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The curious case of Mr Darien Henry and Cumberland High School

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

There's something awfully amiss in the developments at Cumberland High School, St Catherine, regarding the behaviour of the school board as it concerns Acting Principal Mr Darien Henry.

As we reported on Monday, Mr Henry was reassigned from his post as lecturer at Excelsior High School by the Education Ministry in 2017 to act as principal for one term. Since then, his contract has been extended twice because a decision has not been made on the official appointment of a principal.

Last year, Mr Henry applied for the job of principal and was shortlisted. But, despite scoring higher than his competitors, he was totally snubbed by the board which recommended only one person for the post — although, we are told, the requirement is to recommend the top three candidates.

Mr Samuel Chambers, the board chairman, when asked why Mr Henry was not recommended and if the board had a problem with his leadership, told this newspaper that he was “unable to comment on the issue”. However, he admitted that under Mr Henry's leadership “the school has been showing signs of improvement”.

As things now stand, Mr Henry's contract will expire at the end of August and in September the school will have a new principal, if the board's recommendation is upheld by the Ministry of Education.

From all accounts, the board chairman's admission that signs of improvement are evident at Cumberland High is shared by teachers, other members of staff, and the Parent-Teacher Association President Ms Rebecca Reid, who told the Jamaica Observer last Wednesday that some parents are prepared to pull their children from the school if Mr Henry is not appointed principal.

Mr Henry, she said, had improved the students' academic performance, general behaviour, and instilled in them the value of respect for themselves and for others. In other words, the kind of performance one expects from a good principal.

Ms Reid also said she has spoken to a number of students who have described Mr Henry as the best principal they have encountered, so far. In addition, the ancillary staff are said to be speaking about the marked changes that they have seen in the students' deportment and behaviour, and are impressed with how they are treated by the acting principal.

Based on all that we have heard, plus the plans Mr Henry has outlined to further improve the school, it seems that this apparent resistance to him being appointed principal is irrational.

We are left to wonder whether he has wronged someone on the board or at the Ministry of Education or a connected politician. Logic suggests that both the board and the ministry would be eager to have someone who has so far demonstrated an ability to perform well in charge of the school.

But maybe we are expecting too much.

The board, we believe, owes Mr Henry, the teachers, ancillary staff, students, parents and the community at large an immediate explanation.

Will Mr Karl Samuda, who now has oversight of the ministry until a new minister is appointed, please intervene and sort out this apparent mess in time for the start of the new school year?