New Lester Vaughan principal keen on school's culture
Michael Boyce will step through the doors of Lester Vaughan Secondary School in September as its new principal. Having spent almost 20 years in the teaching profession, mostly at The Alexandra School in St Peter, he will undertake this new role in a humble manner.
Though excited to be making the journey from deputy principal at Frederick Smith Secondary to head one of this country’s youngest educational institutions, he is determined to go in with an open mind and to learn from those already there. His approach, for the early part of the academic year 2014-2015, will be to spend time getting to know the teachers and understanding the school’s culture.
After achieving this, he will embark on a campaign to meet all the stakeholders who have a keen interest in the Cane Garden, St Thomas school, and use that in shaping the vision for the institution.
“My first task of business will be to learn about the school and its culture, because I would like that everything I do adds value to it. I believe strongly that organizations have cultures and they must be respected. My first task wouldn’t be to tweak and change, but to observe, question, study, assess and understand.
“That’s a big role for me; so I have to understand the culture, hear the stories from the people who are there –– students, teachers and ancillary staff –– about what works. I have to get a feel for that before I can think of making any changes or looking to improve. My ultimate goal is to work with staff, students, parents and community partners to enhance the school.
“So, I would say that whatever adjustments or tweaking of school culture would have to come with that background. Getting to know the teachers, the students and their parents is a priority, but building partnerships with them as well as the community is even more important. I would like that there be an emphasis on working with parents, within reasonable bounds and limits, to help them see that their children can achieve their very best.
“I believe that if you want this to come about there has to be a strong home/school partnership where parents and children know that the two are working in tandem,” Boyce explained.
A reserve officer of the Barbados Defence Force, attached to the Barbados Cadet Corps, Captain Boyce regards himself as “people-centred”, contending that he would be examining and augmenting the efforts at Lester Vaughan to address the total development of students and the professional development of staff.
He said: “From behaviours to dress, as well as common courtesies, and values such as punctuality, integrity, honesty and the respect shown to the community, I see as inextricably bound up in a school’s efforts of educating students and ultimately impacting the professional development programme. I am eager to learn about the extent of professional development at the school, not necessarily what is offered to them at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College (ETTC), but what the teachers are accustomed to doing in-house.
“So, I look forward to staff coming together, using our talents to enhance each other and working together to change behaviours and attitudes that will mean for our students continued success in academics and extracurricular activities. The way to get children to change and perform nowadays is not to reach them so much through the maths and grammar, but through the heart.”
A teacher who believes in highlighting the positive aspects of children’s work, Boyce admittedly would be found sourcing articles on his school’s achievements in sports, drama, music or academics to place on a bulletin board. This was evident when we visited him at Frederick Smith Secondary.
He explained: “I always try to leave a positive message for children, whether it is something from the success of their peers, or a quote from a poem or The Bible. You have to motivate the children. I don’t think I can sit back and hear people say ‘men are in crisis’ and I, being among the male population, do nothing about it.”
Overarching all of this is the way Boyce views the future of the teaching profession. The new principal, who received all his professional training locally at the ETTC and the University of the West Indies, believes the pedagogues of the 21st century will have to encourage and accept more critical thinking from students, who will challenge what is taught from the primary level up; examination results will have to undergo more analyses; and technology will be more pervasive.
“You cannot educate people and expect them not to challenge you and question any and everything . . . even the aspect of student discipline. Additionally, as we look at the 21st century learner, we will have to consider going the route of e-books, with textbooks particularly at the primary school being so costly.
“We will be forced to have teachers skilled in technology not only to instruct students, but to move them to a stage where they are designing programmes and apps, and are able to have the community sponsor related courses, after school,” he stated.
With the guiding philosophy that “God doesn’t take you to something unless he is going to prepare you for it and work with you through it”, Boyce is leaving Frederick Smith Secondary, after a one-year stint, encouraged by the blessings of principal Jefferson Philips, colleagues and students.
Exuding pride, though showing some signs of nostalgia, he said: “I will miss Frederick Smith, but I will challenge the students to make sure the school always has a good reputation. They must take advantage of its location in a tourism belt; build some partnerships with the community and use those to improve the school and its image in the public eye.
“The school can be a base for teaching two recently launched CXC courses –– tourism and recreational studies, and business entrepreneurship. With its students possessing diverse talents in football, cricket, music and furniture-making, I would not be surprised if five to ten years down the road Frederick Smith is regarded as a centre of excellence for all kinds of performances. Given its location, I can see that happening.”