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York Castle High — greater than a quiz score

Students at top St Ann school jeered, threatened after Schools’ Challenge failure

BY RENAE DIXON dixonr@jamaicaobserveer.com

Sunday, February 03, 2013    

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THE message on York Castle High School's Facebook wall after its disastrous showing on Television Jamaica's Schools' Challenge Quiz (SCQ) conveyed the pain and regret of its faculty and students:

"Something went wrong tonight and we are sorry. Last year, York Castle's SCQ team was the pride and joy of St Ann. The team defeated Knox in the second round and went on to the third round, the first team to do so in 20 years.

"This year something went wrong. We urge the members of the Yorkist's family to be patient with the team members," the post read.

"Our students are hurting. Please help them to refocus and restore the pride of our great school. We continue to accomplish much, but today is a reminder to us all that we are prone to fall even when we are soaring like eagles.

"Help us to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future," the post continued.

But the entreaties for compassion seem almost to have been in vain as the quiz team and other students of the Brown's Town, St Ann institution have been the target of derision and threats of violence since, causing fear of reprisals among some students travelling to and from school. Staff have also had to fend off expletive-laced phone calls on the matter.

York Castle High scored zero to Glenmuir High School's 30 points in the first round of the annual TVJ's quiz competition.

However, the institution says it won't cower in shame and has declared that the unprecedented quiz score does not define the school.

"We are consistent in our academic performance; this does not define us," one of the school's vice-principals, Seaton Jackson, said.

In fact, the school has done well in the popular quiz show over the years, being the first rural school to win the competition in 1974, principal Raymon Treasure pointed out.

Significantly, York Castle (YC) is the only school in Region Three to have ever won the competition.

Last year, the school was the only fifth-form school to reach the third round of the competition, the principal added.

Additionally, York Castle High School boasts a track record of producing some of the most outstanding students in St Ann and Jamaica.

Jackson noted that the school is also a feeder school to other outstanding institutions' sixth-form programmes. Ironically, students from York Castle have also gone on to become members of winning School's Challenge Quiz teams for other institutions, he said.

Treasure told the Jamaica Observer the students currently sit exams in 31 subjects at the CSEC level, attaining passes averaging over 80 per cent in 22 of these.

"Ninety per cent of our students leave here with more than five subjects," Treasure said.

Treasure, who is also a past student of the school, said last year over 50 students left the school with over eight subjects.

With its proven record of success, Treasure said the quiz team attempted to represent the institution; however, "not being exposed to the training sessions, it backfired".

He said that the team of Mignion Davis, Rossimar Bartley, Triselle Brown and Ivan Black, although finishing at an all-time low, has the full support of the school, which knows their potential.

When asked the reason they were not able to do better in the quiz competition, the team captain cited a lack of training and inexperience. They simply did not get the opportunity to have practice matches, and did not have enough training sessions.

The school also sought to dismiss views that the students are "dunce", pointing to their being top academic performers.

Principal Treasure said all the students of the quiz team are on the honour roll, all having outstanding grade averages of over 90 per cent.

In fact, team captain Davis has maintained an over 90 per cent average since starting York Castle in the seventh grade.

Treasure knows his students so well that he said he is confident that they all will gain grade one passes in the eight or nine subjects they are expected to sit in the 2013 CSEC examinations.

While losing was embarrassing for many because of the backlash which came after, Captain Mignion Davis was never disappointed in her team.

"I was not embarrassed because I knew we had done our best," she said Friday.

In spite of finishing with a no-score in the Schools' Challenge Quiz competition, she believed her team did their best considering the level of training they had before the competition.

According to Triselle Brown, the team knew its training was insufficient; however, being good sportsmen they turned up for the game against Glenmuir anyway.

The inexperienced quiz team did not give up but fought to the end, still trying even when they had only four points going into the final round.

Treasure said his school has also participated in other competitions and has done well.

The school is now the reigning champion of the regional business quiz. York Castle has also done well in the Maths Olympiad put on by the University of the West Indies and the national Bible quiz, among several other academic competitions. It has also excelled in sports, the principal said.

While he did not blame the format of the TVJ quiz for his school's loss, Treasure said he is advocating for its format to be changed.

He said he believed the quiz should be better aligned to the CSEC curriculum so children will not have to lose time studying material outside of what they are doing in school.

Treasure said in years past he has had to push students on the quiz team who often neglect to finish their school-based assessment in favour of material pertaining to the competition.

Eager to avoid a repeat of the past disaster, the quiz club is now preparing for next year.

Firmly putting this experience behind them, the YC quiz team is determined to accomplish long-held dreams.

While unsure what career she wants to pursue, Davis said she wants her future to involve the sciences; something that will keep her active, but not confined.

Rossimar Bartley said he wants to become a medical doctor; Ivan Black, a forensic pathologist or geologist and Triselle Brown, an auditor and actuary.

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