Former Marcus Garvey Tech principal now student advocate
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Secondary school students in St Ann and St Catherine who have issues relating to education are in for assistance from a somewhat unlikely source.
Former principal of the Marcus Garvey Technical High School in St Ann's Bay, 55-year-old Leslie Riley, has chosen early retirement and has established a consultancy firm - Students, Parents, Employees, Educational Consul-tancy for High Schools (SPEECHS) - to help students who need guidance.
Offices have been established in Ocho Rios, St Ann, and Portmore, St Catherine.
"I see a need for career guidance for difficult students," Riley told Rural Xpress in an interview.
"Students who don't have real parents; students who have virtually been abandoned by parents; parents who might have gone abroad and left them with siblings to care for them ... I see where I can offer some kind of guidance and counselling to those students," Riley said.
"Those students who have disciplinary problems and might have been thrown out of school without due process, especially by way of suspension and so on, I see where I can go into the school system and represent the parents. I can be a voice to the dean of discipline on behalf of students.
"There are a number of cases where students have been asked to literally leave school. They are just told to leave school because neither they nor their parents know their rights.
"Many schools in the system are just taking the easy way out by not putting in place any of the mechanisms that would see a child being transformed," Riley charged.
"They take the easy way out by telling the student to find another school. If you cannot be in school, where are you going to be? It is that kind of representation that I think I can forcefully make at this time."
Riley said he has spoken to several education officers about his intentions and they are of the opinion that there is a need for such a service.
Riley spent the last 13 years as principal at a school dogged with difficulties, especially as it relates to behavioural problems and poor academic performances. He contends, however, that his tenure was successful.
"In 2001, I went there with a specific mission - to transform and develop the school - putting in place systems that were not there. I think I've successfully done that and I'm now at the stage of my life where I think I can move on to do something else."
Riley said during his time as principal, he never expelled or even tried to expel a student as he does not believe in depriving youngsters of educational opportunities.
The former principal said he was not forced out of the post.
"Early retirement became an option, having reached 55 years, so I decided to take early retirement," he stated.