Aug 16, 2007

How a Principal Redesigned Our (Formerly) Lousy High School

This is the story of how a young principal named Imelda Penecilla-Macaspac worked against the odds and revived our ailing high school. I am a graduate of a public school called Pampanga High School (PHS), formerly called Jose Abad Santos HS (JASHS) in Pampanga. I owe a lot to this school -- it gave me a scholarship and a good academic preparation for college. It's where I honed my skills in writing and science.

I visited PHS last 11 August and what I saw touched and inspired me. What's really interesting is how the current principal revived the ailing school from a state of disrepair. If you have time, kindly read on.

When I was studying in PHS, the school was in a bad state of disrepair for lack of funds. We had old, rusty lab equipment and the grounds were always underwater on rainy season. We never used the foul toilets ( I once tried to get in and kept gagging at the smell and sight).

I remember dubbing our canteen the "Floating Cusina" because it was forever submerged in water. We had to carefully step on benches to reach it. We lacked classrooms and had to attend classes under mango trees, literally. Imagine that picture and then imagine things getting worst.

When Pinatubo exploded, it caused great floods in our whole town of San Fernando. Since our HS was on low ground, the flood never really left the school. Buildings decayed. Some were unusable. One time, the floor caved in -- while a class was going on!

The current principal, Mrs. Imelda Macaspac, took over with this huge problem. She was my batchmate and I am thankful she took over. She tapped the alumni association, who responded by donating funds to rebuild the school.

They started by filling the grounds with sand, to stop the floods. Then she got funds to rebuild the buildings. She demolished the old unusable toilets and asked some contractors to invest in two pay toilets. The agreement: contractors can operate the pay toilets for 15 years, after which they would turn over the toilets to the school.

She rebuilt the old unused canteen and built another canteen in the school grounds, operated by the cooperative. The school gets 20% of the profits, half of which goes to a feeding program for undernourished students. She also started a reading clinic for freshmen who (mysteriously) passed grade 6 but could not read (as in reading compre is zero!) and she noted the schools from which these students came from and notified DepEd about it.

She was able to get internet connection and set up a computer laboratory with classes on computer repair and programming. This way, she can accept donations of faulty computers and laptops which go to the computer repair class. Broken armchairs can be repaired by the welding class, and she got a tie-up with a welding company to hire students from the welding shop.

She also set up caregiver, cosmetology and spa courses under the same principle that she set up the welding and computer courses -- most of the students will not have a chance to get to college, so might as well let them learn a trade here.

I will be posting old and new photos later.

PHS needs donations in terms of books, computers, arm chairs and cash. They also welcome volunteer services, and I have volunteered to give them leadership workshops (for teachers and student leaders) and workshops on layouting for the school organ. It would also help if we can get them featured in a show or a newspaper writeup (especially since it will be celebrating it's 100th year soon). If you are interested to help, please email me through rubencanlas(at)gmail(dot)com.


Anonymous said...

Ben-C: thanks for this write-up. forwarded it my HS yahoogroup. was actually hearing a lot of good things about the way Aching Imelda was running the school. -- Doby

ben c. said...

Doby, sige please help spread the word. Medyo shy si Imelda sa publicity but I think we will gain if we share PHS's experience.

First, kailangang ma-recognize si Imelda for her achievement and the people who helped her. Second, sharing this success story will help draw more support. Third, sharing will help other schools in the same predicament to realize that it can be done, the way PHS and Imelda did it!