EDITORIAL – New leadership at John Gray: A matter of principal

“Welcome to our new Principal, Mr. Clarke!”
— John Gray High School Facebook page, Feb. 24

So read the “official” announcement of one of the most significant developments in Cayman Islands education to occur in many months … via a photo on the Facebook page of John Gray High School, accompanied by a seven-word caption — including one spelling error. (The new principal’s name is actually Jonathan Clark.)

First things first: Principal Clark, welcome to Cayman. We’re sure you’ll discover that your assignment at John Gray contains challenges and opportunities in equally formidable measure. We wish you the best, and share with you our hopeful expectations for the futures of our Caymanian students.

In our estimation, being principal at John Gray is among the most important positions in our country’s public education system, second only, perhaps, to chief education officer in the Ministry of Education.

Speaking of whom … One of our reporters has been tracking Mr. Clark’s recruitment and hiring for the past several months, starting a correspondence with Acting Chief Education Officer Lyneth Monteith on the issue as far back as mid-December, repeatedly requesting interviews and confirmation of his arrival.

Ms. Monteith — who herself was principal of John Gray until last year — staved off our journalist, using excuses such as hectic holidays and an impending press release. Mr. Clark (previously an educator in the United Kingdom) started his new job on Feb. 24, without the amount of fanfare, ceremony and public scrutiny the position warrants. (Thursday afternoon, after notifying the ministry the Compass would be publishing a story, we finally received five-paragraph statement on Mr. Clark’s appointment.)

Keep the following in mind: The government’s centralized public relations apparatus has approximately three dozen employees and an annual budget of more than $2 million. Each year, Government Information Services, Radio Cayman and CIG-TV 20 disseminate hundreds of press releases, broadcast tens of thousands of news items, make thousands of public service announcements and produce several distinct recurring programs. (That doesn’t count PR and communications professionals within the various individual government entities.)

The Compass email server is crammed with GIS press releases that are, in terms of substance, the journalistic equivalent of eiderdown. And yet, when it comes time to send out a piece of real news with real heft, our in-basket is empty. Who made the determination that the appointment of a new head for Cayman’s largest and most-troubled public school constitutes neither “government” nor “information?”

But back to the matter at hand. Even if the government isn’t ready to welcome officially Principal Clark to Cayman, we certainly are. Mr. Clark, the Compass is a pro-education publication. We offer you our full support in your mission to nurture the minds of our young people. Any time you would like to share your thoughts or observations on our children’s progress or the state of our education system, call us. Our pages are open to you — just as they are to any person or initiative that pulls in that direction.

Again, Principal Clark, welcome to Cayman. We’re pleased you’re here, and we wish you all the best.