EDITORIAL – Giving school communities the tools to succeed

Government school inspectors have issued their latest report on Clifton Hunter High School. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“When you think about where the rubber hits the road, it’s ultimately that experience between the teacher and the student in the classroom. If you take the decision-making too far away, what happens is it gets delayed.”
– Education Council Chairman Dan Scott

As we have written, thorough and rigorous school inspections are an important tool in our islands’ ongoing efforts to guarantee access to excellent education for all our youth. Giving school leaders the authority to make necessary changes and improvements will be just as monumental a change.

As the Compass reported last week, education officials intend to create school councils and bestow them with some of the decision-making powers that now rest with the Ministry of Education and Department of Education Services, including decisions on how best to address deficiencies identified by school inspectors.

As Premier Alden McLaughlin said in his recent strategic policy statement to the Legislative Assembly “Maybe, just maybe, it is not the good people in the Department of Education, many of whom rarely set foot inside a classroom, who are best placed to make decisions about what happens in those classrooms.”

Education Council Chairman Dan Scott told the Compass that many details are still being worked out, but that the goal of the councils will be to give stakeholders a direct say in many school decisions. Naturally, these councils will have to be carefully calibrated and composed.

Still, in broad outlines, we feel it is an excellent idea. Rather than waiting for permission from the Department of Education, school communities will be empowered to make significant changes and improvements, speeding up the process.

Establishing governing bodies for our public schools will help engage families, teachers and community members who are directly invested in our students’ success, giving them a stronger voice in decisions. On both symbolic and practical levels, it will empower the community to drive school success, recognising that teachers, parents and school administrators often know best what it will take for a school to thrive.

Cayman’s future prosperity depends on highly effective government schools that hold students to high standards of literacy, numeracy and critical thinking. These fundamental competencies are the lynchpin not only to an individual’s professional and personal success, but also the key to developing the skilled workforce upon which our islands’ economy relies.

In a global economy, our young people must be competitive not only with their classmates, but with their peers around the world. An excellent education opens doors to opportunity that they would otherwise be denied.

Indeed, it is perhaps our greatest duty as a society to make sure that all students have access to an excellent education.

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  1. The last thing schools need are an additional layer of bureaucracy.

    It’s very easy for schools to become top heavy. The litmus test should always be, ‘If you are not a teacher, then why do we need you?’ This way resources are directed into the classroom, not into a bloated administrative level.

    The Cayman Islands school system is not a big system by world standards. One competent Superintendent (with appropriate staffing) could easily manage all the schools. The curriculum needs from one island to the next or one school to the next do not vary in Cayman the way they do in other large cities or countries.

    The key is to hire a seasoned, competent educator as Superintendent, then task the Superintendent with hiring top notch school principals. The reality of education is that principals are your most important hire. It’s the school principal who establishes and builds the school culture. If you want great schools, then bring on board great principals. Conversely, if a school is not great, then making a change at the principal level should be strongly considered.