George Vanier bidding farewell to principal

COMBERMERE – Students and staff at George Vanier Catholic School are preparing to say goodbye to their principal after the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board unveiled its list of redeployments on May 1.

Cards of appreciation and well wishes already dot Melissa Carroll-Dubeau’s desk. The principal at George Vanier since September 2010 will be heading to Our Lady of Grace in Westmeath this fall.
To fill the vacant position left by her, the school board is integrating a twinned principal concept. Marie Finnerty, who is the current principal at St. John Bosco, will fulfill principal duties at both George Vanier and St. John Bosco.
Maureen McHale-Enright, who is the vice principal at St. James and St. Casimirs, will become the vice-principal for George Vanier and St. James.
Director of Education Michele Arbour said in a statement that during the redeployment process, the school and principal/vice-principal profiles were used to match individual leaders with the priorities and needs of the diverse communities in the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board.
“We believe that it is professionally and personally enriching for our principals and vice-principals to experience leadership opportunities in various school communities within our Catholic system,” she said. “These talented leaders will generously share their faith, academic expertise and strong collaboration skills with our students, parents, parishes and the larger community.”
Arbour added that she sees the movement of principals and vice-principals across the system as a healthy sign of growth. The new positions will take effect September 2012.
This gives Carroll-Dubeau some time to adjust to the news. However, she said she is going to miss the tight-knit community.
“I love to build relationships; it is very difficult to say goodbye,” she said. “I wouldn’t like to say goodbye to the George Vanier community. I would just like to say, ‘until we meet again.’”
Carroll-Dubeau was born in Pembroke and raised on Allumette Island in Quebec. She attended a two-room school and later transferred to another small rural elementary school in Chapeau. She has only one sibling – an older brother.
The bubbly principal said she always knew she wanted to have a career in the education field and that it is in her blood. Her mother and two grandmothers were all teachers.
“It’s been in the family and it’s something that I seem to be very natural at,” she said. “It’s definitely a calling; I believe I have been blessed with the gift to teach others how to read and how to write and learn the gift of learning.”
During her summers, she would help her mom, who taught with the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board.
“She was a good mentor,” Carroll-Dubeau said.
When it came time for her post-secondary education, Carroll-Dubeau chose Carleton University for her undergrad. She then went to Buffalo to attend teachers college.
The university in Buffalo was a year and a half program and offered sign language as an elective. Carroll-Dubeau already spoke English and French, and she said she wanted to extend her abilities to teach students with special needs.
During this time, she worked at an inner-city school and did a placement at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. She helped out with the Western Association for Learning Disabilities and volunteered her time helping adults get their high school diploma.
To qualify to be a teacher in Ontario, she had to do a placement. So she chose to do a primary teaching placement with the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board at our Lady of Sorrows.
Her first teaching gig was a long-term, occasional contract with Cathedral Catholic School in Pembroke. From there, she got her first-ever permanent,  full-time position with St. James Catholic School. Flash forward several schools and a few years later, and Carroll-Dubeau became acting vice-principal for John XXIII Catholic School.
When a principal position opened up at George Vanier, she jumped at the chance.
“It is something that I dreamed about and aspired to be,” she said.
In total, Carroll-Dubeau has 14 years of teaching experience under her belt.
Before she even got the position, the principal said she fell in love with the rural community; it reminded her of her upbringing.
“I was called to it because it is from similar roots from where I am from,” she said. “I thought that I had a lot to offer the school, the students and the staff.”
So in the fall of 2010, she began her duties in Combermere. In addition to being principal, she also teaches French to the junior students.
George Vanier has 54 students, three full-time teachers, a part-time teacher and a part-time French teacher.
One of the first things she noticed with the school was its lack of much-needed technology.
Story continues in the May 16 issue of The Valley Gazette.