If education management was ever an event, Jamaica has found another Usain Bolt-like character. For those who don’t know his name, it is Rayon Simpson; he is the former principal of Belmont Academy and he is about to complete his first year of managing his third education provision. He has already set his sight on achieving big things at his new school.
The first provision he managed was a HEART/NTA institution; his second provision was Belmont Academy in Westmoreland and he has recently landed the principal Job at his alma mater, St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS).
Principal Simpson is very passionate about education and despite the challenges the system faces, he powers through with bold innovative ideas that have a significant impact wherever he goes.
When Principal Simpson started at Belmont Academy in 2012, approximately 16% of the students left having achieved 5 or more subjects inclusive of Mathematics and/or English. When he left in December of 2016 to take up his new role at STATHS, 93% of students at Belmont Academy left having achieved 5 or more subjects inclusive of Mathematics and/or English.
Principal Simpson, who is one of the most creative and innovative educators currently in education in Jamaica, credits a programme he developed at Belmont Academy based on peer-mentoring for a significant portion of his success. Principal Simpson wants as many schools across the country to adopt the model and has made a decision to partner with Educate Jamaica and Trevor Bowes to get this done. The initiative is being called Peer-to-Peer Academy.
Principal Simpson says he became a teacher because of the wonderful teachers he had and made a conscious decision to give back to the students of Jamaica. Principal Simpson believes education should never be a choice between academics or technical areas and argues that a synchronised combination of the two is what he constitutes as a perfect wholesome education for a student.
He points to teacher quality and teacher development, along with student leaders who are able to support their peers as contributors to his success. Principal Simpson strongly believes that peer-to-peer mentorship is a key component that can move institutions forward.
He has a vision for STATHS to become a self-sustaining school at some point in the near future as well as 60% of students leaving the school with 5 or more subjects including Mathematics and/or English within the next 4 years. HE has dubbed this goal ‘60 in 60’ because he wants to achieve the 60% mark in time for the school’s 60th Anniversary.
In a conversation with Principal Simpson, we spoke about the challenge of shifting the section of society and parent community that has a negative perception of the word technical & technical schools. He says he is focused on rebranding and changing the negative perception to positive.
With a few months remain for the completion of his first year at STATHS, he says he is already seeing positive results in regards to his endeavour to add value to the school. So far he has seen a positive shift in attendance and punctuality; he is seeing increased support and commitment from the stakeholder groups.