Dr Walton Small is new principal at Hydel as school seeks greater balance between sports and academics

By Sports Desk September 11, 2022
Dr Walton Small Dr Walton Small

Dr Walton Small has been appointed principal of the Hydel High School with the intention of bringing about a greater balance between sports and academics at the St Catherine-based educational institution.

Corey Bennett, the Director of Sports will assume the role of president of the group of schools.

In the off-season, Hydel brought in Devon Anderson to be head football coach along with Trevin Nairne and Damian Howell, with the intention of building the best schoolboy football programme on the island.

But for the school that is already a powerhouse in track and field, there is a need to bring about a change to the school’s profile as a respected academic institution.

Dr Small is seen as the man to lead that transition.

"Ever since the monster COVID threw everybody online, threw students and people outside the classroom, even to this day students have not been interested in academics," Bennett said. "We're trying to build that back with our new board and our new principal, Dr Small, a renowned educator.

"He presents to us a rounded individual, having been president of ISSA and principal of the country's most prominent all-boys institution, so I think he understands the holistic approach to raising students."

Dr Small is excited by the challenge.

"Even though my focus will be on academics, my 12 years as president of ISSA (Inter-Secondary School Sports Association) will also be an asset in tempering the balance between sport and academics," said Dr Small, who was principal of Wolmer’s High School for Boys from 2008 and who led ISSA for 12 beginning in 2007.

"Even though my focus will be on academics, my 12 years as president of ISSA will also be an asset in tempering the balance between sport and academics.

"I'm like a mentor, a guide, to work with the individuals who have been here and to change the profile of the institution. They already have very competent leaders at the high school and prep school. We're celebrating 30 years, so we want to ensure that when the next 30 years have passed, we would have the profile that we really want. Hydel is very well known to the wider Jamaica for its sporting prowess but let me hasten to say that they do well academically as well.

"However, that is kind of subsumed because of sports. When you speak of Hydel you must say scholarly institution. We want to change the profile from mainly sport to mainly academics."

Hydel High has proven to be a solid performer in sports while winning titles in football, including the Walker Cup KO Trophy, track and field, cricket and basketball.

Situated along Mandela Highway, Hydel opened its doors in 1992 under the leadership of Hyacinth Bennett, who had been the principal of Wolmer's Preparatory for 17 years.

As Director of Sports, Bennett drove the school’s sports programmes to new heights. Now, as president, his responsibilities have been broadened to fit the new mandate.

Recalling his mother’s dream for Hydel, Corey said, "She believed in persons, who could normally not matriculate to a traditional high school, to give them a good chance for education, both in terms of academics and sport. She believes in giving a second chance and she believes in the discipline part as much as the education," he said.

That said, Bennett is looking forward to the new Manning Cup campaign as Hydel is returning to the competition for the first time since 2019.

"Our preparation went very well. We didn't enter the Manning Cup last year, so we're basically starting from scratch, Bennett said.

"We'd have a very few players from the past and we're hoping to build a squad. I don't think it's going to be the most competitive squad this year.

"Coach Devon Anderson and Nairne and Howell have been working assiduously not just to get these boys focused on school, but also on being a student first. I must commend them for mentoring the boys and just ensuring that they're okay and ready for school."

He singled out Anderson saying the coach fits the profile because he's a former Dean of Discipline at Holy Trinity High where he enjoyed success.

"Apart from being an excellent coach, he's a father figure to the boys,” Bennett said.

“And even though soft-spoken, he's firm on discipline and that's the type of person we want. He has all the qualities that we want for our boys. We want them (coaches) to be parents and fathers, mentors. Most of the boys are fatherless. He fits that mode.

"Discipline is paramount in building our school in sport and academics. One of the key goals of Dr Small and the Board and the school is to have rounded individuals."

With that in mind, the new principal said that the Hydel board aims to raise the performance at the PEP level and lift the quality of the CAPE scores and CSEC passes.

"We want to ensure that students who come to the institution leave with a minimum of five subjects because that's what is required for tertiary institutions," Dr. Small said.

"There's a dearth of institutions that cater to specialist students. We want to offer special education. And for all the students in St Catherine, this must be the first stop. There is no need for students to leave from here and go to Kingston.

"So that is why we don't want the country to see the institution as just sport. There has to be a balance between quality sport and quality education."

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