Students at St. Marys DCVI may see an unexpected yet familiar face around the high school halls this year. Deb McNair, who retired from her career as a principal when classes concluded for the summer in June, has committed to return on a contract basis to assist students with preparations for the standardized high school literacy test.
New DCVI principal April Smith, who served as vice principal at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School (NWSS) while McNair was principal — McNair’s post immediately previous to coming to St. Marys — confirmed the news in an interview with the Journal Argus last week.
Stratford resident Smith, who also spent time as vice principal at Stratford Central Secondary School and Mitchell District High School, welcomes her first group of students as principal when classes begin at DCVI on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
“What I’ve found over the years is that the most successful approach is a team approach, so I expect that the team that’s already there at DCVI will be very helpful in letting me ease into the position,” she said.
Smith added that among the staff members returning to DCVI for 2013-14 are two very experienced VPs (Rob Larsen in secondary and Bevan Moir in Grade 7-8 elementary), as well as numerous well-respected teachers and support staff.
“What I definitely do know about DCVI is that the DCVI staff is known throughout the (Avon Maitland) board for their teaching practices,” she said. “And the academic level that the school has achieved in standardized tests is outstanding, especially compared to other small schools.”
Smith began her education career in Ottawa, then spent three years teaching in New Zealand. Upon her return to Canada, she found a job in the Avon Maitland board, settling into several years teaching mainly Physical Education but also Media Studies and English.
She spent a short time teaching Phys. Ed. at DCVI, including filling in as Department Head while Bob Ellison was on leave to go travelling. But most of her teaching was in Stratford and Mitchell.
Coming to a smaller school after several years at NWSS, Smith says she’s aware of the unique challenges faced by high schools like DCVI.
“Declining enrolment is definitely an issue, but declining enrolments are an issue across Ontario,” she commented.
What provides the potential to set DCVI apart, she says, are its relatively strong economy and its unquestionable community support.
“With declining enrolments, you have to begin to think about how we make sure that the educational opportunities we’re offering are relevant, and how do we make sure that we can provide the types of programs that are available in larger schools, in a small-school environment.
“And in St. Marys, with the community support and the economy, and (the fact that) it’s known for its entrepreneurship, I think it’s possible.”