JC back to basics
ONCE the school of choice for some of Jamaica's brightest minds and a bastion of sporting prowess, it saw a period of decline in the 1980s and 1990s. But over the last decade, Jamaica College (JC) has moved to recapture its glory days.
The school last week won the 2015 Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA)/FLOW Olivier Shield title, a week after winning the Manning Cup - their fifth since 2007 - not long after the school started to make a turnaround.
In 2011, the school won the ISSA Boys' Championship title, 100 years after it first won a Boys' Champs.
The school has also been successful in hockey and cricket and are three-time defending Under-19 Manning Cup football champions.
Academically, the school, which has produced three political heads of states, was ranked 34th among Jamaican schools in the 2015 Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council (CSEC) results, with 59 percent of its grade-11 cohort passing five or more subjects.
Chairman of the school's sports committee, Ian Forbes, told The Gleaner that just around 10 years ago a decision was taken to change things.
"Stakeholders came together and determined that it could not be business as usual. That was spearheaded by R Danny Williams, who became chairman of the board in 2006," he said, adding that the strategy has been maintained by board chairman Michael Bernard.
"He (Williams) led from the front in the constitution of the board and the strategic direction that we wanted to go. We had the commitment at the highest level, which filtered to the other areas of the school," said Forbes, adding that Ruel Reid was hired as principal as part of the strategy.
Forbes, who represented the school in track and field, football and was a captain of the Sunlight Cup cricket team, as well as a former coach, said the breakdown in the family structure in the wider society had helped in the demise of the school.
"What was happening in the wider society would have impacted that. There was a period when things were not as we had hoped it to be."
Forbes, who attended JC between 1969 and 1977, said hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent on improving the school's environment.
"Physically, it had deteriorated somewhat so we revitalised the environment. Lots of infrastructural work was done to make the surroundings as aesthetical pleasing as possible and you know the impact environment can have on behaviour," he noted.
Among the improvements was the building of the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium, a museum, the Frank Hall Gym and refurbishing of Heritage Trust-listed buildings on campus.
Plans for boarding
The school was founded as a boarding institution. There is a plans to re-establish the boarding aspect, with a dormitory to accommodate approximately 100 students - now in the final stages of construction.
A sticking point for some may be the balance between sport and education for student-athletes, but Forbes said the school has also been offering academic support.
"It's not that they are left. We offer support programmes; that continues to be a work in progress. We have seen major improvement in that area where our student-athletes are improving. A number of them in football, track and field and basketball have received scholarships for local and overseas.
"We are striving for (balance) and we think we are on the right path. We have tremendous focus on improving the academics and we think we are getting there. That is trending in the right direction," he said.
JC, he added, is once again becoming a school of preference for boys around the country.
"We have far more applications than we have space. Places at JC are highly sought after," he said.