By Kirk Winter

On May 28, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board made a decision to change the principals who will be responsible for the three high schools in CKL.

  • Mark Cossarin will be moved from I.E. Weldon SS to LCVI to replace the retiring Chris Schweitzer

  • Ray Este will be moved from Fenelon Falls Secondary School to I.E. Weldon

  • Don MacIver will be moved from being acting principal responsible for the Adult and Alternative Education Centres to become the principal at FFSS

Cossarin is the most experienced secondary principal in CKL. He began as a teacher at LCVI and served as a vice principal at Weldon. Cossarin was promoted to be principal at Fenelon Falls Secondary School in 2006. In 2008, Cossarin returned to Weldon as principal and has been there ever since. With Cossarin’s move to LCVI as a principal, he will become the first administrator in recent history to serve as senior administrator at all three of the secondary schools in CKL. With massive cuts coming in educational funding, one board observer told me that Cossarin, who is in the twilight of his career, may be tasked with the “reimaging of LCVI” if the Minister of Education makes good her statements about closing underutilized schools across the province.

Trillium Lakelands has empty space at many of its elementary schools, and few buildings are currently more underutilized than LCVI with only 709 students. The Board has internally discussed a number of options for LCVI that include making the building a Grade 7-12 school after the closure of Central Senior, moving the students from LCVI to Weldon and turning the accessible LCVI into a K-8 school to service students from Alexandra, King Albert, Queen Victoria and Central Senior whose current schools would be cost prohibitive to make accessible, or keep LCVI open and hope with the arrival of the 407 that young families with children will start relocating to CKL and enrollment will tick upwards. If any of these options are finally implemented a truly challenging time awaits LCVI’s new educational leader.

Ray Este, who came to Lindsay from the Toronto District School Board, served as a vice principal at I.E. Weldon and has been principal at Fenelon Falls Secondary School for the last five years. Este inherits the “flagship” school with his transfer, taking on the most populous high school in CKL. Weldon has a student population of 1,085, and offers a thriving French Immersion program, International Baccalaureate program, PALS program and High Skills Major program. Este still has many colleagues in the building who remember his time as vice principal, and it will be helpful to Weldon’s new administrator to have those pre-existing relationships already in place.

Don MacIver will be the new face at Fenelon Falls Secondary School this July, coming to the area from Kenora, and having served as acting vice principal and acting principal at the four Adult and Alternative Education Centres over the last three years. Fenelon Falls Secondary School, with an enrolment of 721 students serves a geographically and socio-economically diverse swath of the CKL, and MacIver will appreciate the connections he has already made in Fenelon Falls from his time as Adult and Alternative Placement Centre principal there.

It will be a difficult time for all three of these individuals to be dropped into new schools. They will be working with new staff and trying to make connections with teachers in a 2019-2020 school year almost guaranteed to be impacted by labour unrest. Negotiations with the Minister of Education and OSSTF, the union representing Ontario’s secondary school teachers, have already gone off the rails on introductory issues such as what will be negotiated provincially and what will be bargained locally. Harvey Bischoff, the President of OSSTF, “was disappointed that talks have started so poorly.”

Staff morale is already an issue locally as secondary teachers try to get their heads around much larger class sizes, the pending layoffs of colleagues who are filling long-term occasional contracts, and the cancellation of much loved upper year optional programming because the new math regarding class sizes made running the courses impossible.

One retired administrator shared with me, “At secondary, this was not the year to be making wholesale changes to principals at the secondary level. Familiar people should have been left in place for at least one more year , those who understand and know their people to best manage what will be a very difficult year in 2019-2020. I understand their need to fill the LCVI retirement vacancy, but the other two principals and their staffs would have been better served by no movement this time around.”

Only time will tell if these moves were wise or not with many different permutations of teacher job actions in the offing. However, one thing is clear: Cossarin, Este and MacIvor will need to utilize all the management and people skills at their disposal to limit the negative impact on their school communities in the face of a year that is bound to bring labour unrest like we have not seen in Ontario since the dark days of Mike Harris.