Merl Grove débâcle deepens

Education ministry intervenes in financial running of school; 50 teachers resign in five years

The scandal at the church-run Merl Grove High School erupted again yesterday, with reports that the education ministry had to interfere in the school’s financial operations late last year, and that 50 teachers, the most of whom were unhappy, had departed during the previous five years.

The latest departures, which board Chairman David Hall described as “an alarming rate of attrition,” saw five teachers leave in the week leading up to the resumption of schools on September 6, exacerbating an already precarious vacancy situation.

Merl Grove High, which is run by the Associated Gospel Assemblies and is located on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew, has lost 50 instructors in the last five years due to resignations for a number of reasons, including unhappiness with the school’s operations, according to Hall.

“The number includes some senior teachers, and it is not a good look,” said Hall, who is now engaged in a bitter feud that has split the Merl Grove community and resulted in Principal Dr Marjorie Fullerton’s unusual suspension.

In April of this year, Hall took over as chairman of the board of management, and he appeared to inherit a long-running series of internal fights and governance concerns centered on Fullerton and a group of teachers led by Vice-Principal Loretta Ricketts.

Instead of calming the situation, Hall found himself in the middle, apparently siding with Ricketts and her supporters while alienating Fullerton, who has the support of former students and parents at the all-girls school.

Past students, most of whom are active supporters of their alma institution through abroad branches of the Merl Grove High School Past Students’ Association, are firmly behind Fullerton, citing Merl Grove’s rise from 30th to 17th place in the secondary school rankings during her tenure.

They portray the school’s aftermath as a battle between a contemporary, innovative, hardworking administrator who cares about her kids and a bunch of old-timers who prefer to speak rather than perform, but who have the support of church-aligned directors, including Hall.


On September 10, former students’ chapters in Toronto, New York, and Jamaica, as well as the Parent-Teachers Association, started an online petition appealing for Fullerton’s reinstatement, which had gathered over 900 signatures as of Observer publication time.


The board suspended Fullerton three days after she returned from a summer break, accusing her of reversing preparations for the school’s reopening that had been put in place by her critics.

Administrators and directors who were against Fullerton questioned how she could have taken a sabbatical so soon to the school’s reopening.

The Ministry of Education is anticipated to appear in a hearing scheduled on September 21, 2021. According to generally trustworthy PIA sources, Fullerton is expected to be represented by her lawyer.

The hearing will also take place against the backdrop of a confidential report from the Ministry of Education that portrayed an ugly image of suspected shady financial dealings that exposed school money to theft.

In November of last year, a ministry team led by Acting Regional Financial Controller Ellen Ritchie spent four days investigating the school’s accounts and produced a report raising concerns about the health of the books and suggesting “urgent assistance.”

There was no receipt or evidence of lodgement to the school’s account in respect of cash totaling $1.9 million in expenditures and $7,000 in profits gathered through fund-raisers, which was one of the disturbing discoveries (s).

“In November 2019, the 95th Anniversary and Gala had a total expenditure of $1,916.994.50 over three accounts and a total income of $7,000.00. “This is something that has to be looked into,” the study stated.

In November of last year, a ministry team led by Acting Regional Financial Controller Ellen Ritchie spent four days investigating the school’s accounts and produced a report raising concerns about the health of the books and suggesting “urgent assistance.”

There was no receipt or evidence of lodgement to the school’s account in respect of cash totaling $1.9 million in expenditures and $7,000 in profits gathered through fund-raisers, which was one of the disturbing discoveries (s).

“In November 2019, the 95th Anniversary and Gala had a total expenditure of $1,916.994.50 over three accounts and a total income of $7,000.00. “This is something that has to be looked into,” the study stated.

Money could have been “misappropriated for protracted periods without being detected, depriving the school of scarce financial resources; monies collected [could have been] unaccounted for; improper payments [could have been] made; [there was a risk of] duplication of payment; and fraud taking place,” according to the report.

Previous students said that the school’s bursar lacked qualifications for the position.

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