Seaway and Iroquois Public principals say goodbye

Seaway District High School principal Don Lewis says farewell.

Principal Don Lewis says good-bye to Seaway family

W. Gibb – Leader staff

IROQUOIS – After four years as principal of Seaway District High School, Don Lewis will be leaving in June of 2018 to take on a new job as Safe Schools Equity and Inclusivity System Principal with the Upper Canada District School Board.

It is a bittersweet departure for Lewis, who had been a teacher at Seaway early in his career, then returned to assume principal’s duties in September, 2014.

He sat down June, 2018, to share his memories of his Seaway years, of the many, many great times and of some of the more difficult times as well.

“I guess the thing I value most about Seaway is the incredible sense of community here,” Lewis said.

“You see it in the ways kids support each other, in how connected our staff and students really are. Even staff who don’t live here in South Dundas really get involved with the kids in so many ways.”

He feels that same closeness extends into the school community.

“Our school council has consistently and steadily supported us over the years. The people in our community give this school over $40,000 at graduation time. Of all the schools I’ve worked in, some of them in larger areas than Seaway’s, this is the most money given out.

And our partnership with the South Dundas township and with Ross Video in computer sciences is just getting stronger.”

He is proud of the high skills majors programs that Seaway offers, the microsoft showcase, and the support of businesses and organizations in South Dundas which welcome Seaway’s co-op students.

“This is an incredible community.”

Lewis is deeply impressed with the spirit of staff and students at Seaway.

He stresses the success of the LINK and WEB programs, with their student volunteers, which help grades 7 and 8 students in the transition to high school. A program which invites recent Seaway grads “to breakfast” with grade 12 students to talk about apprenticeships, work and university and college has been very popular.

“We place our kids in the top ten at science fairs, our band is out in the community performing, and Seaway kids are involved in all kinds of athletics. There are wonderful initiatives coming from both staff and students that we respond to, promoting our school spirit and supporting student wellness. This is a true grades 7-12 school where all our kids get involved early.”

That closeness and commitment from teachers, students and the community made a great difference, Lewis feels, given some of the challenges Seaway faced during his time as principal.

The school family lost a beloved staff member when teacher Melissa Ringler passed away in 2017.

At almost the same time, Seaway was confronted with possible closure by the board.

“The school and the staff rallied. We kept focussed on our school, we kept our programs strong and we kept doing the important things,” Lewis said.

He is still impressed with the people who turned out to fight for Seaway, especially the more than 1,000 who flooded the gym and classrooms to register their support for their school in a final rally which helped turn the tide.

This community “stood behind us in a time of tragedy and again when we needed their support,” Lewis said.

Seaway’s 50th anniversary celebration was a high point for Lewis. He was proud of the teacher/parent committees, local individuals, alumni, students and community organizations which got together to make the May anniversary and reunion outstanding in every way.

He definitely hopes to carry some of that Seaway spirit with him to his new job.

As the SSEIS principal, in a growing portfolio, Lewis will be focussed on safe schools, on looking at such things as connecting with police, parents and community when situations arise. He will be exploring and establishing ways to “support some our most at-risk youth.”

“We work within an equity framework,” he explained, “where our goal is to educate all the students in our system, especially the ones who may have become disconnected.

I will be out visiting schools, teachers and kids, liaising with community organizations, networking and finding solutions to issues.”

He is looking forward to his new responsibilities, but he is also finding it hard to leave his Seaway family behind.

“I have really loved working here at Seaway, working with this staff, with these kids and with the people in this community.”

Anderson sad to leave IPS

P. Blancher – Leader staff

Outgoing IPS principal Sarita Anderson

IROQUOIS – After three years as principal of Iroquois Public School, Sarita Anderson is leaving at the end of the school year for Rothwell-Osnabruck School in Ingleside.

Typically a principal stays in a school for four-to-five years. Anderson told The Leader that there was a high number of retirements in the board this year.

“I would have liked to stay the five years as I love it here,” she said. “I am really sad to have to go.”

Anderson has been in administration for 16 years, all with the Upper Canada District School Board and has worked in many area schools including Benson Public School in Cardinal and Longue Sault Public School in Long Sault.

She began her teaching career at Gladstone Public School in Cornwall.

She said what she’ll miss most are the kids at the school, and the sense of family.

“That is what makes a school, that sense of a family, of home.”

Anderson is really proud of the community support for the school, from the annual Christmas concert held in the gym at Seaway District High School to the Community Garden that was started last year, to the different school meal events.

“This community, if they feel there is something good for the kids, they support it,” she said.

This became more apparent to her during the board’s Pupil Accommodation Review during the 2016-17 school year.

“I saw the support for the schools that night in January at Seaway,” Anderson said. “This community speaks up for what they believe in. It was impressive.”

She said the hardest thing for her leaving IPS was her connection with the kids at the school, sharing in their successes, and seeing them grow.

Anderson arrived at the school at the start of the 2015-16 school year, replacing Kelty Grant as principal.

Anderson’s parting message for the school mirrors that of her approach to her job of “coming to work every day, living every day, with humanity.”

“Just be kind, listen, and be compassionate.”

Replacing Anderson in the fall at IPS is Jill Pensa, who currently principal at South Branch Elementary in Kemptville.