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Tangle over school fees

Principal of The Ifill School Akil Ifill has apologized to parents who felt offended by a letter he sent them regarding outstanding fees.

In the letter, the school head told parents and guardians he would “not be entertaining conversations pertaining to fees” and expressed disappointment at their “demands” about payments and scheduling.

However, Ifill told Barbados TODAY he was forced to take a tough stance given that the parents were informed several times about the charges and the timeline by which to pay to avoid the 15 per cent late fee.

“I understand they will feel that the tone of the letter was harsh, and I apologize especially if they felt it was directed to them,” said Ifill.

“I would not deny the letter may appear harsh. Some said I could have sent it only to those who had outstanding payments. I would have called or tried to contact them and a lot of the parents did not say anything. They didn’t return the call,” he said.

The letter dated May 24, 2019 and addressed to all parents, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, reminded parents that they had reached the end of term three of the four-term academic year.

“When parents have asked, made requests and demands about payments and scheduling for the fourth term, I was utterly disappointed and exasperated,” Ifill said in the letter.

The school fee for the Hindsbury Road, St Michael institution, which started operations last September, works out to be $1,840 per term per student.

Some parents say they were upset about the tone of the letter especially because they were being asked to pay a 15 per cent late fee, which was hard for them given the current economic circumstances.

However, a number of parents who still have outstanding fees for the final school term told Barbados TODAY they felt the tone of the letter was necessary because parents agreed “from the get go” how the payments would be made.

One parent who would only give her name as Ms Gittens, said “yes, the letter came over harsh, but a letter can only come over harsh if a letter was written two times and they were ignored. If we get a letter from a furniture store and then you see a final letter it does not come sounding fancy.”

Another parent, who did not want to be identified, said she had monies outstanding but she agreed the principal had all right to speak bluntly with the parents because “people are ignoring the situation and not paying the school fees”.

“If it was a bill or other schools they would not be tolerated. I am really upset that some people are trying to drag down the school,” she said.

Ifill told Barbados TODAY only one parent has withdrawn a child from the school so far. He said he was yet to have a conversation with anyone who was planning to pull their child/children from the school.

The principal said he was willing to talk with parents who were struggling to pay the fees.

“When I said I wasn’t having any conversation related to fees it was because many people came and bombarded the office and demanded to speak to Mr Ifill when there is already somebody there to deal with that. I have so many other things to do. It wouldn’t be fair. However, I have no problem engaging with parents on the fees or any other matter,” he said.

Ifill said since the letter was sent over two weeks ago some parents have come forward and outlined their financial position and have since put a payment plan in place.

He believes the few parents who still have a concern were going about the situation in a “devious way”.

Currently 25 per cent of the over 60 parents still have fees outstanding.

According to Ifill, parents were informed of the fees before the start of the September school term last year, adding that they were even given discounts of 20 per cent and 50 per cent.

“We were also the only school giving weekly payment options,” added Ifill.

“During the first term, September to December, many of the parents, about 80 per cent of them, did not meet the commitments that they said they would make in terms of the weekly fees. We called many, we sent messages and we did not receive any correspondence of such. We have made every effort to meet the parents half-way,” he said.

According to the letter, two previous notes went out, one at the end of February and again on May 2, informing them that the deadline for payments was May 23.

“The letter stated that if the payment was late, there would be a 15 per cent increase on your tuition fees and those fees must be paid in full for your child to attend school. Please do not come to the office asking for discounts, a prorated rate or a reduction in fees,” the principal said in his May 24 correspondence.

However, he further advised parents that should they wish to discuss fees, they should do so with a “Mrs Carrington”.

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