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Dennis Minott | ... some Principals Photoshop themselves into greatness


In a bygone era of my life, the symphony of collaboration had resonated harmoniously with the brilliant Dr Joan Spencer (Rowe) Ernandez, a luminary I met at the Mico CARE centre. Alongside us stood the astute data analyst, David Noel, forming a triumvirate sparked by our shared connections with St Hugh’s High School. Successive visionary principals of St Hugh’s, nurturing the potential of gifted students, became the nexus for our collaboration and to the formation of the Excellence Coalition among six high schools. That begot A-QuEST, an explosion beyond the first six schools.

This chapter unfolded when three Jamaican minds, catalysed by the indomitable spirit of Joan and our shared mission, embarked on a transformative project, titled ‘Growing Up Gifted In Jamaica’. Yet, the path to enlightenment was not without its twists and turns.

Politics and egos emerged as formidable adversaries, threatening to derail our noble endeavour. It was at this juncture that Burchell Whiteman, the then minister of education, emerged as a beacon of wisdom, steering us away from the treacherous currents. Whiteman, a genuine encourager at heart, played a pivotal role in preserving the integrity of our work.

The esteemed Simon Clarke and the visionary Hugh Cholmondeley, akin to architects refining a blueprint, transformed our study into one of UNESCO’s inaugural Caribbean Projects. Cholmondeley, another genuine encourager, left an indelible mark on Caribbean media and education. His influence, coupled with his commitment to transparency and accuracy became a guiding force as I ventured into educational research, though a research physicist.

On my journey into the world of critical thinking, English literature seeds sown by maestros Sybil Prescod and Eddie Baugh at Kingston College, unfolded in the realm of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. This observation prompts me to incautiously propose a modern six-word addition to the Act 2 Scene 5: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness ... some have greatness thrust upon them, and some principals Photoshop themselves into greatness.” In KC’s hallowed halls, I was a schoolboy, not yet a UN-level researcher. The echoes of those critical thinker teachings reverberate, reminding me that even in the grand tapestry of global academia, my roots lie in the classrooms of Kingston College, in the pews of Olivet Gospel Hall at Conversational Bible Study, and at the feet of my iconoclastic grandparents of Bound Brook, Port Antonio.

Observing the current educational landscape at Titchfield High School, Westwood High School, Jamaica College, and Ardenne High School, one witnesses a modern Shakespearean drama. As I contemplate the twists and turns of this narrative, the wisdom of mentors Whiteman, Cholmondeley, Clarke, Prescod, and Baugh becomes a guiding light.



DRAMATIC FALL

In this digital age of narratives, the educational stage witnesses protagonists rising from suspect backgrounds and computer-cropped images to prominent roles, only to face a dramatic fall. The script includes unexpected turns, such as an ordinary literature teacher metamorphosing into the principal of a still depressingly struggling Buff Bay Valley, Portland, high school and orchestrating a ‘first Caribbean space traveller’ spectacle, an astral illusion from Antigua and Barbuda delivering one of a “distinguished lecture” series at Ardenne High School. Keisha the cuteish cushite winner when Galactic cast lots was arrayed among trusting sixth formers.

But there’s more; Ardenne interests even narcissistically followed up that arrant phoniness by yet another day of tomfoolery among the hopeful but wretched people of Trench Town, frivolously called Jungle or Joy Town by some – pick your choice.

Amid this unfolding Ardenne drama, the cautionary tale of another individual’s journey serves as a stark reminder of the perils of unchecked ambition. Originating as a suspected master teacher in a St Elizabeth school, this figure’s trajectory traversed startling turns, culminating in a disgraceful exit, with family and friends, through the doors of a criminal court.

This odyssey began innocuously, as the individual assumed the role of a God-fearing head prefect then a suspect MA’d master teacher at a high school in St Elizabeth. However, ambition proved to be an unrelenting force, propelling him to the heights of trade union leadership. Elected as the JTA president, he navigated the corridors of influence with seemingly unbridled charisma.

In an unexpected twist, he found himself seated in the Senate, cementing his ascent to political prominence. The bright new education minister, recognising potential or perhaps succumbing to opportunistic charm, appointed him as an advisor. This marked the initial steps on a path that led to a coveted position as the brash chair of the National Education Council of Jamaica.

The zenith of his journey unfolded as he ascended to the role of Jamaica College headmaster, introducing novel and, at times, eccentric initiatives such as Christian religious crusades and aviation pursuits for teenage boys. His star continued to rise, and destiny knocked on the door of the minister of education, youth, and information when the incumbent became Jamaica’s youngest prime minister.

As the spotlight shone brighter, the narrative took an unexpected turn when he began to portray himself as a senior naval officer at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) functions. The audacity reached new heights when the CMU president and he resorted to donning naval uniforms, a dubious act that hinted at the duo’s departure from reality. They may have frolicked politically in St Ann.

However, this upward trajectory plummeted into a freefall on March 20, 2019, when the call came. The individual faced the potential of criminal charges, and soon after resigning high office crash-landed BOOF in the unyielding realm of the court. The resonance of his journey serves as a stark reminder of the pitfalls of unchecked ambition and the repercussions of veering off the path of integrity.

Here’s the thing: This cautionary tale underscores the importance of discernment in leadership and the critical need for authenticity in educational institutions. As the narrative unfolds, the shadows cast by such incidents serve as a call for vigilance, urging stakeholders and goodly school board members and administrators to uphold the values that underpin the noble pursuit of education.


Dennis Minott, PhD, is the CEO of A-QuEST-FAIR. He is a renewable energy specialist and worked in the oil and energy sector. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.


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