One last report from my 17 days in La República Dominicana. I am now home after a nice-and-easy flight through Miami this past Wednesday. I'm reflecting some and smiling a lot about my time meeting with Episcopal education leaders and visiting schools. It all seemed to come together on Tuesday as we finished our circuit up north and returned to the capital city. We saw schools with great promise, schools needing attention, great public works projects and a model colegio that the Diocesan schools might emulate. Drive along with us (at least vicariously) as we complete our school visitations in great style.
Representing the Junta de Educacion, our team included Melvina Dinsen (La Presidenta de la Junta), Miguelina Jorge, myself and Charlie Nakash. We came with a checklist that reflected the framework that MINERD (the country's Ministry of Education) will use in checking schools for accreditation. Educators in the US have seen these sorts of documents before - student enrollment, credentials of the teaching staff, number of toilets per student (a factor linked to public health and not-so-much teaching/learning), food services, mission/vision/purpose and progress on transforming the school's programs to meet national standards. I saw my role as consultant/observer; Miguelina asked the questions while Melvina recorded the answers. We presented each principal and rector with a list of recommendations for improvement as we left each school.
We began the day in El Pedregal, a small town adjoining Jarabacoa that's home to the Diocesan church camp. Departure time was early, so we stopped for a cup of coffee and an arepa (a sweet Dominican breakfast treat) at a roadside stand. We circled Santiago and turned due north, driving through an extended construction project that will widen the windy road from the new deep-water port south of Puerto Plata to Santiago and points south.
We drove directly to Colegio Niño Jesús in Montellano and met a true education trendsetter, Madre Ercilia Peralta and her school principal. They have turned-around a languishing school, completing / contemplating extensive renovations and raising enrollment significantly in about a year's time.
We drove along the coast until we reached Puerto Plata and the pre-school at Cristo Rey. The visit was a short one, but we did tour the school and church, as well as having conversations with the school's directora and priest, Padre Raul Guiallas.
One last stop on our way back to the seminary. We pulled off the highway at Bonao, south of Santiago, to check out what we'd heard was an absolutely terrific colegio that could serve as a national model for private school change. Colegio Monsenor Nouel was founded as a private institution and continues under family management. Up-to-date, well-designed, professionally staffed and featuring dynamic leadership, this colegio captivated us and got us thinking about what the "next level" of educational excellence in the DR might look like.