Fr. P.J. James, S.J.

Fr. P.J. James

               Padinjarekara John James assumed charge as Principal on March 25, 2008. Having competed pre-university education in his native Kerala he joined Hazaribag Jesuits in 1976. He graduated in Physics with university gold medal from St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad in 1982 and followed this up with M.Sc. from Loyola College, Chennai in 1988, also with gold medal. In between he did philosophical studies at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune (1982-84) and taught in St. Robert’s High School (1984-86). His theological studies were in Vidyajyoti College, Delhi (1988-91). He excelled in studies and received top honours in every institution that he attended.

            After ordination to the priesthood in 1991 he worked for about five years in the villages around Hazaribag to provide basic education to some of the poorest children of the area. At the same time he was the headmaster of St. Joseph’s Middle School, Tarwa. He coordinated the efforts to adapt the curriculum, upgrade the skills of the village school teachers.

            Fr. James joined the staff of St. Xavier’s, Hazaribag, in 1997 as Physics teacher, Treasurer and director of the John Moore Computer Centre. For about 10 months (Dec 1999 - Sep 2000) he was Acting-Principal of the school while Fr. Pradeep Shail was away. He left the school in 2002. He was awarded Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership by Marquette University, Wisconsin, U.S.A. in December 2007. His doctoral research was on “Elementary Mathematics Teaching in India’s Jharkhand: Mathematical Knowledge and Social Status.” Upon his return from overseas, he joined as Principal, a position he held till Dec 31, 2016.

             In the school an additional section was added to each class beginning in 2009. The numbers were kept below 50 in each class despite the ever-growing demand for admissions. This expansion completed in 2017 with the total number of students crossing 2600.

           Some of the many remarkable changes brought about under the leadership of Fr. James include introduction of a versatile school management software for office automation, launching of the school website and revival of the school magazine with a new name "The Xaverian Xpressions." A quarterly newsletter, “Xavier’s Hazaribag Times” was started in 2011 to inform the stakeholders, especially the alumni and alumnae, about the happenings in the school. New scholarships and awards were instituted to encourage and celebrate student achievement. The compassionate face of Jesuit education shined through special concern for the economically less privileged students, outreach and service learning activities and the ongoing efforts of the students to share food and clothing with the poor outside. Monthly psychiatric clinic in the school campus by the doctors of the Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi, NIOS classes in Hazaribag Central Jail are examples of the outreach supported by the school.

         On the strength of his doctoral studies in instructional leadership Fr. James was able to effect major improvements in the academic resources of the school. He strived to make the school student-friendly where happy children learned to take responsibility through age-appropriate self-regulation.  A diagnostic test, assessment of scholastic skills through educational testing (ASSET) by Educational Initiatives was introduced for students of Classes 3-10. The regular and systematic follow up on the findings of the tests included ongoing professional development of teachers. The objective of this initiative was to help the students to learn with understanding, thus improving the quality of the teaching-learning processes in the school. 

         To give the students a personalised, adaptive and interactive learning environment Mindspark, a digital web-based software package for Mathematics with innovative and exciting features was added to the curriculum. One of the four computer labs is exclusively used for this purpose. To improve students’ pronunciation, articulation and diction another computer lab was transformed into a language laboratory using software developed by ETNL.

         Major infrastructure modification during his years as Principal includes the new user-friendly library with ample reading space, a good collection of books and periodicals with electronic cataloguing as well as computers with internet access. More than 220 networked computer terminals and a gymnasium were also set up. A ramp was constructed for ease of access into the main building and furnished new staff rooms.

        Amenities were improved with the provision of spick-and-span high class toilet facilities for staff and students, uninterrupted supply of electricity, emergency transport vehicle, filtered and cooled drinking water, paved driveway and assembly areas and streamlined traffic through the campus. Special attention was paid to timely maintenance and tasteful beautification of the campus. To provide a secure environment for the students, compound walls were rebuilt and electronic surveillance equipment was installed at the main gate and different locations in the school premises.

       The crowning glory of the campus, Magis Jubilee Auditorium, was inaugurated on Jan 28, 2016. The 1533 capacity state of the art auditorium is equipped with best quality acoustics, audio and lighting systems, stagecraft and ergonomically designed chairs. A large multipurpose hall, a beautifully designed and furnished conference hall, green rooms, other allied facilities and parking space are located below the auditorium. This convention centre is one of its kind in Jharkhand. It serves as a centre for performing arts and a venue of various meetings, examinations and other programmes. The foresight, vision and enthusiasm of Fr. James ensured the completion of the project against all odds, which included calumny and malicious propaganda, without incurring any debt. The internal resources of the school were augmented with the magnanimous support of the alumni, parents and other well-wishers.

        Parent-teacher meetings were restructured to improve dialogue between the parents, teachers, and the school administration and to receive actionable feedback from parents.  To keep the dialogue ongoing a Parents’ Consultative Committee (similar to parent-teacher associations) was formed in 2009. It has served as a platform for parents to bring up their concerns. Any major change in the school was first discussed in the PCC. The PCC proved to be a source of strength and support for the school over the years.

       Connecting with the alumni and getting them to interact with current students was another priority for Fr. James. HOXA, reinvigorated under his guidance, began felicitating the best performing students of the school each year besides organising weekly free medical clinic. Annual medical check-up of the students, specialised medical camps both on and off the campus were other initiatives. Twice a year HOXA organises blood donation camps with the collaboration of Red Cross Society. Starting with the diamond jubilee of the school in 2012, alumni reunion takes place each year. The focus groups in the reunions since 2013 are the batches that have just completed 25/40/50 years of passing out from the school. These alumni provide career orientation to senior students and are felicitated on the annual sports day.

        As Principal Fr. James fostered an environment of good communication. Under him the school enjoyed excellent relations with the local administration and the public. He planned meticulously well in advance, thought through possible outcomes and provided clear instructions and guidance to the staff and students. His proactive and transparent leadership was greatly admired by the school’s stakeholders. Many of them would evaluate his tenure as a time when the glory of St. Xavier’s was regained. Senior Jesuits who knew the school from its early days were often heard commenting that never before the school worked so well and the campus looked as beautiful. In October 2016 these perceptions were formally validated by an external agency, “Adhyayan” commissioned by Jesuit Education Association of South Asia. Having evaluated the school for the seven key performance areas, namely, leadership and management, teaching and learning, the child, the curriculum, community and partnerships, infrastructure and resources and the Jesuit way the school was awarded State Gold.