Kudos to Ms Hayle

Monday, July 16, 2012    

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The heart-warming story about Padmore Primary School in yesterday's Sunday Observer underlines the importance of vision and good leadership in the running of schools.

In the case of Padmore, the unenviable and most unfortunate tag of 'failing school' had been imposed after years of underperformance. As so often happens, parents responded by switching their children to other schools.

So it came about that a facility which was built to accommodate 200 only had 43 students enrolled at the end of the last school year.

We are told that the Ministry of Education had identified poor leadership among the principal reasons for Padmore Primary's poor performance.

A master stroke in repairing the damage has apparently been made with the appointment of a new principal, Ms Keisha Hayle, who previously held a teaching post at another school.

Ms Hayle has not only set about revamping the programme at Padmore Primary, she is now marketing her school and its services to the wider community.

We are struck by the photograph of a poster highlighting the school's offerings. Among other boasts, the poster tells us of a 'low student/teacher' ratio of 10:1 at Padmore Primary and the potential of 'individual attention' to students precisely because of that low student/teacher ratio.

So, one of the glaring indicators of the school's downslide -- low attendance -- is now being cleverly and innovatively used by the school's leaders as a marketing tool. That's excellent, we say.

Obviously, Ms Hayle is not one of your old-fashioned, straight jacketed public sector functionaries. We speak from a distance, but it would seem that she is among those who recognise that education -- even public sector education -- is a product which must be marketed and 'sold' to the community. To that end, she has rebranded the school, complete with a paint job, a new school crest and newly designed uniforms.

Ms Hayle recognises that if the community continues to turn its back on Padmore Primary, the school and its staff will inevitably become irrelevant and redundant. Her eye on the prize, Ms Hayle has even dipped into her own pocket in furtherance of the rebranding drive.

But she is not merely a marketer. Rather, she appears to be a passionate educator. Ms Hayle, who claims to be a literacy specialist, is building a literacy programme at Padmore Primary. Among other initiatives, she has established a reading lab for "students who have challenges" and a quiz club for the more gifted. To emphasise her commitment by virtue of the power of example, Ms Hayle has moved her two children to the school.

The failures at Padmore Primary prior Ms Hayle's arrival are replicated at many schools nationwide. Unfortunately, the inability -- for one reason or another and, in some cases, the refusal of the Ministry of Education and school boards -- to act swiftly to replace lethargic and unprofessional staff means many such schools remain in the mire.

Far too many of our schools are run by people who see education merely as a job and who have little or no appreciation of 21st century realities. For Ms Hayle, education is clearly a passion and a calling.

Jamaica needs many, many more like her.





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