New JGHS head comes from TV fame UK school

| 11/03/2016 | 39 Comments
Cayman News Service

Jon Clark, JGHS Principal

(CNS): A twenty year veteran of the British education system and an expert in behaviour management, school improvement and distributed leadership, has been appointed as principal at the John Gray High School. Jonathan Clark’s previous job was vice principal at Passmores Academy, which was featured in a British TV ‘fly on the wall’ documentary, “Educating Essex”, though this was filmed before he worked there. Hired for his abilities in behaviour management, officials said Clark has hit the ground running with a list of priorities for the school.

“I truly believe in young people,” he said. “I know I have transformed the young lives of many young people or given them the confidence to change for themselves and that means as much to me as any inspection report. I am firm but fair. I have the ‘soft skills’ when required but I am very confident to have the difficult conversations with students, staff and parents if necessary.

“Every school situation within its community should be seen as unique but I have definitely enjoyed the challenge of working with students in inner-city London, where the need for high quality education and high quality teaching and support were most needed to counter the negative influences of drug use and gangs.”

JGHS received a failing grade in a recent inspection and officials have put their faith in Clark to turn the school around. Christen Suckoo, the chief officer at the education ministry, said he comes to Cayman with valuable experience in all areas of education.

“His fresh perspective, coupled with the vast amount of experience and skills that already exist in the faculty at John Gray, will prove very useful as they work together to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the school, and tackle the social issues that are prevalent in the system currently,” he said.

Before his three and a half years at Passmores, Clark was assistant principal and director of sport at Lammas School in East London, where he worked for twelve years and for which he set up the management and curriculum as part of a select team of subject leaders when the school was being built.

During his career, Clark has been seconded to many countries, including Australia to support union and school leaders in Queensland in moving towards a new culture of school inspection, as well as Egypt and Tanzania, where he advised in the building of new school facilities and improving teaching and learning at Langoni School, Zanzibar.

He has completed his National Professional Qualification for Head teachers/Principals and also successfully come through eight Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspections, all accomplishments that he believes have prepared and positioned him for success at John Gray.

Clark said his experience after just two weeks at the school has been a positive one. Both staff and students have given him a warm welcome and he is looking forward to meeting more parents.

“The school is alive and vibrant,” he said. “The vast majority of staff and students are achieving, despite some challenges, and the students are so proud of John Gray and just want it to keep improving.” With staff going the extra mile to help he said the school had a great springboard for further improvements.

“In some areas accountability needs tightening but I will meet with my senior management team, the staff and the students and we will see what we need to do to bolster the improvement plan that is already in place. Maximising learning time, improving attendance and punctuality and reducing disruptions to learning will be key,” he added.

Clark’s list of priorities for the school includes:

  1. Building relationships: “Relationships are the DNA of the school – relationships with staff, students, parents, officials and the community we serve. They underpin everything.”
  2. Developing a culture of trust and an “unconditional positive regard” for the students: “What this means is that for all but the most serious of behaviour incidents there is always a way back, a fresh start, a chance to turn things around or turn a negative life or school experience into a positive one.”
  3. Further improving the quality of teaching and learning: “This is always of the highest priority in any school but I want to remove any barriers that at times may prevent teaching and learning being highly effective, and empower both teachers and students to enjoy the learning experience at John Gray.”
  4. Helping students to develop good habits: “The ‘High Five’ principles developed at JGHS a while ago – Right Place, Right Time, Respect, Responsibility and Achievement – are a great starting point. Some students need to improve their attitudes to learning and develop more of a ‘growth mind set’.  We need to teach this and model this at every opportunity.”
  5. School safety: “As is the case in every school, children need to feel safe. We need to ensure that any person or persons that are going against our core business of learning are dealt with firmly and fairly.”

The ministry also offered thanks to Matthew Holmes and Jane Kelly who took on the role of Acting Principal while the ministry searched for a candidate to take the position permanently. The post has been vacant since the former principal Lyneth Monteith took over the chief education officer’s job.

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Comments (39)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Considering that the academy system is regarded as a disaster in the UK, maybe this gentleman has bailed out of the shambles in the UK education system. I sincerely hope that our education gurus are not seriously thinking of introducing the failed academic system.here. OMG!

    • Anonymous says:

      They would love to because C4C backs them. They just don’t get it and somehow think academies will right all the wrongs in the system.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Do not expect “unconditional positive regard” in Cayman. With that mind set you will be driven to despair. One mistake and you will be hounded and your card will be marked never again to emerge in a positive light. We love our blame culture and hold onto it dearly.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Watch you back, Jack.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We all came thinking on such a small island we could make a real difference but have been beaten down, not by the children, but by inept leaders and an Education Department with no vision. Everyone is fire fighting and the leader of the fire fighting was the Head at JGHS. That says it all.

  5. Anonymous says:

    My only word of advice to the new head is for him not to take any advice from the CEO of Education but I guess he will have already gathered that my the state she left the place in.

  6. JTB says:

    The most encouraging thing about this story is the absence of any ‘couldn’t we find a Caymanian’ reader comments

    • Anonymous says:

      ..and some bitter Caribbean ones are on this forum

    • Anonymous says:

      But many years ago a former Minister of Education, well known for expressing anti-“English as colonial masters” views in his books, stated that he hoped there would never again be a need for UK headteachers. That worked out well for him and Cayman, didn’t it?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wish him well but majority of teachers don’t care and there is a culture of putting down Caymanian culture and children while promoting everything Jamaican

  8. MM says:

    I am so happy and excited to witness this man’s appointment and I wish him all the best with transforming that school – we should have done this much, much sooner!

    And, not to spoil this wondrous occasion with tidbits of negativity, but someone please explain how the last failing, skill-less principal managed a promotion when she obviously was struggling to adequately address the duties and tasks of her previous position as principal of this school?

    When seen about campus she did not carry herself as a figure of authority and quite obviously appeared overly casual and careless – not the beacon of respect and dignity students need to see when a principal is strolling down the corridor.

    It is no secret that the previous principal contributed to much of the recent failure and behavioral mismanagement at the JGHS campus; even the students would attest to this.

    Why is it that the CI Government applauds, awards, approves and advances obvious failure and inability?

    • Anonymous says:

      Only in Cayman, and only because she is Caymanian, would this lady be rewarded for her poor performance with promotion to Chief Education Officer.

      • Anonymous says:

        @8:49 you can also add possible connections to PPM to their ‘qualifications’?

        There are at least 3 in top jobs now, all related including a sister and brother, all assumed to be good and loyal PPM supporters, too bad their other cousin decided to go for international scandals.

        Bottom line, this is what Cayman has come to, blatant and repeated hiring of political supporters by both parties so no wonder we headed for disaster

    • Anonymous says:

      Another brilliant hire in the civil service ….I am becoming a believer

    • Anonymous says:

      The answer to the question you pose in your last sentence, 4:29, is very simple: because she is a Caymanian.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I wish Mr clark all the very best. We need someone that can connect with our kids. we need to somehow rise to the challenge to meet the needs and changing times of our kids and this new generation. Hopefully he can do that. All the very best.

    • Anonymous says:

      Its great that the school has someone that can connect with the children, but now the bigger problem is who will connect with their parents? The parents and home enviornment is the biggest problem the children are having

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think he’s in for a rude awakening.

    • Anonymous says:

      Essex kids are no walk in the park, he will have seen some crazy things before coming here.

      • Anonymous says:

        But they are a host of angels compared to the feral horde awaiting him.

      • Anonymous says:

        What he will have no experience of is the lack of back up, the poor senior staff, the inability to hold a Caymanian accountable, having no control over teachers appointed to his school, the lack of transparency, the promotion of inept teachers to higher positions and the blame culture. Fix all that and you can begin to address the issues of the children. I get the sense of a good leader but Cayman usually loses good people.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pray and ask God for guidance, that all of the good things can happen and out-weigh the bad.

  11. Realist says:

    Here’s how you can help them.

    Just allow the teaches to take a cowcod to school a beat the bad ones, just like when I was in school.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I wish you well. Everyone else has failed to turn this school around. My advice is to look at all the past reports and you will find that at the heart of many of the problems is senior managers not acknowledging they are part of the problem. Change them and you will see some quick gains.

    • Anonymous says:

      I totally agree. The management of the schools do not have the knowledge or experience, it’s not their fault, they just don’t. Living on a tiny island has it’s disadvantages when it comes to experience. It’s like the blind, leading the blind. Thank goodness there’s somebody now who knows what the hell they are doing. They just need to hire a few more decent principals at few more schools on the island, then the island will be flying high with success. The senior management need to be held accountable for under achieving and if they don’t perform, out with old and in with the new! Simples!

      • Anonymous says:

        Most people do not want to come to Cayman unless they are Jamaican. Word has got out the conditions are poor, you will be treated badly, and and with little regard. This man is about to learn some valuable lessons and I fear he will stay two and go where he js actually wanted.

        • Anonymous says:

          I can tell you it’s not only Jamaicans wanting to come here. It may be that the advertising for jobs should be expanded to other countries instead of solely in Jamaica.

      • Anonymous says:

        It just occured to me, how come the implementation of Performance Management has not improved teaching and leadership? Might there be something wrong with the model?

        • Anonymous says:

          If you are a Caymanian teacher or school manager,7:43, performance management does not apply. Only the “I’m a Caymanian” criterion is important.

          • Anonymous says:

            Parents cannot control their unruly two or three kids so how the hell you expect the schools to control thousands. Once parents start doing their jobs, we will all see improvement. They can start by buying their kids the correct size uniforms instead of allow them to dress like gangsters, taking their own inventory of what they have hiding in their school bags and more importantly please show up for reporting sessions and PTA meetings. So that any lurking problem can be addressed at an early stage.. Usually the only parents who show up are those whose kids are exemplary students. Remember teachers and other education workers also have homes, and probably kids to take care of. They should not be expected to adopt these unruly kids and deprive their own families of their attention. I know some who are so overwhelm with school related problems caused by unruly students that they find themselves working until late in the evenings instead of being able to spend time with their own families. Parents really need to take control of their children and work with the teachers” I wish the new Principal all the best. Blessings on you Mr. Clark

        • Anonymous says:

          Performance management is only as good as those implementing it. Its a tick box approach with has very little bearing on the quality of your work. In truth its obvious it is not working otherwise half the workforce would have gone by now.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not every teacher is capable. That’s a serious problem.

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