One of the island's greatest educators, Dennis Clarke, goes on retirement this summer. He is the well known and respected headmaster of Dinthill High School in Linstead, St Catherine. Clarke is a household name because not many Jamaican high school principals can boast of his accomplishments, especially as a competent administrator and disciplinarian.
The teaching fraternity and Jamaica at large salute this education icon, a headmaster whose sterling contribution has moulded our adolescents and nurtured them with the requisite discipline that is essential in the Jamaican schools. Clarke's tenure will certainly be missed by all parents, students, community people, staff and members of the teaching profession.
Clarke belongs to that group of effective, efficient, progressive, goal-oriented but disciplined educators. In today’s Jamaica, you do not get such combined qualities in educators, especially in the post-80s era. Not many male high school educators can boast of these traits, except for some of the past unsung heroes such as Stafford Isaac-Henry of STATHS , and Morris and Dwight Myrie of Wolmer's.
In an era when the academic space in Jamaica is fraught with indiscipline and lack of vision at some high schools, Clarke has been able to serve with vision, with competence, with good business acumen and fine leadership skills. Possession of such attributes is easily understood when one realises that he is no ordinary principal as he can be an expert on a wide range of subjects – whether classical music, foreign languages, technical discipline, culture, politics, culinary treats, fashion or current affairs.
We need principals with such insights and ability to keep abreast of all developments, because leadership depends on not just ability to lead, but on having the power of knowledge. Dinthill was blessed to have such a team leader and many high schools would have had their ratings ratcheted upwards if they had such a man in the driver’s seat at their school. During his tenure, Dinthill has been transformed from a mere mid-island technical institution to an icon in the educational space, a school currently esteemed within high school circles. This is reflected in the quest by students amassing average grades in the 90s at the GSAT examinations who seek Dinthill as first option. Dinthill is attractive to students as far away as Brandon Hill and Kellits in Clarendon, Old Harbour, Glengoffe and often villages near the south-west St Ann border. The school is now a catalyst to those seeking to attain their post-primary educational goals.
Clarke has left an indelible imprint on Jamaica's education system as he has been very successful in ensuring that the educational vision that our forefathers (including the political directorate) envisaged is realised by excellent academic achievement, technical competency, skill acquisitions, discipline and civility. In fact, the desire by those who created the exam system years ago for the black masses to earn a high school education as a first step of empowerment to social mobility has been consistently realised by the able stewardship of Mr Clarke.
If you travel to Dinthill on any day, you will be amazed at the pristine terrain of the rural high school, but most interesting is the absence of noise and unruly behaviour. Uncouth behaviour is a no-no. The school has no tolerance for time wasters, delinquents or the uncouth.
Dinthill graduates under Clarke have taken their rightful place in the Jamaican and the global society. Like others, they are contributing to the economy and enrichening the cultural landscape. Some, especially the skilled ones, are engaged in industry, in particular the bauxite industry with its presence at Windalco.
We can only say thank you, Mr Clarke, for the development of our youngsters, for your commitment to educational excellence, and for exhibiting the type of behaviour worthy of emulation. You have borne the true hallmark of a leader and Jamaica can only respond at least by bidding you , “Walk good” and as the Germans say, “Auf Wiedersehen”.