First let me express on behalf of this association our profound sadness at the loss of Ivan “Wally” Johnson, a gentleman and a dedicated and unheralded servant in the service of our alma mater, Kingston College. Wally was Sports Master during my years at school, later he served as Vice-Principal and Principal. Within the next thirty days details of a memorial service to be held in New York in his honor will be announced by this association. His service to the College has earned him the right to be so recognized.
Welcome Fortis Brothers to this our Annual General Meeting for 2011. As I indicated to you last year, the 2010-2011 year would be my last as President. Your association, KCOBA USA Inc., represents the most dynamic alumni association operating out of New York and serving Jamaica. Teamed with our brothers from North Florida, Tampa, Atlanta, Toronto and our newest addition, Hartford, the Jamaica OBA, the Fortis Pavilion and other KC dedicated bodies, we provide unprecedented support to Kingston College, its students, staff and graduates. Together our annual support for the school exceeds $150,000 in cash and in kind. Today’s AGM is historic. Following on the heels of Toronto and Atlanta, New York will change its leadership tonight. Over our 29th year history we have had six Presidents; our founder and my initial inspiration, Sydney “Foggy” Burrowes, Noel Spencer, Winston Stewart, Mike Bromfield, Robert Kelly and Everton Carless. This represents a remarkable history of stability or old boys’ failure to step forward and vie for the leadership of KCOBA USA Inc. Winston and I have dominated this position for many years. At the end of tonight’s proceedings that will change. A new board and leadership will sit at the helm of this association. The evolution of this KCOBA will continue, with new ideas and different leadership style, bringing with it more discipline and structure for which Kingston College and KCOBA USA Inc. will be the better for it.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Much has changed since our 2010 AGM. Formal board meetings have been replaced by teleconference calls. The dubious appointment of Herbert Nelson as Principal, with the acquiescence and blessing of some of our most important old boys was subsequently reversed by the ministry. Stephen Vasciannie, one of our most distinguished alum, has brought some stability to this rudderless ship. I have spent much of the past year operating in the dual capacity as your President and the Plant Manager for our alma mater, Kingston College. Of course, the stipend agreed on at previous summits and confirmed meetings of our leadership for the Plant Manager, did not have me in mind and hence has not been forthcoming. To relay to you my experience as Plant Manager would require the entire day and then some. We added three events to our calendar: The Winter Party, shared with Immaculate, the UJAAA Mega Raffle and the Wagga Hunt Football Tournament. Earlier, we reintroduced our previous successful boat ride, though on a far less ambitious scale.
There has been a longstanding excuse by potential board members that we meet too often, the workload too intense and the responsibility takes up their family time.
However, the record will show that we held a total of four formal meetings all year. The majority of the work continues to be shouldered by four or five persons, at best. However, that too has shown improvement. Board members are now taking responsibility for tickets, sometimes actually volunteering their services and occasionally bringing an advertiser or two to the journal. Ultimately, the success or failure of this association rests with the President and his ability to motivate, inspire and lead. It is he who will be required to make-up for the shortfall. Therefore, as we make our choices today, in addition to our leader, those that we elect to surround him will be key. He must be able to show confidence and trust in them. I hope several of you will offer up yourselves for service, not only to positions on the board, but for the various sub-committees that the new administration may introduce.
The KC Board of Governors is solely responsible for the deficit in leadership our beloved college has suffered over the last six years. Imagine a school, our school, having five principals over six years. It reflects positively on the teachers, old boys and students that KC has been able to survive this extended period of instability. For the most part, the Board’s choices have been ill-advised. The board has been aloft, lazy and disinterested, failing time and time again to meet minimum fiduciary standards. They have been ill-equipped and unprepared, failing to ask the right questions of the right people. They have perhaps not functioned as an independent entity either but rather been influenced by outside forces. The appointment of a new Chairman is a good first step in remedying the situation. However, that appointment must be coupled with the introduction of a new school board with selection not based on status but commitment, dedication, foresight and the capacity to contribute financially or intellectually. We anxiously await the arrival of Dennis Richards as the new Principal and hope his appointment will finally restore order and stability to Kingston College. Being Principal of KC is no easy task. It requires enormous people skills, mental toughness and a thick skin. As the new kid on the block, he will be severely tested. How he responds to this initial 90 day wave may well determine the extent and success of his tenure.
In December 2010, I returned home and to Kingston College on a fulltime basis. While I had often visited and felt I had a working understanding of the campuses, being there daily exposed me to new realities. In early December a friend, frequent supporter, but non-KC friend advised me that he and his family would spend New Year’s in Jamaica and I should arrange for them to visit KC. Frankly, that caused me severe trepidation, so you can imagine my relief when on Christmas Eve he told me his wife had changed “his” mind and they were going to Virginia Beach. Today he and anyone other person is free to visit either campus, unannounced. I cannot guarantee them a clean bathroom yet at the North Street Campus, but I’m working on it. To date I have overseen the restoration of our Chemistry Lab, thanks to the generosity of OBs and the school. The Pavilion has been rebuilt, thanks to sponsorship from the Rujon Foundation, led by Byron Bachelor. Bathrooms, with showers, storage and office have been added. The Clovelly Park football field was finally ripped, graded, seeded, fertilized and an irrigation system installed. Its inaugural use will be at this year’s Roper Cup scheduled for August 27th. For the remainder of the season the field will be used exclusively for matches: Manning, Colts and Pepsi games. I am currently on hold awaiting direction from Fortis engineers in regards to a large cistern that we will utilize to provide a adequate water supply to the field. A six foot high fence was installed and sidewalks repaired and installed. Masonry work is ongoing, including the raising of the perimeter wall, making it a little more difficult for intruders to enter. The school has undergone a facelift and work continues there daily, as we struggle to create a school fitting of our great legacy. Future plans include expanding the Pavilion at the back, for adequate storage of sports equipment, alumni office etc., redesigning of the main entrance, replacing some windows on both campuses, controlling the various roof leaks that plague the school, repairing the swimming pool, renovating the Biology and Physics Labs, and this association’s major focus for summer 2012, the rebuilding of Hardie House. Of course none of this is possible without your financial support. My pledge to you is that if you make that financial commitment to improve our school, I will to the best of my ability utilize these funds in the most judicious way possible. Finally, perhaps the best news of all, after months of debate and inaction Tastee has taken over the management responsibility for both canteens. Apart from gaining a hot patty at lunch time, the feeding of our various sports team and needy students will be better organized and less costly to the association.
Much of the basic needs of the College that I cited at earlier AGMs as having eluded us, are now in place. The buildings are clean, and a maintenance plan is being incorporated to keep it that way, the playing field has grass and the cafeteria provides adequate service. The library remains challenged for books, but we are working on it and the issue of furnished classrooms is being addressed, but remains a challenge. Clean functional bathrooms remain a challenge. The Melbourne Campus has solved that challenge by hiring independent contractors. However, that is but a short-term fix. Ancillary workers must be inspired to produce, convinced that they a have a stake in the school and they are partners with the students and faculty or that their jobs are at risk.
We did a joint session, The Winter Party with Immaculate, because they asked us. There has been much chatter about our failure to align with our sister school, St. Hugh’s. In order to embark on joint endeavors the dates must be mutually beneficial, their “assets” must match with ours as much as is reasonably possible, i.e. both groups must stand “in parti delicto.” In conclusion, the negotiated agreement must be fair. I believe those conditions were met. The Winter Party made a profit.
The board chose to re-engage in the UJAA Raffle after having not participated in the raffle for some ten years. Despite the conditions not being the most optimal we made a nice profit. This raffle, a new concept to most board members, I believe within the next three years, will become our primary fundraiser. It is my hope that we will partner with our other US associates and make KCOBA’s own involvement a mega affair.
Finally on the topic of fundraising, I must pay complements to the Board. More was asked of them this past year than in previous years. New events were added, and we showed a profit in all our efforts. I was most proud to present a check for US$1,000 to the Wagga Hunt Foundation in Jamaica. That would not have been possible without the stellar effort of Robert Rodney; frankly most of us did not believe the event would have been profitable since the advertising and publicity seemed inadequate. However we misunderstood the culture of the football community.
SUPPORT FOR THE COLLEGE
Over the past year we have provided more direct support to the school than at any time in our history. We are now in our thirteenth year of providing assistance to needy students through our nutrition program and tuition assistance. We have donated computers, photo copiers, printers, security cameras, microwaves, trophies, furniture, tools and equipment. We have supported our Joyce Baxter Math Club, contributed to prize-giving, provided assistance to the Choir, School Challenge, Spanish Club, Chemistry Dept., Cricket, Hockey, Rugby, Table Tennis and Track and Field. We continue to support students studying at various universities both in the Caribbean and the United States and assist the older and financially challenged within the Fortis family.
As I say farewell to “my association” I feel deeply privileged to have served my alma mater in this capacity and most humbled now with my new responsibilities, having a direct input in the future of KC. My only regret is that I was not able to do more. I leave office without us putting a second floor on the Douglas Forrest Building. I leave office without us having the new school bus I committed to five years ago. And I leave office without us having won the Manning Cup, an event that would truly transform the school. However, I am most proud of the hundreds of students this association has positively impacted. The students we have sponsored from first to six forms and to universities, several of whom are now giving back. I was privileged to have worked with some special people over these many years and it has been their opinions that have often guided my decision-making: Robert Rodney, Kitson Blissett, Clinton Clarke, Oliver Smith and Stratton Palmer are but a few, whose counsel I relied on as I sought to make progress in the early years. Rodney and Clarke have remained in that position throughout, but the addition of Earl Gordon and his academic prowess and Rainford Bloomfield with his internet and marketing focus, have expanded the scope of our association. I am grateful to Alton Brown for taking charge in situations where others would equivocate. Finally, there is Merrick Foster, the creative thinker. His assistance in pursuing advertisers to complete our reunion journal was remarkable. Now if he could collect these receivables that would be even more outstanding. To Calvin Hibbert, Errol Lecky and Norman Scott your commitment and stability is laudable. Finally, Livingston “Danny” Young thanks. Your role in making the Trust Fund viable can never be ignored. To those of you who have responded to my emergency calls for support in the past, I remain deeply appreciative. Often over the years I have stuck my neck out, usually where it did not belong and without your support I would have been decapitated. My stay at KC is limited, perhaps through 2012. Please let us together take full advantage of this opportunity to facilitate permanent change to the College as we endeavor to perpetuate the vision of our founder Bishop Percival Gibson.
Robert A. Kelly ‘73
President, KCOBA USA Inc.