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School CP - March 2002

Bermuda Sun, Hamilton, 13 March 2002

Quitting school - after 41 years

By Alex O'Reilly


LOOKING through Warwick Academy's yearbook, it is hard to imagine the school was ever for white children only. And chances are, once deputy headmaster Gabriel Rodriguez retires in June, there won't be anyone else who has been around long enough to remember.

Nor will anyone else remember Warwick Academy leading the way, opening its doors to black children two years before Government made integration of the schools law. It was a slow process though, Mr. Rodriguez recalls: It started with just two black students who enrolled the first year, but dropped out soon after. In the second year, three black students applied, and five the following year. Now it is a wholly different picture. "We are a truly integrated school," he said, and probably the only one in Bermuda representing the racial balance of the community. This week Mr. Rodriguez talked to the Bermuda Sun about his memories from 41 years of teaching and school administration in Bermuda. "Are you sure anyone will be interested?" he asks.


When Government moved toward a middle school system, the Board of Governors decided the only way forward was to go private.


While he doesn't comment whether or not he preferred the days when a Warwick Academy education was free, he said the school "served its purpose. We had a large number of students in a very good integrated atmosphere. Many of the people who are in positions of authority are former students."

As well as providing a good education, Warwick Academy has been known for its tough line on discipline. And today it is the only school in Bermuda which still uses corporal punishment.

Although, philosophically, Mr. Rodriguez does not believe in spanking, "I have seen that it has been beneficial. It is very seldom used in the school."

A lot of the discipline, he said, stems back to previous headmaster Dr. Joseph Marshall.

"He had seen what was happening in North America and he wanted to make sure that there were rules in place to overcome the same things here. At first I thought he was going overboard, but as time progressed I realized his rules were very useful. Rules like 'you mustn't speak to people over the fence'... Drugs were becoming more prevalent on the island and we had to protect the students."

Teaching methods have also changed a lot over the years. "It is definitely more of a challenge to make sure that your lessons are interesting and get the children involved."


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