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Berkeley head is planning for short and long term

Change is coming to the Berkeley Institute, as tomorrow's incoming S1 class will discover on the first day of the new academic year.

The new arrivals will be joined together as an “S1 academy”, under an initiative putting greater focus on the public senior school's younger pupils.

Consolidating the roughly 200 S1 students — who will arrive from five different middle schools — is among the changes stewarded by freshly-appointed acting principal Keisha Douglas and her deputy, Nadia Robinson

Ms Douglas, former president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, started out 19 years ago as Berkeley's youngest teacher. She may spend only this term as the head of school: Berkeley's board of governors continues to seek a full-time successor to former principal Michelle Simmons, who retired in June.

She told The Royal Gazette: “If they find someone else in the interim, I'll be more than happy to work with them and do my utmost as deputy. But while I'm in this position, rest assured that everything possible will be done to keep Berkeley in excellent standing.”

Keeping the incoming students to their own advisory groups and locker areas is part of a move at the school to enhance focus on the S1 and S2 students, she explained.

“We have our own goals as well as Ministry of Education goals, and one of them is to build student leadership and academic achievement. To build success in the S1 and S2 programme, with that transition to senior school, we're putting our focus on their success.”

Ms Douglas added: “If you fool around in the first or second year, it's a steep slope to get over later.”

The 40-year-old Acting Principal keeps her classroom skills sharp: as deputy director at the Centre for Talented Youth, Ms Douglas teaches calculus every week.

“I still do lesson plans, still keep in touch with teaching,” she said. “And it's still rewarding — I love every day of it.”

Her goal is to be “the established principal one day”, but in the meantime Ms Douglas meets monthly with the school board.

Parents and teachers remain closely involved in the selection for the next full-time head — which went through the first round over the summer.

“The school is part of the process. But with that said, I don't know who they have in mind,” Ms Douglas said. “I am assuming they are looking to have another principal in place for the first of January.”

With the school reaccredited in April by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, seven years on from its 2006 accreditation, Berkeley is looking ahead to 2020 to develop student leadership, academic achievement, S1 and S2 success and parental involvement.

In the meantime, with her union background, Ms Douglas hopes to bring to the table an awareness of the challenges faced by teachers during a time of economic difficulty and ongoing educational reforms.

“Berkeley is a comprehensive school,” she said. “We don't know if we're going to receive students on Friday whose parents just lost their jobs, or who didn't have breakfast. Whatever happens in the wider community will make its way into this building. We'll weather this storm together.”

The new acting Principal of the Berkeley Institute Keisha Douglas. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 05, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 05, 2013 at 1:15 am)

Berkeley head is planning for short and long term

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