By Stew Slater
The Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board has named a new Director of Education to succeed the retiring Martha Dutrizac.
An official announcement was made by board Chair Jim McDade on Tuesday, Feb. 26 regarding the appointment of London District Catholic School Board Superintendent of Education Vince MacDonald.
Dutrizac, who has been with the Huron-Perth board for 10 years, the last four of them in the top job as Director of Education, also came to the Dublin-based board from the London District Catholic board (indeed, she has rubbed shoulders with MacDonald in the past, when they were both principals in the London board) — as did her Education Director predecessor, Larry Langan.
“I have been blessed to serve in Catholic education over the last 42 years; however, to be part of the dynamic leadership team of the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board for the past 10 years, as a Superintendent and then Director of Education, was truly a gift,” Dutrizac said when her retirement plans were announced in November, 2012. “It has been a privilege to live my vocation with so many talented educators whose passion and vision for Catholic education has been nothing short of outstanding.”
Over the years, Dutrizac has been quite active not only within the school board, but also at a provincial level, working with educators from across Ontario on various Education Ministry initiatives.
But in an interview with the Journal Argus on her second-to-last official day at work, Wednesday, Feb. 27, the retiring Education Director said she plans on stepping entirely out of the field of education, and completely into retirement. She’ll spend more time with family, travel, and perhaps take up golf.
MacDonald, currently still employed by the London board, doesn’t officially take over until April 1. But in an interview, McDade said there’s no risk in waiting a month for the new administrative boss’s arrival. Superintendent of Business Gerry Thuss is currently serving as interim Director of Education
“We’re pretty sound financially. Martha and the other top staff have left us on a pretty solid footing,” the chair of the trustees explained. And, despite ongoing teachers’ union dissatisfaction in most non-Catholic school boards across the province, “morale is strong right now” in the Huron-Perth board.
For his part, MacDonald told the Journal Argus he is “honoured and blessed” to be named Director of Education for the board. “One only has to mention the name of the Huron-Perth Catholic system in education circles and all will testify to the excellent leadership and commitment to quality learning that is shared by the (board’s) staff,” he said in an email.
He added the board “has been a leader throughout the Province of Ontario in Catholic education and the quality of teaching and learning for many years, (and has) established a path of excellence in student achievement that is among the best in the province.”
That doesn’t mean, McDade added, that MacDonald won’t have challenges when he arrives on the job. Declining enrollment will be an ongoing concern for years to come, and the new Education Director will step into a role of leadership in deciding how to respond to that challenge as it relates to 2013-14 staffing levels in schools.
“I think he’ll have to go through a learning curve — not only for the bigger issues like declining enrollment, but even just learning the geography of the board,” McDade offered.
The incoming Education Director has experience in rural settings from the London District board, which also includes Oxford, Elgin and Middlesex Counties. But on the whole, his current employer is a board dominated by London — in contrast to the largely rural Huron-Perth board.
MacDonald said he fully recognizes the challenges posed by declining enrollment. His goal for responding to the challenge is attracting more students by “celebrat(ing) the excellence that exists within all schools in the (board) so that families can see the rich heritage of quality Catholic education.”
Dutrizac offered assurances MacDonald — who worked as an elementary, secondary and special education teacher before making the transition to administrative roles, first in Toronto and then in London —will be up to the task. The outgoing Director of Education described her successor as “a great life-long learner” who will adapt well to the challenges of his new position. And she said he’ll benefit from a very supportive team of trustees, administrators and teachers within the Huron-Perth board.
McDade agreed, saying, “he’s coming into a board of trustees who work very well, collegially. And I think that’s important.”