Kingston College President Award winners Neville Prowde (l), Lance Seymour and Clive Barriffe
Dave Myrie had several options when he decided to re-enter the teaching profession as a principal. However, he chose Kingston College because it’s a male institution and many of its students are from some of Jamaica’s challenged communities.
Some 14 months ago, Myrie left the private sector to join KC which was without a principal since August 2010 when Herbert Nelson resigned.
“I was approached by other educational institutions when I decided I was coming back to teaching, but I chose KC because I believe our boys are being marginalized,” Myrie told Share while in Toronto last weekend for the KC Old Boys Association’s (Toronto chapter) 40th annual awards banquet. “That’s the place that I figure I could really make an impact because those are the kids I want to be reaching out to. They need the most help.”
With assistance from the school’s staff and alumni around the world, including Canada, Myrie is on a journey to re-establish KC as a leading educational institution with its students achieving landmark academic and athletic success.
“When you look at the chapter here in Toronto, they are involved in every project we are doing,” he said. “With financial assistance from the Carpenters District Council of Ontario, the chapter shipped $20,000 worth of machinery and tools to our industrial arts department four years ago. This year, the pass rate in our industrial technology classes hovered between 95 and 100 per cent.”
Over the years, the local chapter has raised thousands of dollars for various projects, including the refurbishment of the library and the breakfast and scholarship programs.
Born in England, Myrie attended Bethlehem Teachers College (now Bethlehem Moravian College) and taught in Jamaica for two years before returning to England to pursue educational opportunities. While vacationing in Jamaica in 1999, his father-in-law – former Bethlehem Teachers College president Dr. Randolph Watson – encouraged him to consider teaching on the island.
Not planning to work in Jamaica at the time, Myrie returned to England. A few weeks later, his father-in-law called to say that Wolmers’ was looking for a principal.
A senior special education needs officer with the London Educational Authority at the time, Myrie accepted the job in July 2000 after a second interview in Jamaica.
He spent seven years at Wolmers’ before resigning to join the private sector.
“My reasons for leaving were two-fold,” he said. “I had achieved everything that I set out to do and it was time to get down to the business of providing a roof for my family. I did not see myself doing that as a high school principal at the time.”
Within two years of leaving Wolmers’, Myrie was able to build a home. He spent four years at Hardware & Lumber – a Grace Kennedy subsidiary – rising to the position of deputy chief operating officer, and 18 months at Tastee Patties as general manager.
“I was happy with my time in the private sector, but bottom line is the framework for measuring business performance in that sphere,” he said. “You don’t necessarily see young people’s lives changed by doing that. When I see a young man coming from one of the inner cities who has the odds stacked against him, there is no greater satisfaction for me than helping that individual to stay on track and achieve and in the process become a useful societal member.”
Myrie, who has a Master’s degree in Educational Management, plans to use some business principles to enhance the educational product at KC.
“In order to make the product the best, I have to look at the environment in which it’s delivered or manufactured,” he said. “The school’s infrastructure has to be conducive to the development of that product. The people that are delivering that product are critical and they have to realize that chalk and talk are no longer relevant. They have to look at how our boys learn and that’s mainly by visual, oral and tactile. Failing to address those methodologies mean that you are setting up students to fail. Right now, many students are more technologically advanced than teachers.”
KC is in the process of establishing an online database and management system that will allow students to be assigned e-mail addresses.
“That will allow them to do homework that can be delivered and returned online and parents will have access to monitor their children’s progress,” said Myrie, who is the first vice-president of the Jamaica Paraplegic Association and a director of Racers Track Club that includes Usain Bolt – the world’s fastest man – and Yohan Blake. “At the moment we are doing data transfer to the system that should be up and running by the end of this year.”
Former KC chapter presidents Clive Barriffe, Neville Prowde and Lance Seymour were honoured last Saturday night for their significant contributions.
A former Ajax Soccer Club board member, Barriffe was an outstanding athlete who represented KC in the 110-metre hurdles, the high and long jump events and the 4 x 100-metre relay. The University of Florida graduate and owner of a travel and vacation company won a gold medal in the 4×100- metre hurdles at the 1978 Central American & Caribbean Games in Colombia and a silver medal in the 4×400- metre relay (the team also comprised Bertland Cameron, Colin Bradford and Floyd Brown) at the Commonwealth Games that same year in Edmonton.
A 1958 KC graduate, Prowde was a steel company drafting & design manager, Toronto District School Board technical director and John Brooks Community Foundation scholarship fund president while Seymour – who migrated to Canada in 1988 – is a technology program manager with a large financial institution.
“The person I am today is a direct result of the KC experience,” said Seymour, who was the Toronto chapter president from 2005 to 2010. “I am truly honoured to be recognized for my service in support of my beloved alma mater.”
The chapter also presented the Maurice Macdonald Memorial scholarship to L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute graduate Ebone Davis who is enrolled in York University’s kinesiology & health sciences program. She aspires to be a physiotherapist or occupational therapist.
The scholarship was created to honour the memory of the KC alumnus who passed away four years ago after a lengthy illness.
Established in 1925 by Rev. Percival Gibson, KC has produced many outstanding alumni, including Ontario court judge Eric Lindsay, former West Indies cricketer-turned-TV analyst Michael Holding, former Jamaica consul general in Toronto Stewart Stephenson, lawyer Churchill Neita, mathematician/theoretical biologist Dr. Lloyd Demetrius who is best known for the discovery of the evolutionary entropy concept which is a statistical parameter that characterizes Darwinian fitness in models of the evolution of life history and late Olympian Dr. Lennox Miller.