On Saturday March 21st 2009 in the evening, staff and students of the University of St. Martin (USM) bade farewell to former USM employees Aida Bryson, Richard Courtney, and Martha Thewet, said Rhoda Arrindell, USM Language Division head.
The farewell activity, which was held at the St. Maarten Academy, was one way the staff could show their former colleagues how much they had been appreciated by both the staff and students over the years.
During the informal (and at times emotional) ceremony, current and former staff members, representatives of the Student Government Association, and other students showered Aida, Courtney, and Martha with touching words of appreciation and presented them with gift baskets and other gift items.
Thewet, the former GED coordinator who holds a degree in public administration and criminal justice, left USM in February to take up a more challenging post with the island government.
Bryson, who had worked as a cleaner with USM since it opened in 1989, and Courtney the financial controller for 11 years, were given immediate dismissal letters on December 16, one day after the WIFOL union held a meeting with the staff—to which the press was invited—on the premises of the University of St. Martin.
Staff members have since expressed their dissatisfaction at the way their colleagues were dismissed by USM, whose board is headed by Dr. Lockie Johnson.
"We are even more upset at the fact that the grounds used for the dismissal were that Aida and Courtney had reached the retirement age. But on the other hand, the university had earlier hired Dean of Academic Affairs Ron Pribble and CFO Kenneth Nolan, who are both past the retirement age," said another staff member who wished to remain anonymous.
Kenneth Nolan was supposed to replace Richard Courtney as financial controller; however, he has been serving in the position of chief financial officer of USM.
"The staff and students wish Aida, Courtney, Martha and their families much success in their future," said Arrindell.