It seems as if it were just yesterday that I last interviewed the then newly appointed headmaster of Kingston College (KC). I had caught up with him a full year ago in South Florida, at one of the series of events that normally coincide with the KC Old Boys (KCOB) Big Purple Session. That Purple Session is now known far and wide to be one of the biggest and most successful fund raising event held to benefit a Jamaican high school anywhere in the world.
Needless to say, I was quite anxious to meet with KC Principal Dave Myrie to learn of the difference he had made after one year at the helm. This year I caught up with him at the KCOB mini summit held the Sunday morning following the Big Purple Session, at the Grand Palm Resort in Pembroke Pines, Florida, with its lush, tropical surroundings, complete with a full-service spa and state-of-the art fitness center, amenities that can soothe the soul after a typical night of high-intensity revelry and camaraderie at a typical KCOB function.
I made sure that I had a private session with the headmaster, so that I would get all my questions answered. My first question to him: In which area did you see the most significant changes that were directly attributed to your tenure? “In the area of discipline,” was his immediate response, without even the slightest hint of hesitation.
It was not surprising that his most significant achievement had to do with discipline. After all, last year when I had asked him what was his key priority item, his resounding response was: “Discipline, is the # 1 priority; I want the boys to be even more disciplined than they are now. With proper discipline, we can achieve much,” he explained quite emphatically.
In fact, this year he outlined that he had four planks for the college…four driving forces, so to speak:
- A Conducive Teaching and Learning Environment
- Quality and Standard of Teaching, and
- Stronger Synergy between the Old Boys, the Parent Teacher’s Association, and the students.
With regard to discipline, Principal Myrie reported that he had instituted a policy of zero tolerance for bad behavior. He made sure that all student handbook rules were enforced. “Students were made to understand that they were representing KC, even when they were off-campus, and that there would be full consequences for deplorable actions,” he explained. The principal further opined that KC had to live up to the legacy of KC leadership greats such as Bishop Gibson and Douglas Forrest.
Regarding “A Conducive Teaching Environment,” the principal reported that he had focused, quite significantly, on staff discipline, a factor critical to progress within the school, and toward ongoing development, as well.
On the matter of “Quality and Standard of Teaching,” he was pleased to report that, under his tenure, KC had a record number of students accepted to pursue medical studies at the University of the West Indies.
The plank identifying the need for stronger synergy between the Old Boys, the PTA and the students basically spoke for itself, he said. The understanding was that stronger synergy yields highly positive results. In fact, of the KCOB Florida Chapter, for example, Principal Myrie said that “(together) our mandate is to make Kingston College the number one school of choice, and to provide our boys with the requisite skills for them to become meaningful citizens in our beloved country.”
The principal presented me with a list of achievements for which he was most proud. Among those were the following achievements or developments:
- Developed handbooks for both the staff and the students
- Improved academic performance overall
- Six students admitted into the Family of Medical Sciences, a first in the school’s history (of which a number of the students gained distinctions in biology, physics and chemistry)
- 81.4 percent of the fifth form students achieved five or more CXCs
- Student Javair Thomas placed second in Jamaica for performance in French at the CSEC level
- Seven students featured in the top 10 in Jamaica in four subject areas for CAPE Units 1 & 2
- Revamped the curriculum (Math and English taught every day)
- Refurbished Melbourne Park
- Air conditioned the staff rooms
- Improved the science labs
- Refurbished the school’s reception area
- Installed a new PA system in the chapel
- Purchased a school bus (with Old Boys support)
- Acquired a bike for the bearer (Provided by Fortis Pavilion)
- Refurbished the North Street from entrance (project spearheaded by Audley Hewett, Michael McMorris and various Old Boys chapters
- Began refurbishment of the fifth form block, and
- Currently building four temporary classrooms at North Street
Principal Myrie also spoke of other key priorities. For one, he wanted a KC library that would truly be a 21st century research facility. In addition, he wanted to restructure the various sports programs. His (one –year) mandate to the coaches: Win! On that note, in a realistic assessment of the sports programs, he offered that the Champs program had a promising outlook, and that the football program needed improvement.
The headmaster also highlighted a KC plan to acquire additional real estate holdings. In addition, he outlined a staff incentive program to the tune of JA$2 million for the December – June time frame.
The principal also talked at length with obvious pride of the open-door policy that he had instituted with respect to the students. He also highlighted improvements in the area of teacher appraisal. “Every teacher is now being appraised,” he said. “That was not being done before my tenure.”
The teachers are being held to a high level of accountability, the principal asserted. In fact, he reported that even ancillary workers were now having their job performance appraised.
In his closing remarks to the KCOB Florida Chapter, he reminded the membership that former KC Principal Bishop Taylor once said sagaciously that if KC fails, Jamaica fails. “May this be our mantra,” Principal Myrie implored.
Overall, it appears that the principal’s tenure has been quite good for KC. In fact, there are credible reports that even representatives from the Ministry of Education have sought an audience with him, to learn more about his impressive performance on many fronts. And, truth be told, it is not just representatives from the ministry that have been singing the praise of our new principal. The principal from a school that, in Dougs’ words, “is located not a hundred miles from KC,” is also singing the Dave Myrie praise.