CedarBridge celebrates 20 years
CedarBridge Academy has notched up 20 years since it opened its doors as the biggest school the island had ever seen.
The secondary school opened in new buildings in Prospect in 1997 and was dubbed the “mega school”.
The school faced criticism for its size and some doubted it could replace smaller community schools — but it evolved to become “a centre of excellence”.
Dellwood Middle School principal Tina Duke, a former CedarBridge English teacher and instructional leader in learning support, worked at the school for 15 years.
She credited the school and principal Kalmar Richards for much of her professional development and said she was very emotional when she left in 2012.
Ms Duke said: “I can credit my greatest professional growth to CedarBridge under Ms Richards’s leadership.
“I loved it — my first year out of CedarBridge I would cry almost every day because I just really missed it.
“I loved the camaraderie, being with people who always put children first and the collegial relationships.
“When you are working with someone for 15 years they are family and it was almost like I’d left my family.”
But Ms Duke added: “It had a difficult start — it was the first time that children from all different areas were coming to one school rather than our neighbourhood schools and the place was huge.
“It was the first time we had seen anything like that — we went from having all these small community schools to one big school, so there was definitely an adjustment period.
“There was no preparation for it; they were thrust into it.”
Storm Gibbons, CedarBridge head girl, said: “I want to pursue medicine and they have really guided me when it comes to course selection and choosing colleges and universities.
“The student services department is really good with that. They have that for any career they have courses for. There is a broad course selection. I really like that about CedarBridge and it is tailored for each student.”
Ernest Payette, who had headed a school in Canada, was the first principal and he told students to take pride in their school during an assembly at which then premier Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks made a speech.
Ms Richards replaced Mr Payette as the first Bermudian principal at the school after two years and is still in charge.
The popular principal got the top job after staff launched a petition to back her appointment.
Ms Richards said in a recent interview: “What has been tremendously gratifying and which continues to fuel my passion for education is to see our current students excelling and to see our graduates making notable contributions through careers within the local and global workforce. We are achieving our mission of cultivating Bermuda’s achievers.”
The school’s name was chosen after a competition, with cedar picked as a symbol of the history of Bermuda and bridge to represent the amalgamation of the former five secondary schools.
CedarBridge opened with about 1,100 students and is also home the Ruth Seaton James Centre, a venue for student performances and public events. Ms Duke said: “When Ms Richards became the principal, she clearly set about making us one and she spent her first couple of years making sure that’s what we did.”
Ms Duke said she kept in touch with the school and some of her pupils go to CedarBridge as part of the dual enrolment programme.
She added: “It is an institution of excellence. They have come a long way. They have a lot to celebrate and I am honoured to be a part of their history.”
The school’s motto is “Unity, Understanding, Success”, as well as “Cultivating Bermuda’s Achievers”.
CedarBridge has many successful people associated with it including its former head of library services Shernette Wolffe, who is now Clerk to the Legislature.
Ms Wolffe highlighted the school’s exceptional quiz team which won the national school quiz competition in 2000 for the first time and again the following year.
She said: “Their commitment was unstoppable. CedarBridge Academy continues to be a school of excellence.”
Ms Wolffe also attributed part of her success to Ms Richards. She added: “The important characteristics attributed to Ms Richards are what keeps me grounded and resolute in my current position.”
Mrs Richards’ influence was marked in The Royal Gazette in 2003: “While many head teachers may have hit back, lost their patience or even thrown in the towel, principal Kalmar Richards has remained dignified and strong throughout, instead, choosing to provide a calming influence on the school and its community.
“With her hard line on behaviour, manners, uniform, work ethic and attitude, her well-known phrase ‘students of excellence’ is now becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
CedarBridge has produced doctors, actuaries, accountants, business owners, musicians, actresses, teachers, plumbers, international fighters, painters, nurses and mechanics.
Former CedarBridge maths teacher Necheeka Trott, now a senior lecturer at Bermuda College, said: “Mr Richards provided her staff and students avenues to grow professionally and personally during my time there. CedarBridge provides various avenues to meet the different academic levels of students.”
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