Saluting Central High School and Otis James

Tuesday, June 19, 2012    

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TWO stories appearing yesterday in our sister publication — the Observer Central — have warmed our hearts and given us much hope for the future of this country.

The first was the lead story reporting on the achievements at Central High School in Clarendon, while the second related the story of Mr Otis James, a plumber and philanthropist who has been transforming the lives of underprivileged youths in Clarendon.

In the case of Central High — a relatively young school, having been founded in 1964 — the principal and staff have worked hard to overcome the school’s image of being a breeding ground for violence and decadent behaviour.

According to the principal, Mr Vinroy Harrison, many parents refused to send their children to the school because of the high levels of indiscipline and the fact that it is located near to a violent community.

However, Mr Harrison can now boast that due to intervention from the staff and management, indiscipline has been significantly reduced and Central High is fast becoming one of the top-performing secondary schools in Clarendon.

It’s a natural development, for, as the Dean of Discipline Ms Marcia Freemantle pointed out, the improvement in behaviour has impacted positively on the academic performance of students.

“Because we have fewer problems with discipline, more learning will take place,” Ms Freemantle is quoted in our story.

Now, Principal Harrison has had reason to introduce a sixth form programme to the school, a decision that is benefiting many students in the parish as they receive additional preparation for tertiary-level education.

We note that some of the teachers who helped in this wonderful transformation are past students. We suggest, if they haven’t already done so, that they establish a vibrant past students’ association to assist the school to improve even more.

The gains already made at Central High should be protected.

In Mr James’ case, his is a most inspirational story which has its genesis in him being expelled from high school in 1997.

That humiliating experience, Mr James tells us, was the turning point in his life as he decided that he would not waste away. So, driven by a sheer determination to succeed, he enrolled in the Portmore HEART Academy to become a certified plumber.

Today, Mr James is at the helm of a programme that raises funds to help send children — mostly from violence-plagued communities in Clarendon — to school daily.

The James and Friends Education Programme, he reveals, facilitates more than 70 students going to school, all sponsored by people in various professions — lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and market vendors.

What must be most satisfying and humbling to Mr James is the fact that Ms Joan Wint, the principal who expelled him from high school, now acts as the general secretary of the James and Friends Education Programme.

Ms Wint has expressed pride in the fact that Mr James not only went back to school and acquired a skill, but that he is also giving back to his community.

He deserves commendation for his actions. We wish him all the best.





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