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  • Establishing term limits for school principals and possible changes to the method of their appointment, are among issues Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, has proposed for discussion, at the National Conference on Educational Leadership and Management now underway.
  • Minister Thwaites opined also that the practice of principals being appointed purely on the basis of their qualification and not so much on the value that they bring to the job, also needs to be reviewed.
  • The Education Minister also pointed to the challenges faced by principals in being forced to lead teachers, who are operating below standard, but are unable to take disciplinary action against them.

Establishing term limits for school principals and possible changes to the method of their appointment, are among issues Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, has proposed for discussion, at the National Conference on Educational Leadership and Management now underway.

Addressing the two-day event, which got underway at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay on Thursday (Aug. 20), Rev. Thwaites said the matter of a principal’s tenure being cemented until retirement, is an inefficient way to organise leadership in the education system.

“Where do you exercise the appropriate accountability? Is there not a crucial issue that has to be faced by this conference…as to whether the medieval notion of tenure is (still) relevant?” he asked.

Minister Thwaites opined also that the practice of principals being appointed purely on the basis of their qualification and not so much on the value that they bring to the job, also needs to be reviewed.

“How are principals appointed? How are school leaders chosen? Is it not a fact that the majority of marks that go toward the ranking of a candidate, are in fact, based on paper qualifications, and only a minority of the criteria relate to a face-to-face interaction (and) engagement of the spirit for that candidate?” he asked.

The Education Minister also pointed to the challenges faced by principals in being forced to lead teachers, who are operating below standard, but are unable to take disciplinary action against them.

“Where principals, who have the fire in their guts and are really anxious to move their schools are faced with teachers, who, for whatever reason don’t step up to the plate and you can’t do anything about them and where you are faced with a (school) board, which may not have the same zeal and ideals that you do, then where is the success?, he questioned.

“Where are the academic outcomes that are going to propel individuals and advance the society?”  he further asked.

Turning to the process for the appointment of school board chairmen, Minister Thwaites said “my own view is that the education officer and the principal ought to have a say in the…leadership for the board. The politician must have some say for he or she is chosen by the people, but it cannot be that it is (the politician) alone, who makes that decision,” he argued.

The Education Minister also highlighted the importance of vice principals, heads of departments and senior teachers in the island’s schools, stating they remain vital to the process of school management and must start playing their role in a more meaningful way.

The conference, which ends on Friday (August 21), is being staged under the theme: ‘Educational Leadership and Management in Jamaica: From Nursery to University’.

It is being organised jointly by the Institute of Educational Leadership and Management-Jamaica (IEAL-J); the National College on  Educational Leadership (NCEL); Catholic College of Mandeville; College of Health Sciences at the  University of Technology (UTech); and the International University of the Caribbean (IUC).