School boards need more qualified persons – Small
Dr Walton Small, the opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) deputy shadow minister for education and training, is calling for a revamp of public school boards, contending that more individuals with the qualifications to provide leadership and support to the principal and teachers must be included.
“The principal is accountable to the board, and I have a problem with the way some of the boards are constructed,” said Small. “The boards need to be constructed with people who are professionals who understand education,” he added.
His comments came yesterday at an education consultation under the theme, ‘Rising Sun, Shining a Light on Education, in Montego Bay’.
The renowned educator, who served stints as principal at Anchovy High School in St James and Wolmer’s Boys’ School in Kingston, said that school boards held the highest level of authority and are responsible for the governance machinery. In this regard, he said it was critical that the right people are appointed to direct the affairs of these institutions.
“As principal at Wolmer’s Boys’ School, I had to be accountable to the individuals on my board for what I did, but guess what, they ensured that they gave me the resources,” said Small. “They could not hold me accountable if they did not give me the resources, so we have to find a way to ensure that the teachers are given the resources so that they can be held accountable for the jobs that we asked them to do.”
Public school boards are appointed by the National Council of Education (NCE), a statutory body falling under the Ministry of Education Youth and Information. The NCE was established in 1993 to coordinate the process to support the effective appointment and training of members of school boards, among other things.
The school board must ensure the conduct, supervision, and efficient operation of the institution, ensuring that proper books of accounts are maintained according to stipulated regulations and guidelines and ensuring that annual audits are done.
School boards generally comprise representatives from student councils, academia, administrative and clerical staff, principals, church and trust schools, as well as representatives from the parent-teacher association and the past students’ association.
“When you put people who do not understand how education operates, there is always [going to be] conflict between principal and board members and teachers, so we need to fix that by ensuring that we have the right people in place to operate the school,” argued Small.
Small, who is also a former president of the Inter-Secondary School Sports Association, said school boards should be so equipped that they can adequately provide resources to effectively manage their schools.
Having retired as an educator, Small has turned his attention to politics. He will be representing the PNP in St James Southern, which is being vacated by incumbent Derrick Kellier.