New Harrison College head makes history
Juanita Wade will move from Queen’s College to Harrison College come September, and, in so doing, will be the first female head of the 281-year-old institution.
Although Wade is well aware that her arrival at the Crumpton Street, St Michael school will be an historic moment, she is, nevertheless, not focusing her attention on that. This quiet, unassuming lady has spent over three decades in teaching and is concentrating on the task of leadership that lies ahead.
Having held positions that placed her in a similar role in the past, she is well aware of the seriousness of the job.
Starting with The Alleyne School in Belleplaine, St Andrew, where a 24-year stint allowed her to hold the positions of acting head of department, house mistress and senior teacher, Wade believes that in some ways she was being groomed for her upcoming responsibilities.
After winning the CLICO/Nation Ministry of Education Teacher Of The Year, she left the Alleyne School to become an education officer in 2006, where she was charged with the responsibility of informing educators about the policies and procedures involved in the Teacher Evaluation Process. Since 2010, she has been deputy principal of Queen’s College, instilling discipline in students and assisting with the management of the affairs of the Husband’s, St James school.
“Yes, Harrison College is a school with a very rich history; so I am also cognisant of the significant responsibility that I would have. I am therefore determined to work with the staff in order to ensure that the traditions are upheld and expectations realized and that we even surpass what has been done before,” she asserted.
Mindful that the school is revered for its excellent academic record, Wade stressed that this would remain the priority.
“I certainly wouldn’t want the academic focus to change, and therefore my thrust would be to improve the quality of academic results in both the junior and senior school. We must strive not only to attain Grade 1s, but also to achieve the highest academic honours in the Caribbean as determined by the CXC Merit List.”
Wade added that other issues would be important.
“I am also very interested in students being involved in extracurricular activities. There is so much that teachers and students can gain from interacting in a different setting. I support the school’s goal for each student to take part in at least one extracurricular activity –– if not in service clubs, then in sports, where traditionally Harrison College has been regarded as a powerhouse.”
Additionally, Wade expects that Harrison College will continue to compete with other schools in Barbados and globally in all competitions, including essay writing, debating and sports of all kinds.
Responding to a question about the perceived competition between Harrison College and Queen’s College she said: “I don’t particularly see anything wrong with friendly rivalry if it helps to improve both schools and encourages people to strive harder to excel, particularly in an area like sports. However I am more interested in collaboration, especially in academics; because after all, the students we are trying to educate are the nation’s children.
“So I see nothing wrong with best practices from both schools being used to improve both Queen’s College and Harrison College.”
The University of the West Indies graduate,who holds a first degree in English with history; a Diploma of Education and a Master’s in education, has no intention of moving forward without first engaging her staff and the other stakeholders, including the students. Acknowledging that students should have a voice, she welcomes the fact that Harrison College has signed on to the Schools’ Positive Behaviour Management Programme (SPBMP), which speaks to inclusiveness and engendering participation, among other areas.
“We really have to ensure that everyone is on board; everyone understands and has a vested interest in how the school is governed and how discipline is maintained; and therefore I would like to see SPBMP strengthened. As far as students are concerned, I think the system of rewards could be looked at to ensure that it is commensurate with efforts in all areas of school life.
“I know the Strategic Plan for HC advocates producing students who are creative, who exude excellence, who have a desire for giving service, who are respectful and who have integrity, but I also want to see students who are, empathetic, tolerant, who take pride in themselves, their school and their country and at the end of it all who genuinely care about their fellowmen.
“I want that at the end of a student’s career the school would have contributed to making the HC girl or boy, a good citizen,” declared Wade.
Eager to work with her teachers from “day one”, she will be looking to afford them opportunities for professional development, once funding is sourced, to attend overseas conferences/seminars; to become involved in professional organizations relevant to their subject areas; and to participate in exchange programmes, in much the same vein as the students do currently.
Conscious too that Harrison College was among one of the last schools to be included in the Edutech programme, she intends for anyone who might not yet have mastered technology, to be appropriately trained to “use it to enhance his or her teaching and learning environment”.
She will be seeking to address the issue of recognition and rewards in the school for teachers, as well as ancillary staff, some of whom have been there for nearly three decades.
As she turned her attention to other key stakeholders, Wade remarked that as “a people person” she envisaged a close relationship with parents and the Old Harrisonian Society (OHS). Parents, she pointed out, had expertise and ideas they could share, and their involvement in the life of the school could only augur well for their children.
According equal importance to the role of the OHS, she added: “One way that you are going to know what the traditions are so that they can be passed on, is through interacting with former students. There is much that they can continue to contribute to the fabric of the school.”
Of the business community, in which the school is situated, the new principal contends that the practical experiences which students could gain through internships would be invaluable. Pointing out that the school was in close proximity to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a day nursery and some primary schools, the former second lieutenant with the Barbados Cadet Corps and current divisional commissioner with the Girl Guides Association expressed the hope that this would promote a higher level of volunteerism from other groups in the school, which could now join with the Key Club in giving service, a feature, she noted, helps to build character and instil leadership qualities.
As she leaves Queen’s College, having been under what she calls “the progressive leadership” of principal Dr David Browne, Wade is satisfied that the school will continue its excellent tradition in academics, sports and the arts. She took the opportunity to thank Browne for his invaluable mentorship during her tenure as deputy principal.
She is pleased that more often than not, both leaders would be afforded the opportunity to work in partnership, rather than in competition, to uphold the proud traditions of Queen’s College and Harrison College. She looks forward to the new challenges and experiences that Harrison College will bring.