The 2017 LASCO Principal of the Year, Howard Salmon, has welcomed the Education, Youth and Information Ministry’s decision to remove the shift system for students from more schools.
Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, announced at the start of the 2017/18 academic year last September that 42 schools will be taken off the system within the next three years.
Mr. Salmon tells JIS News that he supports the Ministry’s goal to create opportunities that encourage students to remain in school until they graduate at the tertiary level. This, he adds, by, among other things, removing the shift system.
“My dream for the education system has been shared in part of the Minister’s presentation (at the LASCO 2017 awards ceremony), where he (emphasised) that students at varying levels be given all the necessary resources and opportunities to achieve their fullest potential.
“So, for example, instead of allowing them to leave at grade 11, we offer more opportunities through the Career Advancement Programme until they can be gainfully occupied to use their skill sets to make their family life and communities better,” he says.
Mandeville Primary School in Manchester, for which Mr. Salmon is the Principal, and which operated on double shift up to the end of the 2016/17 academic year, has been repositioned as a whole-day institution, following the removal of the system and the Junior High component last September.
He notes that his school’s transition has not been easy, but points out that parents, students, educators and administrators are collaborating to make it as seamless a process as is possible.
“The transition into full primary will take a little while. The year before, we had over 2,000 students, and, this year, we have over 1,600, because we have started to transition into a primary school from a junior high. We still have a cohort of grade-seven students… but I am prepared to (accommodate) them as long as is possible (until they are able to move on),” the Principal adds.
Mr. Salmon was announced as the 2017 Ministry of Education, Youth and Information/LASCO Principal of the Year during an awards ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston in December.
He received $250,000 and an all-expense paid trip to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, among other prizes.
Mr. Salmon tells JIS News that he felt “extremely elated” to have topped the many candidates vying for the prestigious award.
“This award is for my students, my teachers and, most of all, my parents of the school community,” he adds.
Mr. Salmon believes that his piloting the implementation of a number of initiatives at Mandeville Primary was pivotal to his success.
“Some of those included a poultry programme; a call centre programme… and we have started to move towards a solar energy project; (and improving) the auto mechanics department and the discipline,” he informs.
The Principal further says that the school prepared nearly 400 parents for the Jamaica School Certificate, “an examination people believe is of no use”, adding that the candidates had “smiles on their faces when the results came in (late 2017, and now) they feel empowered”.
Mr. Salmon says during his reign as Principal of the Year, he hopes to promote a new management approach among his fellow school administrators islandwide.
“I plan to use this platform to improve the whole middle-manager classroom practices, students’ achievements and also continuous involvement with the community (through) the parent-teachers association, by empowering our parents,” he outlines.
He encourages other principals and educators to “continue to go beyond the call of duty (and) do everything to the glory of God”.
Mr. Salmon’s storied professional career saw him first being appointed Principal for Chantilly Primary School in Manchester in 1987, and the youngest person holding this position then. Within 10 years of being there, he says the student enrolment grew from 38 to 250.
He moved on to head Christiana Leased Primary and Infant School ,where he spent another nine years, before joining the Ministry as an education officer.
In 2012, Mr. Salmon returned to the classroom, joining the staff of the then Mandeville Primary and Junior High School, initially as a teacher.
He moved across to Christiana High School, also in Manchester, to serve as Principal, before returning to Mandeville Primary School to assume the reins of leadership. Mr. Salmon also serves as an adjunct lecturer at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Principal, Trench Town Polytechnic College in Kingston, Dossett Edwards-Watson, and Principal of Southborough Primary School in St. Catherine, Carlyle Thompson, were the first and second runners-up, respectively.
Mrs. Edwards-Watson received a prize of $150,000, and Mr. Thompson, $100,000.