LETTER FROM SCHOOL PARENT DARREN CLARKE
LETTER WRITTEN BY DARREN CLARKE – A PARENT OF JORDANSTOWN SPECIAL SCHOOL
I am writing to express my concerns about what is happening with Jordanstown school for the deaf and visually impaired. My concerns centre around the current board of governors and their behaviour towards staff, unprofessionalism, bullying behaviour, and information I received about material published online in the past.
I will start by addressing my concerns with Father Patrick Devlin, who sits on the board of governors as a trustee of the Ulster Society for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and the Blind. Information came to light while looking online that Father Devlin has posted “severe right wing Catholic homophobic and potentially homophobic material on his parish website. Only removed when a member of the public complained to the bishop, and filed a complaint with the diocese child protection officer, knowing he sat on the board of other schools. It seems Father Devlin also asked that “Any young males with masturbation problems should come and speak to him”. I find this alone totally inappropriate that anyone with these views, let alone publically posting them online has no place in an integrated school, which currently is trying to figure out how to include unisex toilets for any child that is having gender issues.
It was also brought to my attention that during last week’s (9th November) remembrance service for the war dead, jokes were made about Father Devlins driving record, namely his repeated prosecutions for speeding, including twice losing his license and the latest causing the judge to say “you have a blatant disregard for the laws of the road and this seems to be a weekly occurrence with you”. Father Devlins statement, in front of everyone was “It doesn’t matter what speed your doing, as long as you plead guilty”. What a fantastic example this is to set to children, during a service to remember the dead. As someone who was almost killed a few years back by a reckless driver, I find comments like these completely irresponsible and inappropriate.
Speaking with members of staff, and from online posted comments relating specifically to schools hes involved in, I know he has an ignorant, arrogant and bullying demeanor about him. He seems to have a misplaced idea that he can speak to, and treat people with no respect whatsoever. I have been told that just last week he reduced a retired staff member to tears, after she was using a room that she had booked well in advance to hold a conference she had put months of work into, and which was being attended by people from all over the world, which would have promoted the school and the good work its staff do, simply because he felt he had a given right to the room, regardless of anyone else.
His attitude and manner, and his previous published material online make me seriously question why he is sitting on the board of governors of this school. I will be taking this matter up with the Charity commission and also the Ulster Society board themselves, as well as you guys.
On the Department of Education website, it states no form of bullying shall be tolerated in schools. I’m guessing this was more for the children that attended, however the bullying in Jordanstown is coming solely from grown adults who have a position of “power” that they abuse each and every time they set foot into that school. The governors have obviously become nothing more than a clique now; it’s plain to see that to anyone who looks. And it’s not for the good of the school, its dedicated staff, or the pupils. It’s a power grab and nothing more.
I had reason to make a formal complaint to the board of governors a few years ago, before they had even set up a sub committee to look at the complaint I was told by a board of governors and trustee member that I would not get any outcome to the complaint that I would be happy with, this was before they had even looked into it.
It states on the school website that the board of governors should hold an annual meeting with parents, as yet, and as far as anyone can remember, not once have they held one.
The majority of parents don’t know what is going on in that school, and if they did, I can honestly say they would be up in arms, as are we as parents of a child that attends. The school has the potential to be so much more if it were not for the condescending and bullying treatment at the hands of the governors.
I personally put my name forward for the board this year as I feel it needs a massive clear out to turn this trend around.
I hope this highlights the bulling and belittling attitude shown to staff by the Board of Governors. Staff who are fantastic at their jobs and who have drive and passion for making the school be the very best it can be but are being held back by the very people who are put in place to make the school itself better. Jordanstown School has the great opportunity of being able to have Miss Sturgeon as principal which is something most if not all parents want to see happen because it is very clear for everyone to see that the school and the pupils are her life and she gives her all to make it better but because of the ongoing problems and the level of bullying she is receiving from the Board of Governors we fear it will not happen and that would be a great loss for the school, pupils and parents.
I’m afraid that Father Paddy Devlin the PP of Ligoniel Parish in Belfast has a long history of having bad relationships in the schools that he has been associated with.
His brother – Tony – the PP of St. Paul’s Parish in Belfast has a similar reputation when it comes to teachers and schools.
I cannot understand why Paddy Devlin is on the board of governors of a school that is not Catholic?
And I would have thought that the board of governors in any school should not interfere on a daily basis in the school but should work through the principal?
In this case Mr. Clarke is saying the board of governors are making Miss Sturgeon’s job difficult?
When Paddy Devlin was in West Belfast, and causing havoc in schools the then bishop, Paddy Walsh had to order him to stay out of the schools.
There was also a problem with a school when he became PP of Ligoniel.
Talking about his speeding convictions in a jocular way is not very edifying.
I hope the parents and staff at this very special and good school can sort these things out and get the peace they need to look after their very special children.