Principals grow under leadership project
BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor - Special Assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
TWO newly-appointed principals who have benefited from the National College for Educational Leadership's (NCEL)'s Effective Principal Programme have said that the initiative has enhanced their leadership skills and helped them to be better able to engage their staff.
Principal of Trench Town High School Susanne Nelson-Bloomfield and Principal of May Pen Primary School, Captain Paul Scott said that the experience has been more than useful
"I am a young principal who started at Trench Town High in May and so the training came at an opportune time because my training was in April and so it prepared me to step into this new environment," Nelson-Bloomfield told the Sunday Observer Press Club at the newspaper's head offices in St Andrew last Wednesday
According to Nelson-Bloomfield, the training allowed her to build on the foundation created during her tenure as vice-principal at Alpha Academy.
"I had my own apprehension as I was somewhat scared to go in to Trench Town High as an outsider, but that weekend of training that I received was quite useful as I was exposed to all the tenets of principalship and it prepared me to make my mark at Trench Town High," she said.
She further explained that there were several problems that existed at the school; however, she was able to identify them and implement strategies to address them.
"Trench Town is negatively viewed by the community and public in general and so my focus was on changing that image and rebranding Trench Town High and motivating the staff because when I went there I found that the staff was demotivated, we had low attendance from students and the PTA (Parent-Teachers Association) was inactive.
Nelson-Bloomfield said that as a leader of an education institution, she had to first provide a vision to the people she was leading and to allow other members of staff to embrace that vision.
"You have to recognise as a leader that you cannot do it alone, so you have to encourage persons to have a vested interest in the school ... let them know exactly where you want the school to be going and garner ideas from them as to where do you want the school to go and how can you help the school to move from non-performing to a school that can become a centre of excellence," she said.
"I have teachers who are working in after-school programmes free of cost and when I say to them 'I am not able to pay you but we want to see an improvement in our CSEC results', they are staying back one to two hours teaching these students and this is because they now recognise that they are important to the institution and it is through their efforts that students' achievement can be improved," she stated.
Captain Scott said that he has also reaped great success from having participated in the Effective Principal Programme.
"I have gained a lot because the first thing I had to do was to recognise that there are challenges and weaknesses that I have," said Scott, who was appointed in 2012.
Captain Scott said that the programme came just in time to assist him in capacity building.
"Operating in the primary school system is one that is very challenging and we hear all the situation about the students' achievement in the high schools, but it starts from the primary school. I had to identify that there were areas that I was weak in, so I embraced the programme, did the training and the action plan and really and truly I gained from it," he said.
The NCEL, he said, gave him the opportunity to ensure that all the necessary interventions needed for student achievement are implemented.
"We do not know it all so where we can engage in capacity building then that is going to be good for us," he insisted.
The training programme, he said, will help principals to better motivate their staff to buy into their visions of where the school should go.
"I try to bring the teachers together to overcome relationship barriers because the reality is that it prevents teaching and learning," he said.
Captain Scott stated that he also finds ways of motivating the teachers through letters of commendations, plaques and certificates as well as hosting development session outside the school environment.
"Just yesterday I had a meeting with my ancillary staff to let them know they are also a part of the teaching and learning process," he said.