John Gray High School will have a new principal, seconded from Jamaica, in the new year.
Aldin Bellinfantie, 52, takes up his post at the school on 4 January, Mary Rodrigues, the Chief Education Officer in the ministry said.
‘Mr. Bellifante is an experienced and well rounded educator, with 31 years of practical experience in education,’ she said.
Mr. Bellinfantie is currently principal of Irwin High School in Montego Bay in Jamaica. HHe has served as an adviser to the Jamaican Ministry of Education, as a teacher of mathematics at secondary level and as a lecturer in mathematics, statistics, finance and economics at the tertiary level.
He will take over from acting principal Alan Hewitt at John Gray.
Mrs. Rodrigues denied a report that appeared last week in the Jamaica Gleaner that Mr. Bellinfantie was being brought to Cayman to lead educational reform here.
‘[H]e will be responsible for the professional leadership and management of John Gray High School, to establish a culture of high expectations and ensure a high-quality education is provided for all students at this school.
‘In so doing, his efforts will align with and complement the policies and work of the Department of Education Services and Ministry, to raise educational standards and improve the quality of teaching and learning within our education system,’ she said.
The new principal is being seconded from the Ministry of Education in Jamaica for 18 months.
Mr. Bellinfantie, a father of two, has been principal of Irwin High School since it opened in 2004. Since then, Irwin has risen to become the sixth best performing school in western Jamaica, he said.
He admitted leaving Irwin at a time when it was striving to become a ‘school of excellence’ was difficult.
‘It’s like my baby. It’s heart wrenching to leave it at this time,’ said Mr. Bellanfantie in a telephone interview with the Caymanian Compass on Friday.
He said he spent two days in Cayman doing interviews and meeting with education officials and familiarising himself with the school.
During that visit, several people had told him of disciplinary and security issues at John Gray, he admitted.
‘Some people asked if I knew what I was letting myself in for, but I’m ready for the challenge,’ he said.
Most recently, John Gray was the scene of a stabbing when one female student stabbed another in the chest.
Mr. Bellinfantie said ministry staff had made him aware of the challenges he would face at the school.
‘I am not coming into something blindly,’ he said.
Irwin High School has a Social Inclusion Committee that looks at students’ backgrounds and situations to determine why children misbehave or are disruptive.
‘Irwin High School is a school in the government programme which built several new schools in western Jamaica from 2004 to 2007. It was the first to open in 2004. I took that on, I took on that challenge and I said I was going to make this school into a school of choice within five years.
‘The Chief Education Officer told me, within three years, that of the 27 high schools within the region of western Jamaica, only five schools are ahead of us in terms of grades,’ he said.
‘I’ve taken on challenges before, and here is another challenge,’ he said of his new role Grand Cayman where he said he would work with the students, staff and community.
‘Coming to Grand Cayman, I feel I am coming to learn. You are going through a transformation process. Jamaica also has a education transformation programme,’ he said, but added Jamaica did not always have the resources to see its educational reform ideas to fruition.
Mr. Bellinfantie worked on the Jamaica All Age Schools Project which ran for three years between 2000 and 2003, benefitting children and communities in the most disadvantaged, remote rural areas of Jamaica.
He also worked in the UK educational system for several years and said he believed he could bring some of the ideas and approaches used in both the Jamaican and British system to his new post.