MANDEVILLE, Manchester — An off-shoot of an evening language institute started by late educator Audrey Salmon in 1978, preparatory school El Instituto de Mandevilla opened its doors in September 1983.
Its current administrators say they have not departed from the core principles with which Salmon started, 30 years ago.
"Education should be like a tree, with solid roots and towering branches. Children should be free to express themselves and aim to soar... as butterflies do atop the branches of a tree," are words attributed to Salmon.
Those words explain the school's logo which is a tree with a butterfly at its peak.
Current principal and a member of the board of directors Dr Faithlyn Wilson said that despite the school's achievements so far, it is important to make an effort to continuously improve.
"We believe that excellence is a moving target so we are always trying to improve ourselves," she told the Jamaica Observer Central.
From its deCarteret Road premises the school caters to children two years and eight months to 12 years old and has experienced a growth from 13 students at inception to a student population now of 500.
This year Wilson said that El Instituto accomplished its best Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) scores with an overall average of 87.4 per cent.
The institution has on its record a commendation letter from Governor General Sir Patrick Allen for its success which include student Kayon Patterson receiving a Government Scholarship to Manchester High and Leigh-Ann Dacres-Jones a Jamaica National Scholarship to Bishop Gibson.
The institution, Wilson said, is one of only two preparatory schools in Mandeville which does Spanish and French from the kindergarten level.
She said that as a private entity El Instituto takes a business approach to its development. An approach from which she says public schools can also benefit.
Wilson recalled that in an address to principals at a conference hosted by the Jamaica Independent Schools Association, former Chief Executive Officer of Jamaican Conglomerate Grace Kennedy, Douglas Orane, said schools should be operated like a business, beginning with a business plan.
"It is this kind of thinking that motivated El Instituto de Mandevilla to begin the business planning process in 2006; a few months after our founder and former principal... passed away. We realised that we needed a plan to continue to build on the legacy she left us," she said.
Wilson said that in effect September is a new five-year strategic plan.
With the principle, "Building on the Legacy: The Next Wave", she said that the goals include affirming the mission of the school to provide "values-based education that facilitates the holistic development of students as leaders with a firm purpose and a passion for excellence."
Excellence in academics including foreign languages, sports and extra-curricular activities is important to the school, said Wilson.
Though not aligned to any particular denomination, the school's vision is to become the "premier Christ-centred" educational institution in the Caribbean.
The official launch of the 30th year celebration was done with a service at the Mandeville Seventh-day Adventist Church on September 28 and another on Sunday September 29 at the Fellowship Tabernacle on Ward Avenue in Mandeville.
At the Sunday service, Reverend Michael Ennis said that when children are exposed to the right training and discipline "great things can happen". He said that he was glad that the children at El Instituto are being prepared from early with "quality" education.
In line with the values-based aspect of the curriculum, Wilson said that among the celebratory activities the children will be raising $500,000 for donation to the Bustamante Children's Hospital in Kingston.
"We are teaching the children to care," she said.