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Here comes the dean

The Ministry of Education will in September 2009 formally implement in all local high schools the position of dean of discipline, a role already existing in some schools and which will now be required for all such institutions.

There are 145 high schools island wide. Advertisements were sent out on Sunday August 2 for 86 deans of discipline.

According to Corrine Duffus, public relations officer at the Ministry of Education, come September, the dean will not teach at all, but will carry a portfolio which completely reflects the demand of maintaining discipline in the schools.

The job title remains 'dean of discipline' and the stated purpose is to "ensure the overall security safety and well being of students and staff," Duffus said.

The minimum qualification required is a first degree with emphasis on any of the following: supervision, psychology, counselling psychology or social work.

Albert Corcha, principal of Tarrant High School in St Andrew - one of the institutions where the disciplinary programme was incubated for the last seven years - states that the officer and programmes falling there under have impacted the student and staff population positively.

excellent result

"We allowed the dean more room and time to deal with cases on an individual basis, interact with parents and speak with persons within the community about what was needed to maintain discipline. The results have been excellent."

Duffus notes that for the deans currently being recruited, experience in teaching and management at the secondary level will be an asset. The officer will report to the principal and his or her key responsibilities will include liaising with outside agencies for the advancement of discipline in the schools, convening scheduled meetings with guidance counsellors and principals to discuss individual cases and the well-being of the student body, reporting on investigations of offences committed by students and reporting on implemented programmes to address undisciplined behaviour among students in school, among others.

Performance standards for deans will include the establishment of incidence management team, establishment of a disciplinary committee, reductions of incidences of indiscipline in school and reductions in the cases of suspension and expulsion.

Sharon Wright, dean of discipline at Tarrant for the last seven years, notes that her first year was quite difficult as the level of discipline at Tarrant High was "very bad".

She notes, "The school had a name because of it. We had many difficult children who were challenged. They were accustomed to doing what they liked."

She notes as well, "There were teachers who were unable to teach and unable to maintain discipline because of the amount of problems. The vice principal's office was overwhelmed with problems."

Principal Corcha notes, "We integrated the parents in our programme of discipline, sometimes going to homes to sit and talk. When the students realise that teacherswere so interested in their welfare and not just aiming to run them away they changed in behaviour."

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