Mon | Jan 18, 2021

JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation’s ‘Conversations’ transforms Greater Portmore High

Published:Friday | September 13, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Catherine Davis-Smith

Greater Portmore High School (GPHS) is now able to boast an increase in students’ punctuality, a reduction in both absenteeism and major behavioural challenges, and improved interpersonal dynamics after enrolling in the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation-led Conversations for Greatness (CFG) in September 2018.

Members of staff, including academic, ancillary, and administrative personnel, participated in three workshops, dubbed ‘Conversations’, with trained CFG facilitators. In giving further insight into the underlying principles of the CFG programme, project coordinator Catherine Davis-Smith said that the programme addresses the mindset, attitudes, and behaviours of the key stakeholders.

“It complements the Ministry of Education’s Operation Turnaround project, which is focused on curriculum, training, and infrastructural improvement in schools that are currently not meeting the national targets in critical subject areas,” Davis-Smith said.

These conversations had such a significant impact on the staff that at the start of the nine-month sustainability period in October 2018, the school’s administrators and staff decided to have an official launch of the CFG programme at the school so that the impact could be replicated among other stakeholders.


During the official launch of the Conversations for Greatness programme in February 2019, banners and other signs were erected across the school’s campus to reinforce the underlying transformational principles of the CFG programme, serving as a reminder of the school’s commitment to a positive mindset and a new approach to learning.

In a bold move, through a skit done at the launch of CFG at the school, teachers made a public commitment to demonstrating a more positive approach in executing their duties, inviting students to hold them accountable to their commitment to value, honour, and respect all their students.

Principal of GPHS Ricardo Ross credits the approach taken by the CFG programme in helping him and his team to shift their mindset to one grounded in transformation and possibility thinking, thereby improving their interpersonal dynamics. In leading by example, the principal outlined that he had made a greater effort to become more accessible to his students.

“I am now more open with my students. I laugh with them. Now I see more students who want to just say hi instead of for disciplinary matters,” he said.


Although GPHS is currently among the Ministry of Education’s list of underperforming schools, Ross is determined to rebrand the institution and change its reputation. He is one step closer, in part thanks to the efforts of the CFG programme.

“We are encouraged by the positive results that we are beginning to see at Greater Portmore High School, especially in such a short space of time. Admittedly, the journey is not complete. However, I am confident that the transformation tools shared will continue to yield great results,” Davis-Smith said.

“It has allowed me to exercise more patience and be more open, asking for the facts and not relying on my own interpretation of a situation. I am also less judgemental, and this has enhanced my interpersonal dynamics with my team, family, and friends,” Ross added.

Conversations for Greatness has been implemented in 82 schools in several parishes, including Kingston and St Andrew, Clarendon, St Elizabeth, St Catherine, and St Ann.