Chris Boulay - New principal of Haliburton Highlands Secondary School
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | September 20, 2018
Q. Tell me a little bit about yourself?
A. I was born and raised in Cornwall, ON. I did spend some of my high school years out of Cornwall. I went to the University of Ottawa and pursued a math - science degree. My science concentration was physics, so math and physics are truly my passions as a teacher. I started teaching math and science in Cornwall and became a department head in the fall of 1999. I entered administration, as a vice-principal, in September 2002. In 2005, I became a principal. I’ve been a principal at multiple sites in rural schools, city schools, small schools, large schools, composite schools. I’ve been an administrator in a K-12 building, K-6, 7-10, 7-12 and 11-12. I’ve been a principal in a labour relations role, too, at the Upper Canada District School Board. And, last fall, I applied to be in the pool here at the Trillium Lakelands District School Board because my wife hails originally from Haliburton and it was an opportunity for us to get her closer to family.
Q. Did you know much about Hal High?
A. Truthfully, when applying to an admin. pool, you put faith in the mercy of the board that they’re going to make the right appointment for the right reasons. We were prepared to go to any of the TLDSB schools but this is a really good fit and I’m honoured and privileged to be appointed here.
Q. What are your early impressions?
A. When you walk in the building, you automatically get a sense of what the building is about and you can tell the staff care deeply, the kids are filled with character and there’s definitely a sense of pride about this building and what this means to them and the community. It’s a wow. The number of things that are going on in the school, whether it is athletics, extracurriculars that are tied to academics, clubs, we have it all. It’s truly a large school feeling but in a small school. The passion that I’ve seen and heard about and discussed with many stakeholders, and I’ve had multiple conversations with parents and staff members to get a sense of where they see the building, its current state, its future state, and what they see as the ideal. You get the sense they want to rally around the school and it is the hub. It’s different from Cornwall, a city with co-terminus schools and boards because, here, we’re it. Our community wants the school to be it … they want to be the hub … our board wants our school to serve the community well, and of course, the parents and kids. It’ a shared vision.
Q. What’s your style?
A. Transparent, what you see is what you get, supportive, firm and fair, deeply caring, empathetic, and someone who connects with people. In order for a school to improve, and a school doesn’t need to be struggling to improve, you can still be really good and get better, you have to connect with people ... then we can move together to accomplish great things. Change can often be the catalyst to examining strengths and the small changes we can make for the betterment of the kids. My overall goal is to continue to pay attention to our learners, set high academic expectations, build and support resilient youth, truly model care, compassion and empathy. So, setting high goals, supporting our kids to get them, help them out through struggle and avoiding very difficult dark times.
Q. I sense it’s a year of healing for the school and the community after a difficult year last year.
A. Some of our most challenging times in our society often give us cause to reflect, review and be stronger and I think as a school, board and community, you want to see kids and families do well, and you’re not going to find anyone in this building who is not working their tails off to make sure that happens. As I said to our staff at our PD day, we have a lot of strengths to work from and my role is not to come in here and flip the school on its head, my role is to lead from within, the middle, be a good listener to staff, students and the families and the community and then to truly facilitate teaching and learning in a safe, inclusive environment and that’s what we’re after.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.