MRS ANGELITA ARNOLD
In 1976 the Ministry of Education mandated Mico College to prepare teachers for the Special Education Sector, which in 1975 had become part of the public system of education through the policy of free education. Through an Advisory Committee established by the College, and comprised of leaders who previously provided Special Education through private means, it was determined that there were several other needs in the Special Education Sector that had to be address in addition to teacher preparation. These included diagnostic and therapeutic services for children with multiply challenges, the necessity to prepare Special Education teachers in a clinical setting and the need to establish Special Education Units in primary schools.
At that time only parents of significant means could afford to send their children with multiple challenges abroad for assessment and care. While some of their Special Education needs were met overseas these children had to cope with separation from their families as well as culture shock. In addition, the country lost the foreign exchange that the parents had to provide for their children. Then again children with multiple challenges from families of modest means were almost totally neglected or served very inadequately.
With respect to the first two needs the Government of the Netherlands, the Ministry of Education and the College came to agreement that the answer was the establishment of a Diagnostic and Therapeutic Centre, later named the Mico Child Assessment and Research in Education (CARE) Centre which would provide the clinical setting for the preparation of teachers for Special Education. The Mico would provide the land; the Government of the Netherlands would fund the building of the Centre and its operation for five years on a decreasing basis; after which the Government of Jamaica would assume full responsibility for the financing of its operation.
However, there was no prototype of such a Centre in Holland, the Caribbean or Jamaica. The worldwide pattern was for assessment of the various disabilities to be carried out in centres dedicated to single disabilities: blindness, hearing and speech disorders, mental challenges, physical challenges, learning disabilities, etc. Further, the clinical approach that was routinely employed in the preparation of health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, had never been used in teacher preparation.
The establishment of the Mico CARE Centre was a venture into the unknown locally, regionally and internationally. Its establishment required a technical team comprised of a clinical psychologist, special educator, hearing and speech specialist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and social worker and an administrative team that would make the centre work effectively for the children and parents it would serve and function efficiently with respect to teacher education programme in Special Education in the College.
The post of Administrator of the CARE Centre was advertised. In the short list of applicants were four men with Master’s degrees and a female teacher in her mid-twenties. The defining difference was that the four men had a wealth of experience in administering established entities while the young female had been successful in implementing the new idea of the then Ministry of Social Services and Community Development to create Centres serving underprivileged youth in inner city communities.
Mrs. Angelita Arnold was impressive in her interview as she explained how she had gone about establishing the centre in Central Kingston in circumstances where there had been no precedent to follow. After a long discussion that followed the five interviews, the Board asked me for my recommendation. My unequivocal recommendation was to appoint Mrs. Angelita Arnold as the Administrator of the Mico CARE Centre. The men were better qualified academically but their experience was in dealing with the existing institutions. Mrs. Arnold had been successful in implementing a new idea in circumstances where several others had failed. The CARE Centre needed an administrator who could manage the unknown and grow with it. From the hindsight of history, this is one of the best recommendations I have made in my professional life.
I am absolutely sure that all Members of the Board of Mico College who appointed Mrs. Angelita Arnold as the Administrator of the CARE Centre would wholeheartedly agree with me that she has exceeded, by far, our most optimistic expectations of her. Allow me to list some of the most ten notably achievements of Mrs. Arnold as she has taken a novel and new idea on paper and led the process of transforming that vision into the envisaged reality.
- Many have come and gone and have contributed to the great success that the CARE Centre has been. However, Mrs. Arnold has been the glue and guiding force who has tied, integrated and woven these contributions together over these 35 years. Her single-minded dedication to the Mico CARE Centre has been without compare.
- In staying and growing with the Centre she has upgraded her professional standing by acquiring Bachelor and Master’s degrees along the way. Moreover, as the consummate professional by attending seminars, workshops and conferences she has kept abreast in the field of providing diagnostic and intervention services to children with special needs.
- As a result of her sound fiscal management of its financial resources, the Mico CARE Centre has never incurred any debt or deficit and been debt free for its entire existence.
- While maintaining the mission of the Centre to provide services to children and parents of all income groups, Mrs. Arnold has also utilized entrepreneurial opportunities to generate income that has allowed the Centre to expand its reach through branches in Mandeville and St Ann’s Bay to the extent that overall Mico CARE Centre now provides services to over 2000 children and families per year.
- By supporting staff members who have been inclined to conduct research, for example, Mrs. Valentine Milner, the Centre has created the Mico Diagnostic Reading Test which is the only standardized test and grade reference reading test constructed for Caribbean children and is now widely used across the region.
- As a result of her strict attention to details, Mrs. Arnold has led the Mico CARE to provide services of a consistently high quality which has earned high for the Centre a high reputation nationally, regionally and internationally.
- By maintaining the physical plant of the Centre, and constantly upgrading its facilities, Mrs. Arnold has ensured that the Centre continues to be fit for the purposes for which it was created.
- She has maintained strong collaboration with the Special Education Department of the College in the process contributing to Mico offering the Bachelor Degree in Special Education of the University of the West Indies and more latterly of the College accredited by the University Council of Jamaica thereby being part of the pioneer work done in establishing Mico as a degree-granting institution and in gaining University College status.
- In maintaining access to the Centre by the staff and students of the Special Education Department Mrs. Arnold has contributed to the hundreds of highly competent graduates in the field of Special Education that the Mico University College has produced and who now serve in the field of Special Education across the Caribbean and beyond.
- Through cooperation with the Special Education Department of the College, Mrs. Arnold enabled the Mico University College to mount national conferences in Special Education which have received overwhelming support resulting in greater awareness of the Sector and more unity within the Sector.
The hallmarks of Mrs. Angelita Arnold tenure at the Mico CARE Centre have been boundless energy, unflinching devotion, a winsome and disarming smile, a no-nonsense approach, teamwork and outstanding accomplishments. No competent and accurate history of the Mico CARE Centre can omit to mention the name Angelita Arnold on its first page and throughout the document. The Mico CARE Centre has been her life’s work and what a work it has been! No one more deserves the Order of Distinction awarded by the Government of Jamaica than Mrs. Angelita Arnold. But greater still are the untold differences made to the lives of the children who have been served by the Mico CARE Centre. Only the Lord her Master can reward her for this.
Heartiest Congratulations on your award Mrs. Angelita Arnold. You are one in ten million. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you all the days of your life.