Tue | May 26, 2020

Prim Lewis: the journey of an extraordinary educator

Published:Friday | January 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Prim Lewis, principal of deCarteret College, explains to a teacher the mural designed by a student.

Prim Lewis, principal of deCarteret College, believes in empowering the students and instilling critical thinking as an integral part of the progress, and she is committed to high-quality education.

An educator for over 26 years, Lewis believes that the most influential persons in life are teachers and she credits her passion for the profession to practices and principles embodied by her high school teachers, who inspired her to become a teacher.

Lewis taught at Naggo Head Primary in St Catherine for 16 years, where she was a classroom teacher, grade coordinator, and did a short stint as vice-principal. She also was principal of Schoolfield Primary and Infant for two years and later transitioned as principal of the then Aberdeen Primary and Junior High.


Improvements in Literacy and Numeracy Rates


During her tenure at Schoolfield Primary and Infant, Lewis implemented several programmes aimed at improving literacy and numeracy. With the literacy and numeracy rates below the national average of 44 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively, after one year of targeted interventions, the literacy rate rose to 96 per cent.

Lewis attributes this success to the consistent monitoring and evaluation that she employed over the year to increase student performance across both subjects.

"I did a lot of monitoring, classroom observations, mentorship, and coaching with teachers, and this contributed to the success," she said. Several workshops were held to analyse data on student performance, and teachers were given the requisite support to improve areas of weakness.

Other interventions included the introduction of a reading programme, which targeted students from the infant department. Students were given books to take home for a week, which improved reading and boosted parental involvement and engagement.

In 2015, Lewis was selected as the most outstanding principal from the Ministry of Education's Region 5 for improved reading outcomes from grades 1-3 for the 2014-2015 academic year through the USAID/Ministry of Education Programme for Reading Outcomes.


Organisational Change


Lewis was approached by the Aberdeen High's (formerly Aberdeen Primary and Junior High) board of management to serve as interim principal. Crediting the success of her predecessor, Milbert Miller, Lewis said that her goal was to build on the legacy of the former principal as she served during a time when the school was transitioning from a primary and junior high to a high school.

Through dialogue with the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Lewis expanded an existing programme for grade 8 and 9 students to sit CSEC subjects. In the first year of the programme, the school received 100 per cent passes in physical education.

Lewis moved to ensure that students were holistically prepared by implementing an internship programme to enable them to garner skills and experiences as there was no grade 11 at the school. The internship programme improved their confidence, and this allowed for a better transition as they progressed to other grade levels.

Lewis also solicited the support of her colleague mentors Jasford Gabriel and Keith Wellington, principals of Manchester High and Saint Elizabeth Technical High Schools, respectively.

The transition was a learning process as some teachers at the time had not been exposed to the CXC syllabi. Through consistent professional-development workshops and field trips, teachers who were engaged at the third-form level for the first time were provided with the necessary support to improve their competencies, knowledge, and skills with the aim of making the change process smoother. Importantly, the school saw an improvement in the National Education Inspectorate's rating from unsatisfactory to satisfactory and later attained full high-school status under her leadership.


Partnership Approach


Realising that collaboration was the key in building and fostering partnerships and maintaining a positive school ethos, Lewis took the entire teaching staff to Manchester High, where they did classroom observations and were exposed to model instruction.

To build camaraderie and school spirit, the school entered the Toyota Jamaica Bus di School Competition in 2016 and was voted the winners. The community got involved and promoted the school across parishes. The newly gifted school bus was very instrumental in transporting students to JCDC and sports competitions as well as transporting students to auto-mechanics classes under the partnership with the Maggoty High School when the school had no auto mechanics teacher.


Capacity Building


This outstanding educator's commitment to continuous learning and development led to her successful completion of Round One of the Effective Principals' Training Programme (EPTP), which is a mandatory professional development programme offered by the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) to keep in-service principals abreast of the latest developments in school leadership.

Lewis supports the college's programmes given the impact they have had on her leadership.

"The experience with the college has augured well for my professional life as an administrator. Great emphasis is placed on documentation and records-keeping through the exposure of the module on School Planning and Data Management. When teachers do assessments, they are expected to use the data to drive instruction," she said.

Lewis, who was selected first runner-up for the LASCO/

MoEYI Principal of Year for 2016-2017, is also the first permanently appointed female principal of deCarteret College and has been in the post since May 2018.

Her vision for the school is to build on the tradition of excellence and to implement interventions to assist those departments that may not be achieving targets. Lewis noted that she has inherited a culture of excellence and a supportive staff with very high standards.

She lauds Region 5's Regional Director, Dr Nadine Leachman, and the education officers for their continued support as they contribute to her training, development, and success.

- Article courtesy of the National College for Educational Leadership, an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.