Official opening: New school named Sister Mary Patricia Russell High
By GENEA NOEL
Freeport News Reporter
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham joined the Ministry of Education and other Government leaders yesterday in officially opening and naming the new junior high school on the island yesterday.
The school was named Sister Mary Patricia Russell High School in honour of the late Catholic nun, who was described by officials as a giant in terms of her long years of committed service and contribution to education in Grand Bahama.
A special opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held on the school's grounds, where students showcased their talent in song, dance and step.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Ingraham noted that the government's plans for the school were not as timely as he would have liked and expressed disappointment that the school was not completed; still having only two junior grades.
Nevertheless, Ingraham said he was pleased that two years into the government's third non-consecutive term in office, he was able to join the students to mark the official opening of the school.
"We know that a building is not an education, nor is equipment. Indeed, access to a school building alone will not ensure that education happens," he said.
"Many Bahamians in earlier years received their education with nary a classroom and still succeeded but some did not and many became a part of a large underclass of unskilled and semi-skilled individuals who did not achieve their full potential."
Ingraham said that the government seeks to provide access to modern, well- equipped and staffed schools to enhance opportunities for increased numbers of Bahamian children to achieve and to contribute to their communities and to our country at a level reflecting the best of their ability.
He stated that education and training is what stands be-tween success and failure in the lives of so many of our people today.
Ingraham urged for attendees to decide that they will be committed to education, enlightenment and for making our country the best that it can be.
"I call on parents to reinforce and support the education of their children. Many of you will not have had the opportunities now available to your children to attend a modern, well-equipped school," he said.
"Ensure that your children attend regularly in uniform and on time. Instill in them respect for their teachers, administrators and support teachers in their efforts to mold your children into upright, productive citizens by doing your part to ensure that classroom and homework assignments are completed and completed well."
Ingraham said that education also requires the commitment of dedicated teachers, and encouraged those at the school to build upon their efforts to make the new school a hallmark of excellence for education.
"I want to call on all in this community to join administrators and teachers in ensuring that this new complex is treated with respect as should all public buildings. This is your school; take ownership of it, keep it well and let it reflect you." Ingraham said that the school was named in honour of a woman who made education a cornerstone of her life's work. He also gave an overview of Russell's life as a nun and her teaching career in Grand Bahama.
The record of her life's work reflects good and faithful service to her community in the fields of education, music, religion and youth development, and she was always seeking to make a way for those less fortunate, he said.
"She became an educator and taught at schools in Cat Island and in New Providence, and later served as the Principal of the former St. Vincent de Paul School here on Grand Bahama."
It is his hope, Ingraham said, that students at the school will seek to model their lives after Russell, and thereby live up to high ideals of education, service, respect for others and love of God as espoused by her throughout her life.
The government had initially decided to honour Russell by naming the new subdivision in the Hawksbill area after her.
However with the construction of the new junior high, the government saw the opportunity to bestow a more fitting honour to her memory by naming the school in her honour.
The school opened last year with 16 classrooms; a music laboratory; computer room; administrative offices; restrooms and a staff room; tuck shop; cafeteria; library; bookstore; lunch vendor's building and reception.
At opening, the school accommodated 320 students, 22 teachers; two guidance counsellors; four volunteer teachers and 12 support staff.
Today, the school has a total enrolment of some 590 students; 25 teachers; two volunteer teachers; two guidance counsellors and 14 support staff.
Ingraham pointed out that the tremendous increase in enrolment required the temporary spill-over into four classrooms at the St. George's High School, a situation that the government, he said, hopes to rectify "very soon" with the expansion of additional classrooms.
© 2009 The Freeport News