Focus on Principals | Venecia Grant Hartwell — Children inspire her
Venecia Grant Hartwell, principal of Arthur's Seat Primary and Infant School leads an institution that has an interesting history. Arthur's Seat is a small rural district in Crofts Hill, north Clarendon.
The school was started by the Anglican Church. The story goes that the school got its name from the fact that two brothers were travelling on the road, and one said that he was tired. There was a huge stone on which they sat to rest, and from that day, the school was called Arthur's Seat.
Grant Hartwell started teaching at the school in 1998, she was the acting principal in 2010 and became principal in September 2011.
Grant Hartwell says that from an early age she loves to work with children. "It's a pleasure working with these children as they are a stimulant to my happiness. The children are easily taught. Their minds can take in almost anything without effort, and I have a special bond with them.
"The various activities that I usually do with them, they find exciting, and I get a deep sense of fulfilment within," she said.
Grant Hartwell says that she embraces the sentiments of writer Eugene Ionesco, which state that childhood is the world of miracle and wonder, as if creation rose, bathed in light, out of darkness, utterly new, and fresh, and astonishing.
"I used to volunteer to assist the teacher at the Seven Ground Early Childhood Centre, and whenever they were short-staffed, I was always called upon to assist," she said.
Grant Hartwell is from Seven District in Kellits, Clarendon, and is a Bethlehem Teachers' College graduate. She completed her first degree in school administration at the University of Technology. She did a second degree in educational leadership and was also trained at the National College of Educational Leadership (NCELL).
Grant Hartwell is the parish youth director for the Church of God of Prophecy, Clarendon North, where she supervises the youth ministry for 28 churches. She is also the associate pastor of the Seven Ground Church of God Of Prophecy in the community. She says that she offers help whenever possible to the families of the deceased in the communities and even has had the school choir perform on these occasions. She has also organised mini health fairs for parents in the community. The school has an active PTA and a board headed by Joyce Douglas Sloley.
"Grant Hartwell is a transformational leader," says Olive Gardner Bygrave, education officer. "She adapts to changes readily and is very innovative. In addition, she is a hard worker, very organised and is committed to whatever task she is pursuing."
According to Lavern White Gottshalk, a former classmate, Grant Hartwell is a competent person who likes to set achievable goals in order to achieve them. "She is a conscientious, people person who, although independent, is not afraid to seek help when required or to offer advice in the community."
Grant Hartwell says that her life revolves around the scripture "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
She says that she aims to be a flexible and creative school leader who offers a sense of purpose and direction to enhance improved performance and capacity to the institution she is leading.
"I see problems as challenges that come to make me stronger and more resilient in the fight against failure."
School does very well
Her small multi-grade school with four teachers and a caregiver services the community with pride. As the principal and community worker, she has implemented a number of initiatives at the school, some of which include Boys Scouts, and the 4 H Club, library programme, an early morning reading intervention programme which offers help to the students who are challenged in reading, and an art club.
Grant Hartwell says that the school has done very well in numeracy and literacy over the years. A tracer study is done to monitor the graduates of the institution.
According to Grant Hartwell, the GSAT results have seen a fair level of success. So have literacy and numeracy. She was quick to point out that the children at Arthur's Seat Primary and Infant are quite mannerly, always using the tools of respect with "good morning, "good afternoon", "Please", and "Thank you".
She is humbled by the fact that she maintains a good professional relationship with all stakeholders, including her students, her staff, parents, churches, and the board of management.
"Based on the concept that education is concerned with different aspects of the environment and the way in which individuals respond, I try my utmost to be there for all our children working under the banner of the school's motto: 'Lighting the flame of knowledge ... not for school but for life'."
- The author is a guidance counsellor at Mona High School, St Andrew