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Jamie Usher and BHS lawyer-up!

GeneralJamie Usher and BHS lawyer-up!

Photo: Jamie Usher

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 21, 2024

It’s been a little over a week since the principal of Belize High School (BHS), Jamie Usher was terminated by the school board on Wednesday, February 14, after holding the position for 14 years.

Usher’s termination reportedly stems from an array of charges from staff members who had complained to the school board about her alleged abuse of authority and ill-treatment of them.

In the wake of Usher’s termination, she has received acclamations of sympathy and support from the United Women’s Group of the People’s United Party (PUP), of which her husband, Hon. Henry Charles Usher, is the current chairman and also a serving minister of government. A release from the UWG criticized BHS for the termination, which it described as a case of gender bias that sent “a chilling reminder of the challenges women face in leadership roles, especially within the educational sector.”

The most sensational aspect of the situation has turned out to be in the attorney that is now representing Jamie Usher in the case against her termination by BHS. Party colors have no bearing in this case, it appears, because Usher is being represented by former UDP leader/prime minister of Belize, attorney Dean Barrow, who has written to BHS stating that the termination is “in violation of the school’s grievance procedure and Usher’s natural justice rights.”

The case, with the gender bias issue being raised, is made more interesting because BHS is being represented by female attorney Audrey Matura, who reportedly has a child attending the school. Matura refutes both accusations against BHS.

Matura insists that, “It’s not a gender issue … the school does not discriminate based on gender,” and she added that it is regrettable that that angle was taken “because the children are hearing that, and they know otherwise.”

During Usher’s tenure as principal, she was credited with leading BHS to success at multiple international robotics competitions, including the FIRST Global Challenge International Robotics Competition in Geneva, Switzerland in 2022.

While defending the position of BHS, attorney Matura acknowledged Usher’s achievements, saying that, “Whatever Miss Usher did as a leader, whatever passion she had, whatever work she did, that is the work she did. Nobody can take that away.”

Whatever the merits of the case, it would appear that the legal battle may be a mismatch between senior counsel Dean Barrow and the less experienced attorney Audrey Matura.

In a letter to BHS, Barrow asserted that Usher is entitled to a substantial damages award and is willing to go to court for it. He has given BHS seven days to submit a settlement proposal to avoid a lawsuit.

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