Ellen White in the book Fundamentals of Christian Education page 359 wrote “As long as time shall last, we shall be in need of schools.” These prophetic words, germinated in the parish of Portland, Jamaica West Indies on January 22, 1962 when Portland High School was established at the Port Antonio Seventh-day Adventist Church, 10 Sommers Town Road, Port Antonio. The establishment of the school in Portland was the brain child of Pastor Herbert Fletcher, then Education Director of East Jamaica Conference of Seventh day Adventists. The school threw its doors open on that historic day to 33 eager students and three teachers; namely, Miss E Gregory, Miss B. Gregory and Mrs. Joslyn Clarke.
Pastor L. H. Fletcher was the chief architect in laying the foundation of the school and as a result the Governing Board asked him to serve as the Acting Principal of the school until August of that year, a position he enthusiastically accepted.
When the new school year, began in September 1962 Elder S. G. Campbell assumed the position as Principal with Pastor H. E. Nembhard as Chairman of the School Board. The school grew steadily attracting new students yearly and by December 1965 the school had its first Graduation Exercise under the Principal ship of Mr. Eric Pryce, who also wrote the school song which is still being used today. Mr. Pryce was later succeeded by Mr. Maynard Brown.
The school continued to grow in enrollment under the able principal-ship of Mr. Brown. As a result, the school out-grew the space it occupied in the church, and lands had to be acquired to accommodate the fast growing school. The School Board in its attempt to meet the needs of the school acquired a plot of land from Mrs. Doris Chin located at 16 Rice Piece Road Bound brook, Port Antonio. The school was relocated to its new address in 1969 where it still stands today as a beacon of light. The new location created a whole new atmosphere which became more conducive to learning and contributed to the increase of the school’s population to almost 300.
The rein of responsibility was passed from Mr. M. Brown to Mr. Trevor G. Gardener who took the school to the highest level of enrollment ever experienced by the school at that time. The 310 students now enrolled necessitated further expansion of the school’s plant, and the academic offerings. This expansion included a Science Laboratory, Canteen, a Library, additional classrooms and the introduction of Physical Education in the curriculum.
Mr. Albert V. Mayne subsequently assumed the role of Principal and added the administrative building in 1981. In his quest for higher education Mr. Mayne later migrated which gave rise to the need of an interim Principal, Pastor Errol Thomas Youth and Education Director of East Jamaica Conference who assumed the position and later passed the baton on to Pastor Derek Bignall.
In 1987 Mr. Fitzroy M. Davis, with over fifteen years of experience in denominational work specializing in teacher education, became the next Principal he also continued the tradition of building, creating more classroom space and adding other much needed areas; such as; a computer lab and a well-needed staff room.
Portland High School has enjoyed many successes over these forty-eight (48) years. She continues to mold the life of her students, shaping their mental, physical and spiritual powers for active service in this life and the life to come. The curriculum was developed to maximum efficiency to meet the educational standards, satisfying the requirements of the Ministry of education and the General Conference Accrediting standards. The division of subjects according to career choices was later implemented so that students could choose their subjects based on their career goals.
In 1982, the students were privileged for the first time to write their external examinations in their own centre (the school’s auditorium).
The school continues to experience overwhelming success results in the Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CXC now renamed CSEC) and General Certificate Examination (G C E) External Examinations. As much as 100% passes occur in some subject areas. The debut entrance for students doing GCE Accounts resulted in a 100% passes with credits and distinctions only. Mrs. H. Russell the teacher who successfully tutored the students was greatly applauded.
The annual familiarization tour of the Northern Caribbean University (formerly West Indies College) - now called College Day in the various disciplines continues. Each year approximately 10 – 25% of our graduates choose this institution for tertiary education. To date, Portland High School has graduated over 2000 students. Our past students have distinguished themselves in various fields as they have been making sterling contributions both nationally and internationally.
One excellent record of achievement that has embellished the history of our school was the establishment of a Preparatory School (1994/5). This was made possible by the Portland High School Old Students Association (PHOSA) this school serves as a feeder school for the High School. The Portland Preparatory School as it is named started with 19 students. Mrs. Joyce Clarke, now retired, and Mrs. Monica Knight were the first teachers at the school. This school now has an enrollment of 100 students and boasts exceptionally high results in the Grade Six Achievement Tests (GSAT) each year.
Portland High School now stands as an accredited school by the Department of Education at the General Conference. As outlined in our Mission Statement, the school is committed to providing “Quality Christian Education” in a safe, healthy, Christ-centered environment. Adherence to moral and ethical rules of conduct and Adventist healthy life-style principles yields a positive well balanced atmosphere.
Our aim is to assist in developing moral and spiritual characters based on sound biblical principles; hence our motto is ‘Education for Life’.
This School was established in order that our young may be surrounded by the most favorable circumstances for the formation of characters strong enough to withstand the evils of this world. It is intended to be a “Haven of Refuge” for the sorely tried youth, where their follies will be wisely and patiently dealt with. Therefore in 2002 under the principal-ship of Mr. Fernon Phillips, a memorandum of understanding was drawn up between Portland High School and the Ministry of Education through the Jamaica Independent Schools Association to allow this private institution to accommodate students who have sat the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT) in the All-Age and Junior High Schools. Approximately eight students came to us the following year. The partnership with the government continues where each year the number increases. In September of 2010 not only did the school receive 90 GNAT students but also 52 students who had done the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) from primary and All-Age schools.
Mr. Fernon Phillips, the then principal not only endorsed the agreement but he set about improving and expanding the physical structures of the school to accommodate the various intelligences of the students while inspiring them with principles of truth, obedience, honour, integrity, justice and purity, principles that will make them a positive force for the stability and uplifting of the society.
Our spiritual programmes are built to help students develop a sense of purpose. Every effort is made to select teachers who will feel responsible to God and who will possess a caring attitude for the salvation of the souls of their students, teachers who will impress upon youthful minds the necessity of knowing Christ as their personal Saviour. As the school continues with its emphasis on the spiritual, marked improvement has been seen with an increase in the number of baptisms after each Week of Prayer session held.
Ms Doreen J Morrison, Preacher, Teacher, Administrator, Counselor, Visionary, Proactive, and goal-oriented Principal took the reins of leadership of the school from Mr. Fernon F. Phillips in August 2008. The school recorded yet another female occupying the seat of the Principal. Since then, the school experienced an all time high in student population; 515 in 2010, the highest it has ever been since its inception in 1962.
Ms Morrison also continued the tradition of building, creating more classroom space and adding other much needed areas. The science and computer labs have been renovated, new offices established and the curriculum improved.
Miss Morrison along with her Administrative Staff has great plans for increasing the schools population to approximately 700. There are plans for the building of a multi-purpose auditorium for the schools and the erection of a new preparatory school building within its own secured facilities housing a well equipped play area for the children.
The school desires also to have the entire property properly fenced and the science, foods and computer laboratories fully equipped, the staff room refurbished and a multimedia centre built jointly with an up-to-date resource centre (library).
In keeping with our “Vision Statement” which is to upgrade PHS to a Junior College, the Administration seeks at this time to start a sixth form (Grades 12 & 13) in September 2011 that will meet the needs of students, parents and the constituency as a whole. This will be another of our achievement to embellish the history of our school especially as it will be with the year of our fiftieth anniversary (2012).
The hardships, the struggles, the challenges, the joys, the achievements, the ups and downs are with us always. But amidst them all, we can say To God be the Glory’ we have reached a significant milestone worthy of celebration – 49 years of existence.
Over these many years, Portland High School has been a beacon of light and a bastion of truth for many, who might not have been privileged to get a secondary education or given a second chance.
May God grant her the resilience to keep this beacon aglow for many more years to come.