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Experienced leadership prepares board for return

Back on Track
Posted on 08/03/2021

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

- Sheryl Sandberg 


As I begin my tenure as the eighth director of the WECDSB, I find myself reflecting on the exceptional circumstances we’ve faced over the last 16 months and how they’ve helped shape the kind of leaders our organization needs to navigate our way through them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly tested our abilities and our resolve, but through it all, I’ve been consistently amazed by how adversity brought out the best in us, and how leaders throughout our entire system have stepped up to meet, and often exceed, the needs of the students and families we serve.

This collective sense of focus and determination puts us in an extraordinary position as we prepare to head back to school on September 7, and one of our team’s first and most important priorities will be getting our students back into a normal routine so that they can achieve and succeed.

Since the pandemic began in early 2020, it’s been a real challenge to provide our students with the kind of programming their families have come to expect from our school board. Even though we have successfully pivoted between in-person and online learning, we still believe the best place for children, both academically and for their mental, emotional and spiritual health, is in school.

I’m very happy to report that the vast majority of our students have declared they will be returning to school in September, and that many of them who are between 12-17 have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Still, we expect many public health guidelines will remain in place, and we’ll continue to work with the provincial government, who we expect will announce their back to school plans very soon, our local health unit, and our very capable staff members to ensure we continue to provide safe, healthy learning environments for our students and staff.

We understand that we have a lot of work to do to help our students. We understand some may have fallen behind during the pandemic, which is why we are adopting an “asset-based” approach when we return to class. Part of our mission statement says that we need to know every student, so we’re going to be very focused on assessing our students' assets (what they know), determining how to get them back on track, and empowering them to do so. 

Throughout the summer our outstanding senior leadership team has been working on re-engagement strategies and will work with our staff and school administrators on developing evidence-based, data-driven plans so that we can get our students to that place where they will be academically successful. And beginning August 23, we’ll be hosting a virtual Transition Back to School series of workshops for both students and caregivers to help everyone get ready for a successful return.

Besides getting our students back into their routines, we’ll have a number of other priorities to address when we return, including implementation of the new Grade 9 math curriculum and reading intervention strategies, reintroducing extracurricular activities where we are able to, and getting our unique academy programs back up and running.

Of course, a successful return depends entirely on building and maintaining positive relationships between our staff, students, families, and our community, and we remain committed to keeping our attention completely focused on those partnerships.

The most important aspect of everything we do, however, is our faith in God. It is through the hope He inspires in us that we were able to endure everything we’ve been through in recent months, and it’s what motivates us to plan for a better future for our students, staff and their families.

In closing, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our Board of Trustees for demonstrating their faith in me to take over this position, as well as the mentorship and support from previous Directors Terry Lyons and Paul Picard. I will always appreciate their guidance and friendship.

And most importantly, I want to acknowledge my family - my husband Doug and son Thomas, for their love and support, and my father Alfred Dufour, and my mother Barbara in heaven, who have always been so caring, strong and proud of my accomplishments.


Emelda Byrne

Director of Education

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