me as a mother? Well, I kill the son’s dog; that could have been your son.”

Her son added, “If he grabbed me, that’s showing me what he did to the dog [is] what he [would] do to me. Throw me in the sea and nobody would never find me.”

Although the man was arrested he has so far been bailed without charge.

See Cayman27 video here

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Customs policy absurd

| 07/08/2014 | 178 Comments

(CNS): The decision by the customs department to start enforcing a 30-year-old policy to have people register their own electronic items before they travel so they do not get charged duty on them is absurd, the Chamber president has said. Johann Moxam is urging the duty enforcement agency to concentrate on the real crime, such as the recent Operation Spearfish, and stop undermining business with pointless and frustrating layer of bureaucracy. In a statement this week that has wide support, the president of the business body pointed out that in the modern age everyone is traveling with electronic devices and registering them before they leave is a step backwards. Customs bosses, however, claimthat it will "provide a smoother" transition.

The policy, which has been in place for three decades, requires those traveling with electronic devices to register them before leaving to verify on return that they are not new acquisitions by the traveller trying to dodge the tax.

However, the Chamber president said, "We live in the information age and carrying electronic devices is a way of life and a business necessity. Registering electronic devices is a waste of time and money and falls into the category of absurdity. We should be trying to simplify the travel experience rather than complicating it with policies that should have been abolished years ago. The Chamber supports lower duty rates for retailers, which would encourage more residents to purchase these items locally rather than abroad. Policy makers and customs officials are placing the emphasis in the wrong area,” Moxam added.

He said Operation Spearfish was the type of exercise where customs should continue to direct resources, as he commended recent efforts to seize containers that are suspected to be packed with stolen goods. The practice of stealing and shipping the booty off island is believed to be common and has gone on almost undetected for years.

“The enforcement section of customs should be commended for taking this action. Stolen goods and contraband distort the local marketplace and harm both businesses and the consumers who purchase the stolen and illegal items. The Chamber encourages customs to focus more energy in this area so that persons who are involved in this illegal activity are brought to justice, not on wedding dresses and registering electronic goods,” Moxam said.

Although the Chamber says that some advances have been made in creating a more business-friendly environment in Cayman as a result of its partnership with government on the Future of Cayman initiative, Moxam warned that there are still too many antiquated and anti-business policies that are regressive and detract from making the Cayman Islands an attractive place to do business.

The customs department has defended this latest clampdown and said that customs has always encouraged the completion of this form for passengers to help clear up customs queries when travelers return. “Otherwise, the customer could be subject to be paying duties on an item," Samantha Bennett the customs boss stated. “It is the passenger’s responsibility to satisfy the officer that duties are not applicable when bringing the item back into the country."

Import duty is charged at 22 percent for electronics, which could prove very costly for travelers, especially if they already paid duty on those items when they first purchased them.

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Cops focusing in on speed cameras

| 07/08/2014 | 70 Comments

(CNS): With speeding motorists remaining a major concern for the public and almost always one of the issues raised at police community meetings by residents, the RCIPS has confirmed that they are planning to install speed cameras in the future. However, police management says it will take time to tender and install the equipment and it will also require the introduction of necessary legislation. With almost 400 miles of roads in Cayman, the RCIPS believes the introduction of the cameras will help curb speeders and make the roads safer as cops can't be everywhere at once. In the meantime, the police are promising more speed traps to put the breaks on local road racers.

However, although the police are likely to put speed cameras on main roads, more often than not public concern over speeding applies to local neighborhoods, where kids are out playing or where people's home lives are disturbed by drivers with heavy feet on the gas pedal along community roads. But as the public is urging the RCIPS to use technology to clamp down on speeding, the police have said they are working on it.

Speaking on Cayman27 this week, Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said, “I think it will be effective. If you look at the amount of roads we have in the Cayman Islands, we actually have over 396 miles of roads … there’s over 1,300 named roads in the Cayman Islands. We cannot put police officers on every single road. So having the additional asset of speed cameras will certainly allow us to have that extra resource that would certainly aid us.”

He warned, however, that implementation could take years as the law will need to be changed and a tender process followed before anything can be installed.

See report on Cayman27

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Dialogue before minimum wage, Moxam urges

| 07/08/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The Chamber of Commerce supports the concept of a minimum wage, Johann Moxam, the Chamber president told CNS Business. But he said it was important that there was a detailed and comprehensive discussion with all relevant stakeholders on the way forward and on the impacts of the introduction of minimum wage legislation in the Cayman Islands. Watch video and comment on CNS Business

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