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The 2015 Bahamas National High School Track & Field Championships, expected to be bigger and better than ever before, was officially launched at a major press conference at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
This year, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the National Sports Authority (NSA) in conjunction with the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) will stage the high school nationals from March 5-7, at the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. For the first time in its long history, the nationals will have the involvement of all major parties with an invitation extended to all alumni of every high school in The Bahamas.
The Government of The Bahamas is interested in the high school nationals becoming the biggest sporting event in the country every year. As a result, the education and sports ministries will play a major role in promoting this national event. With a lack of meaningful activities for the youth of The Bahamas, the high school nationals will provide an outlet for thousands of student-athletes to get involved in sports.
"We are placing major emphasis on getting the young people involved in sports, and the nationals provide that opportunity because all of the high schools in The Bahamas can participate," said Senator Greg Burrows who heads the committee responsible for the high school nationals this year. "We have made contact with all of the high schools in the Family Islands, as I personally went to see all of them, and they are on board with a renewed enthusiasm. This definitely will be the biggest and best high school track and field championships in years."
Director of Sports in the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture, Tim Munnings, who also attended the press conference, confirmed the government's involvement through his ministry. According to Munnings, the National High School Track & Field Championships is a major event on the ministry's calendar, and they are on board to promote this as a major sporting event for the young people of this country.
"We here at the ministry, especially in my department, we want to ensure the success of this national annual event," said Munnings. "We know that there is so much that can be done, but the involvement of the young people is critical as there is so much crime in our country and we know that this can be a major outlet for them, which will definitely occupy their time. My ministry is fully committed to the success of the nationals and we'll do whatever is required of us."
With the full commitment of the ministries along with the NSA and the BAAA, the 2015 Bahamas National High School Track & Field Championships is extending an open invitation to all graduates of the many high schools in The Bahamas over the last 50 years to support their respective schools.
"We are going to have a major campaign where we get all alumni of the various schools to buy a towel with their school name to support their high school at the championships," said Committee Chairman Senator Burrows. "We believe that we can encourage 'School Pride' back into the former students and this will transcend into 'National Pride'. We have to win back our country and get everyone involved. We need to feel proud of who we are and where we came from, especially our high schools."
In addition to this major sporting event, the committee will recognize and honor nine outstanding high school principals and coaches who have helped the high school nationals over the many years. At a special ceremony to open the high school nationals at the stadium, these honorees will receive an award each. The honorees are Sonja Knowles from St. Augustine's College (SAC), Anita Doherty from Bishop Michael Eldon School in Grand Bahama, Maria Galanis from Central Eleuthera High School, Cynthia Wells from St. Anne's High School, T. Nicole McKay from C.R. Walker High School, James "Jimmy" Clarke from Doris Johnson High School, Herbert Oembler from C.I. Gibson Senior High School, Colin Johnson from R.M. Bailey Senior High School and Rev. Anthony Williams from Moore's Island All-Age School.
Tickets will go on sale for the event at the Box Office at the national stadium in short order. 'School Pride' will be the driving point of the committee as the campaign to build national pride is underway.
NSA executives Leroy Archer, Jeffery Beckles and Anton Sealy expressed their commitment to have the stadium ready for the high school nationals, and look forward to working with the committee and the two ministries.
Mike Sands, president of the BAAA, expressed the association's commitment to helping make this year's event the best ever.
According to Committee Chairman Senator Burrows, there will be regular media updates, and as soon as a major sponsor is committed, they will have a press conference to announce that.
"We are encouraging corporate citizens to jump on board and help sponsor this major event so that we can continue to direct the young people to more positive events in sports," said Senator Burrows. "We need sponsors, supporters, volunteers and everyone who feel they can make a difference in making this the best ever high school nationals."
The committee meets each Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the national stadium.
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - With some $315,000 being spent on repairs to schools in Grand Bahama, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald said yesterday that he is elated at the progress of the projects.
Fitzgerald commended Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who both, he said, have taken on the responsibility to oversee the project.
He noted that this is the first time that early repairs are being carried out at local schools and it is, "something that Grand Bahama should get accustomed to."
Minister Fitzgerald added that students and teachers should also look forward to reform in the educational system, noting that an "announcement" is on the way.
Fitzgerald disclosed that he has been in discussions with the relevant stakeholders, and programs will be approved and implemented that will significantly improve the delivery of education in Grand Bahama.
"We are moving forward in regard to the leadership in Grand Bahama so that the island will have a little bit more autonomy," said Fitzgerald.
Darville, who was among a delegation on a tour of Grand Bahama schools with the education minister, noted that he too was pleased with the level of work being carried out by the contractors.
He revealed that some $315,000 is being spent on repairs to schools in Grand Bahama.
"With the work already in progress we are finding other structural issues with some of the schools," said Darville, who noted that the overseer of the project is scheduled to be in Grand Bahama sometime next week.
He added that following further discussion with him, the next step in terms of tackling the new findings will be decided.
Fitzgerald toured several schools on Thursday, including Walter Parker Primary, Bartlett Hill Primary, Holmes Rock Primary, Hugh Campbell Primary and St. Georges High. He also attended a meeting with parents of the Jack Hayward High School yesterday evening.
The minister's tour continues today with visits to schools on the eastern end of the island.
Four Bahamian students are making waves -- but it's not in academics or sports. The four students of Anatol Rodgers High School are instead making waves in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Brandon Brooks, Delnika Stuart, Christoff Hall and Lakeyia Adderley, four persons that took tourism and hospitality studies at Anatol Rodgers High School, traveled to Orlando, Florida for the eighth annual American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) National Lodging Management Program (LMP) Competition at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort where they were challenged to the real-life work experience in a hotel. The teams of students displayed their proficiency in three contests:
Hotel operations: Students applied their knowledge in a three-part challenge -- room inspections in which students has 10 minutes to find housekeeping cleaning errors in a typical guest room using an executive housekeeping checklist; night audit, in which teams performed financial calculations and manually posted front desk accounting information and case studies in food and beverage and sales and marketing in which students had 15 minutes to prepare solutions to case study scenarios.
The hospitality project: Teams demonstrated their knowledge, skills and abilities in event planning. They were given a scenario that included budget parameters, invitation design, banquet event order, menu and floor plan.
The knowledge bowl: Teams demonstrated their knowledge through a multi-round, question and answer Jeopardy-style quiz.
In all, 12 teams representing schools in Arkansas, The Bahamas, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, DC. and Wyoming participated in the LMP national educational program for high school juniors and seniors. When the final guest room had been checked for housekeeping errors, The Bahamian foursome placed seventh out of the 12 schools that participated. High school hospitality students from Okkodo High School in Guam took home the national title. Second place went to Lakeland High School (Idaho) with students from Mountain View Academy (New Hampshire) taking third spot.
The Bahamian team may not have won, but 17-year-old Lakeyia Adderley says what she liked most about the competition was the creative activities like the knowledge bowl, hospitality project, Jeopardy-style question and answer session and the room inspection.
"We may not have won, but it was great for us as a learning experience," said the tourism and hospitality studies student. "It was also a great chance to promote The Bahamas because there were kids at the competition that didn't even know about our country. I think it is great that we went and represented and saw just what is out there that can make us better in this field in the long run."
The twelfth grade student said, "I am really determined to be a part of this industry now, and I think I am more ready than ever."
Christoff Hall, 17, says prior to the competition he thought he had learnt a lot from the hospitality program, but realizes after the international competition that he's learnt even more.
"It felt good going to the competition especially since you had to be chosen out a lot of students who were really good in the program. We did a lot of fun things and it was amazing," said Hall, who is headboy at Anatol Rodgers school. "What I learnt the most from the new program itself is something I probably would've taken longer to learn had I done it any other way. For instance, although we are a nation dependent on tourism I didn't know much about it. I figured if I did the program I would learn more and see if this is a field I would like to enter and I did. I am now interested in being an executive manager in the tourism field."
Brandon Brooks has no regrets about joining the hospitality and management program, and participating in the international competition. The 17-year-old says the competition was one of the best things he has experienced.
"The program is about the world of tourism and what we can realistically expect should we enter the field. We learned so much in terms of etiquette, professionalism, customer care and management that really prepared us for the field. We went to different hotels and got first-hand experience and saw just how all the levels of the hotel staff operate. My eyes were really opened to the fact that the industry isn't confined to just hotels and restaurants. It is in almost every aspect of our society in which a service and personal interaction is involved. I learnt more than just theory. I got to go out there, meet people and do the work. It was great," said Brooks.
For graduating senior Delnika Stuart, 17, the competition "put the icing on the cake" for her as the program ended. Her biggest regret is that she did not take the program as seriously as she should have when she started out.
She says she now realizes that had she applied herself more and taken full advantage of the opportunities given to her from the start, she wouldn't have been challenged for the top student in the program. But what she has realized now that the program has ended for her as she leaves high school behind is that she is passionate about being a pastry chef and an entrepreneur. She hopes to use the techniques she learnt throughout the course and in the competition to build her own business in the future.
Anatol Rodgers' tourism studies teacher Janelle Cambridge, who traveled with the team to the competition, was proud of the students' accomplishments and hopes to see an increase in the number of Bahamian schools participating in the NLMP competition.
"I think the students did very well as this was their first time in the competition. I hope we go back and place in the top three next time."
She said for her it's not only about being able to go to the competition, but to see how much the students learn and experience. She realizes this will put them ahead of so many others because of the hospitality and management program that's the Ministry of Education initiative. In 2009, the Ministry of Education partnered with the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLE) to certify Bahamian hospitality teachers as instructors to teach the three curriculum. Since the certification, Anatol Rodgers High School is the only school to offer the hospitality and tourism studies as a full program.
"I believe that this program is better than the traditional tourism education or culinary arts programs in high schools now, because it allows students to do more programs than just BahamaHost which is essential in helping students learn interpersonal and problem solving skills and how to deal with customers," says Cambridge. "Students learn so much it is amazing. I do not know if the students would've done so well in the competition had they not been participants in this program and the depth it goes into."
She also said it is important to expose the students to competitions like the AHLEI competition to remind them that there are other countries out there with a tourism product, and as the future of the industry they need to keep on top of everything that is out there.
Cambridge says many people say tourism today is nothing like it was in the days of yesteryear when programs like BahamaHost were successful and entering the industry was an honorable profession and not just another job.
She says most people have had an experience where they didn't get the kind of service they thought they should have at a tourism-based establishment and often wonder just what went wrong in the training of the staff they met. Cambridge says implementing programs like tourism and hospitality studies (for) students while they are young and more pliable to set the right foundation is the best way to improve the quality of this vital industry.
She hopes more schools establish the whole program as a normal curriculum in the future because she has found great success and sees the potential it will have for the other students who may be interested in the field. In the first year, students interested in the program can expect to participate in the Junior Hotelier Program, a 10-week curriculum that allows students to explore the possibilities in careers in hospitality and meet industry professionals to learn firsthand about the industry.
Cambridge says this method is better than just reading about what is out there and having a guest speaker come in for one or two classes because it ends up being more engaging and important questions can be answered on the spot.
Students also participate in CaribCert, a regional certification program from the Caribbean Hotel Association that gets students to fully understand the core essentials of tourism industry including sustainable tourism, professionalism, health and safety, customer service and other things.
Senior students in the program will have completed the 320 hours in the full program inclusive of the 120-hour internship necessary to be certified in different tourism disciplines of their choosing such as rooms division specialists, food and beverage server, sales and marketing, maintenance employee and front desk employee.
Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said on Monday that all public schools are on "alert" after the scabies outbreak in at least five schools, including two on Andros.
While education and health officials have contained the outbreak, Fitzgerald noted that more cases could pop up.
"We have all of our schools on alert now for any signs to bring it to our attention quickly," Fitzgerald said. "We are now working very closely with the Ministry of Health and the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA)."
In the last two weeks there have been outbreaks of the skin infection at T.A. Thompson Junior High School, D.W. Davis Junior High School, Woodcock Primary School, North Andros High School and Mastic Point Primary School.
In the case of the Andros schools, Fitzgerald said the students diagnosed with scabies are siblings.
"We are watching it closely," Fitzgerald said speaking generally. "We are just trying to stay on top of it."
Fewer than 10 students were diagnosed with scabies.
Fitzgerald said the outbreak could have been worse had it not been for the quick work of health officials.
"They really responded extremely quickly," he said. "They tested students and advised us on what needs to be done in order to control the further spreading of it.
"I think because of the quick response and the seriousness with which it was taken, I think we were able to contain it to a great extent and screen hundreds of kids."
Fitzgerald said this recent outbreak is not the first of its kind and will not be the last.
"When you look at where these start, these don't start in the school. They start in the home. So it's really the environment that the kids come from and so it's an educational process as well," he said.
"We're trying to educate the parents so they can understand what causes [scabies] so that they can prevent it but once it comes into the school then we have to address it.
"But the key is we are able to respond quickly whenever it does happen."
Scabies is a contagious skin infection that spreads rapidly in crowded conditions and is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, according to the World Health Organization.
The disease causes severe itching and is commonly transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.
All of the schools that were previously identified have been sanitized, Fitzgerald said.
A contractor who got several school repair contracts this summer acknowledged yesterday that he campaigned for Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald, and that he also has a pending drug matter before the courts.
But Carlos Lamm of JFK Construction told The Nassau Guardian that he is an honest contractor who does good work, and never received any contracts under the previous administration.
"My money can empower young, black people," Lamm said.
Lamm, 43, confirmed that he was charged about four years ago and returns to court next month. The Nassau Guardian understands a decision is expected to be handed down at that time.
According to court records, he was charged with possession of three-and-a-half pounds of marijuana with the intent to supply.
But Lamm has maintained his innocence and suggested yesterday this has nothing to do with the fact that he received school repair contracts.
Asked if he has campaigned for Fitzgerald, he said, "When he called upon me."
He said his company has existed for more than 20 years, long before he knew Fitzgerald.
Referring to the former
administration, Lamm said, "They tried to keep me out of progressing."
The Guardian contacted Lamm after former Minister of Education Desmond Bannister raised the matter in the Senate yesterday through a series of questions.
Bannister asked Government Leader in the Senate Allyson Maynard-Gibson to inform the upper chamber whether any of the school repair contracts were issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- this summer.
He questioned whether a contract was issued to JFK Construction for repairs at C. I. Gibson Senior High School in the amount of $49,000; repairs to Claridge Primary in the amount of $49,000 and Mable Walker Primary School in the amount of $40,085.98.
A government minister must get Cabinet approval for any contract exceeding $50,000.
"Will the honorable leader of government business inform this honorable Senate whether it is accurate to say that contracts issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- during the summer of 2012 exceeded $138,000 in total?" Bannister asked.
He also asked: "Will the honorable leader of government business confirm for this honorable Senate that neither Tender Board approval nor Cabinet approval had been obtained for the issuance of contracts exceeding $138,000 to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- prior to their issuance?"
Additionally, Bannister asked whether Gibson could confirm that no other person was issued school repair contracts "exceeding the consideration of the said contracts issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm".
Bannister's 13th of 16 questions in relation to this matter was, "Will the honorable leader of government business confirm for this honorable Senate that the said Carlos Lamm had been charged with offenses contrary to the Dangerous Drugs Act, prior to the time that the said contracts were issued to JFK Construction -- Carlos Lamm -- and that the said charges were still before the courts at the time that the said contracts were issued?"
He also asked whether other school repair contracts were issued for as little as $1,869.66 while Lamm's company received contracts exceeding $138,000.
Bannister also asked whether any school repair contracts were issued to public officers to repair public schools.
Additionally, he questioned whether notwithstanding these difficult recessionary times, some contractors were issued multiple school repair contracts to the exclusion of some other contractors who had previously completed summer repair contracts.
Lamm told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that he hired 13 people to carry out the repairs. He said he paid skilled workers $100 a day and other laborers $70 a day.
He also said he is from Marathon and Fitzgerald is doing a lot of good in that constituency.
When asked yesterday whether there is any rule or law that prevents someone charged with a criminal offense from receiving a government contract, a former minister of the last Ingraham administration said, "There's nothing that would cause a minister to know a contractor has a matter before the courts."
The former minister also explained that contracts valued at $50,000 or more that have to go to tender require a "pretty rigid means test" and it is at that time that such discoveries would likely be made.
"If there was a public notice of a charge then prudence would require the minister to take a step back," said the former minister, who did not want to be named.
The issue of the awarding of school contracts was also raised recently in the House of Assembly by Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
But Fitzgerald shot back last week in the House, confirming that he has no shares in JFK Construction.
He informed that the Ministry of Education will spend $3.3 million on repairs in New Providence.
Fitzgerald advised that those contracts were given to 74 contractors, 50 of whom had not received any work from the ministry in the past five years, and 20 had never received work from the ministry before.
"We at the ministry are proud that we were able to spread the work around and empower small contractors," he said.
"We estimate that the $4.5 million spent on repairs throughout The Bahamas created some 800 jobs over the summer."
Fitzgerald informed that of the 12 contracts awarded for repairs to the four schools in his constituency (Marathon) -- Claridge Primary, C. I. Gibson, L. W. Young and R. M. Bailey schools -- JFK Construction received three contracts.
"They were not the only contractor to receive three contracts as the scope of works in some schools were divided into three and four contracts," he said, adding that no company received more than three contracts.
"...I will not apologize to anyone for awarding contracts for school repairs in my constituency to contractors in my constituency. It would not be wise for me to do otherwise. Who else should I award them to?"
Fitzgerald also said last week, "It is unfortunate that after all the hard work my team at the ministry put in to ensure that school repairs got started earlier than any other time in recent memory, [Minnis] did not find it fitting to commend me and my team.
"Instead, he took a page out of his party's nasty, dirty handbook where they just dirty up anyone's name talking foolishness, even when they know better. It's just politics to them."
Fitzgerald could not be reached yesterday for further comment. He was reportedly out of the country.
In the United States, home-schooling has grown from nearly extinct in the 1970s to approximately 2 million school-age students, according to reports -- as parents dissatisfied with the public school system turned to the appeal of schooling their children themselves at home. In The Bahamas the lure of home-schooling children has also taken hold...
It was as if the good Lord himself wept on a sad day in the Catholic education system as the gates to two primary schools were officially closed after 153 collective years of educating the nation's youth. Because of the falling rain, the symbolic closing of the gates to the campuses of Our Ladys of the Holy Souls School and St. Bede's Catholic Primary School were canceled.
"It almost compares to the death of a loved one," said Renee Mortimer, the final principal at Our Ladys, located at Young and Deveaux Streets, of the school's closure after 86 years on Friday, June 14.
Mortimer said she was saddest for her students in Pre-K and fifth grade who were looking forward to graduating from the school but now won't get that opportunity.
When she took over in 2010, the enrollment at Our Lady's was 250 students. At the gate's final closure it was 205. At its maximum, Our Lady's School could accommodate 400 students. The fees were $850 per term.
"It's bittersweet because I can compare it to a funeral. "It's difficult ... you see the trophies and have to pack them away. I'm very sad that the school closed under my watch," said the principal of three years. She hopes that a place will be found to showcase the trophies that the school has won over its 86-year history.
Mortimer will be placed in one of the four Catholic Schools for the new school year in September. She does not know which one as yet, but she has been at all of them so far except for Xavier's Lower School. She started out teaching fifth grade at St. Francis/St. Joseph, then served as vice principal at St. Cecilia's School, then principal at Our Lady's.
St. Bede's Principal, Sister Marva Coakley, said she was saddened and had deep regrets about the closure of the school at Sutton Street that had a 67-year history. The principal of six years said she had to face reality and knew how to do it.
"I'm just trying to focus my mind on all the positive contributions and accomplishments that we have made over the 67-years," said Sister Marva of the school that also closed on Friday, June 14. "When you look at it, [St. Bede's] was always the smallest school, and in an area where those people of means did not want their children to go ... not because they thought it was a bad school, but because of fear of the location, and I must tell you that I can boast of our accomplishments and every year, our school, even before my time and during my time, has always participated in national events, and we have always stood with the best, and won on the national level."
Since she took over the school Sister Marva said enrollment had been declining due to the downturn in the economy. She went in with the enrollment at 185. At the gate's final closure it was 114. At its maximum, St. Bede's School could accommodate 250 students. Its fees were $785 per term, one of the lowest in the Catholic School system. Despite this, Sister Marva said many people still found it hard to make the payments, and that the hardest challenge she had while at the school was collecting fees in a timely fashion.
"There are some things that you can't worry about if you can't change it and to be fair to Archbishop [Patrick] Pinder and the Catholic Board of Education, they have been carrying us for a long time -- even before my time," she said.
With teachers becoming more qualified, and having to be paid for being educated up to the master's degree level rather than just having their teaching certificates, Sister Marva said having a teacher with a master's
degree teach a class of 11 children did not economically add up.
"The Catholic Education board has carried us for a long time, and even with the subsidies from the Ministry of Education, there was always a constant struggle. It was like taking from Peter to pay Paul."
But she says she takes beautiful memories away with her.
"The biggest thing about St. Bede's School was that it was a family school. We had people who graduated and then had their children come and their children's children. We had a whole yard full of children from one family," she said.
This week, both Sister Marva and Mortimer are packing up their schools. Sister Marva said she has found herself getting teary-eyed as she does it. But she's also thankful for the eleventh and twelfth grade students from Aquinas College who are helping them to pack and clean up during their community service hours.
Some of St. Bede's School's many trophies will be placed in a showcase in the St. Bede's Church hall, which will not be closing. The school's banner will also remain in the church hall to allow for some sort of presence as many of the children that attended the school, also attend the church.
Come September, Sister Marva will be at St. Francis Joseph on the administrative team under principal Jacintha Goffe.
The Honourable T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education Mrs. Elma Garraway, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education; Mr. Lionel Sands, Director of Education Mr. Julian Anderson, District Superintendent, Mrs. Myrtle McPhee, Principal, Anatol Rodgers High School Other Ministry of Education Officials and Officers: The family of the late Mrs. Anatol Rodgers School Board Members and P.T.A. Officers Staff and Students; Ladies and gentlemen, Good Morning. I am pleased to be here this morning for the official opening of the Anatol Rodgers High School. It was shortly after the school opened its doors in September, 2008 that the Government agreed to rename it in honour of Anatol Rodgers. We believed that this outstanding educator was due to have this modern state-of-the art edifice named in her honour.
The community-minded and public-spirited Oprah Winfrey often speaks of keeping a Gratitude Journal; an old idea which she made popular on her primetime daily show. The idea speaks to the importance of acknowledging those for whom we owe our gratitude.