Outgoing BNTU President Elena Smith Addresses Controversy Surrounding Successor
In less than a month, the firebrand President of the Belize National Teachers Union, Senator Elena Smith, will be demitting office after serving in the capacity for over five years. Smith’s successor, Ruth Guerra-Shoman, has faced much criticism after resigning in the face of controversy and then taking back her decision. Shoman had been scrutinized for alleged wrongdoings in the past and said that Smith’s lack of attention to the matter played a role in her initial decision. Today, Smith was asked whether she believes the President-Elect will have a hard time settling into her new post after claiming persons in the BNTU attempted to discredit her.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “I wouldn’t be able to speak to how she feels. I don’t know. I know that something of that nature would of course put some certain stress on anybody. I am not the one involved in that and it’s stressful to me because I am the current leader and so I have to be able to find a way how to deal with the matters from both sides. I have to be able to understand her side but also understand what my members are asking and what they want the union to do. So I am sure it’s stressful for her and I hope that you know come July she’ll be able to go forward and do the job of the president. And I won’t say peacefully because no president has it easy you will always have challengers, you will have people around you who will not support what you do, who will not support your ideas, who will not support any new things that you bring to the table for whatever reason whether they don’t like you personally, whether they don’t agree with that, whether they think it’s too costly, whether it’s not benefit their area so there are several reasons why people don’t support you and we have to understand that as humans and being in organizations as a leader you will never get 100% support but if your cause is genuine, if you genuinely are looking forward to the best interest of your members and your organization then people will see that and people will know that you really and seriously want to do what is best for the union and they will support you. So I’ve not had 100% support during my six years. I’ve had some difficult times but I knew that coming in. I knew that coming in that it would not be a bed of roses but as the president I have work to do, I must do my work and that’s what I did and so that’s what we expect will be happening going forward.”
Smith also weighed in on her time as the union’s president and stated that she believes the work she has been able to accomplish will continue with the support of union members.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “It’s been a busy last month. I thought it would have been less busy. A lot of meetings. I had a meeting this morning I have one now, I have meetings almost everyday next week so that is how it has been but the work continues. I still have to perform my duties as the current president until the end of the month and I will do that as I always do. Our council continues to meet, actually we have a meeting on Monday to prepare ourselves for what it is that we need to do at this point in time And then when the president comes in then she will just continue from where I’ve left off and what the council has. Of course I’m going to be presenting my exit report so that the council can know what are the things that we have done, what are the remaining matters to deal with and the president can then have at least something in writing that she can go out and say I need to work on this, this and this because these are outstanding or these are pending matters or these are unfinished matters. So I don’t expect to have any issues in terms of the transition going forward. Remember that the president does not make decisions and when I say that the president puts forth some suggestions and then the council says yes or no and the president can only do what the council approves for him or her to do so while you may have your vision of what you might want to do and this may be brought for example you want to do more training, more education, you know you may want to look at embarking on some new projects for example for your membership in terms of benefits those are your ideas your vision but when it comes to the council table now they have to hear you out and they determine you know what we agree with this, we like this one, we disagree depending on what they say you proceed with those matters. So the council will be the group to determine what things are done in terms of the union. The day-to-day operation of the union the president is in control of that.”
Smith has served as President of the BNTU since 2018.