Focus of Principals: Georgia Henry — educator and community leader
Georgia Henry is one of those people who will call a spade a spade. A no-nonsense lady, she believes in being frank, fair, and reasonable. She holds no grudges but simply wants the best for her children, the school, and her community.
Henry, principal of Allman Hill Primary School in St Andrew has been working in the community for the past 14 years, having started as a principal in 2002.
"Georgia Henry is an excellent community-oriented individual who not only focuses on students' high achievements but also on the development of the community," says Pastor Bertram Millwood, vice-chairman of the school board. "She has the children and the community at heart and has kept the Allman Hill boat afloat amid the various changes and modifications over the years by the Ministry of Education."
Ann Marie Willoughby, a parent whose children studied at Allman Hill, says that Henry is a nice lady, someone you can sit and talk with about any challenge you may face. "She has a kind heart and has helped a lot people in various ways," Willoughby said.
Henry began her educational journey at Allman Hill All-Age, went on to St Mary's College, then The Mico University College, after which she went to The University of the West Indies, Mona.
In the initial days of her career, she taught at Drews Avenue Primary School. She got an opportunity to go to New York, where she taught at the Elizabeth Browning Middle School in the Bronx.
"It was there that I got the great experience, which prepared me for the challenges in Jamaica," she said.
The path to becoming an educator began at the National Youth Service, where she was encouraged by her teacher trainer to pursue teaching as a career.
Henry says that the National Youth Service helped to shape her character "because one has to be patient, strong, and very sensitive to the needs of the community".
She believes in the words of Mark Twain, which say, "All you need in this life is confidence, then success is sure".
Henry, who is a native of Allman Hill, says that there have been many changes at the school in recent times. "When I came to Allman Hill School, it was primary and junior high school, then a primary and infant, and now it's Allman Hill Primary School."
Henry loves her community and she is encouraging the people to send their children to her school. "Sometimes they (the parents) feel that the school is not too good for their children."
But as the old saying states, a prophet has no honour in his country and so one has to work ten times harder to be successful.
Henry, along with her team of eight members of staff, which includes one senior teacher, one male teacher, and one guidance counsellor, has been working to get the school up to standard. The pass percentage in GSAT has improved tremendously, according to Henry.
Literacy and numeracy have also moved up, she said. Henry commends her staff for their commitment to making this happen.
There has been improvement in the general infrastructure of the school. "The Kiwanis Club has been a tower of strength as they were instrumental in giving us a computer centre and reading room. Sagicor has donated approximately $100,000 towards the refurbishing of the bathrooms, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has made their contribution towards other buildings," she said, thanking all the sponsors and partners for their contributions.
Under Henry's leadership and management, several initiatives have been implemented, which include:
1. CAPP programme - offers award to students in all classes for conduct, attendance, punctuality and performance. There is a CAPP centre, which keeps items donated by parents, past students, community members. Each week, students who show good behaviour are awarded points, which, when accumulated, can earn them a gift from the CAPP shop.
2. A special programme to lift the self-esteem of the children. Each day they have to repeat the words "I must big up my school, I must behave myself".
3. Teachers dramatise for the children at devotion, which is part of the action plan for self-development.
4. Setting up of a Boys' Club.
5. Observance of Gentleman's Day and Lady's Day.
Henry keeps herself close to God. She serves as a lay preacher in the western St Andrew circuit of the Methodist Churchs, which include, Saxthorpe, Red Hills, Stony Hill, Allman Hill, Sterling Castle, and Rock Hall.
The words of theologian John Wesley, "Do all the good you can, to all the people you, in all the ways you can, for just as long as you can," encapsulate Henry's life.
n Paul G. Messam is a guidance counsellor at Mona High School.