|LAURENHILL PRINCIPAL CLAUDE DANSEREAU TO RETIRE AFTER 38 YEARS OF SERVICE|
MONTREAL, JUNE 7, 2016 - After 38 years in the field of education, Claude Dansereau, principal of LaurenHill Academy in Saint-Laurent, will retire at the end of this academic year. He leaves the English Montreal School Board pleased with many accomplishments.
Mr. Dansereau began his career as a teacher in the special needs milieu at the Douglas Hospital’s children’s unit under the former Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. He then worked at Shawbridge in the closed unit for girls and the receiving unit for boys, and moved on to take on a newly created career advisor position.
Mr. Dansereau was instrumental in creating the outreach school Connections, which functioned as a small business where students attended classes, worked and shared in the profits. He believed the key to the success of Connections was showing students that they were vital members of their communities. After its first year, the school received the Hillroy Fellowship Award. He later became the principal of Social Affairs Schools affiliated with Batshaw Youth and Family Services, as well as in psychiatric wards and hospitals.
In the year 2000, Mr. Dansereau became the principal of Westmount High School, which, at the time, had many challenges. He is credited for completely turning the school into a prominent and respected school that responds to the needs of all its students. “Slowly, over the years, we saw attendance climb from 439 to 825 students, where it has been coasting now for many years, and the graduation rate improve significantly due to the pedagogical changes we made,” Mr. Dansereau notes. “We saw the turnaround. The kids became proud of their school. It was a real team effort. Westmount is a very satisfying success for me.”
Mr. Dansereau spent that last nine years of his career at LaurenHill Academy, the EMSB’s largest high school, spread over two campuses, where he was a dynamic leader of approximately 1,300 students and close to 130 staff members. On an interim basis he moved to the EMSB head office for a few years as a Regional Director. Under his leadership, LaurenHill has consistently been one of the top schools, graduating over 90 percent of its students each year. He is responsible for supporting his team in implementing many innovative programs at the school.
For example, professional learning communities were established within each of the subject domains, where teachers collaborate to analyze the students’ data in order to determine teaching strategies that were effective. “The isolation of teachers has been broken as they work together to ensure high quality, consistent education. I am very proud of my teachers for doing this,” remarked Mr. Dansereau. He also believes in the importance of challenging students who are gifted. The Advanced Placement Program has been offered for more than 11 years now thanks to his efforts. And the implementation of the innovative Allongé program, which supports the increasing number of students with learning difficulties, has tremendously improved the academic success of this student population.
Mr. Dansereau and his team were first at the EMSB to adopt the Bringing Your Own Device (BYOD) to School program. With the support of staff, students devised their own BYOD Acceptable Use Policy for the school. “Our students are born with technology,” he shared. “We are the immigrants in this field and they are the natives. Instead of looking at this as a threat, we chose to empower the students and discover together how we could make the internet a positive learning tool at LaurenHill. There’s nothing more powerful and inspiring than having students embrace their knowledge.”
In order to provide enough supervision over two campuses, Mr. Dansereau worked with four vice principals. Conscientious in his role as a mentor, this esteemed principal is clear on the importance of empowering his team of teachers, administrators and professionals. “If everything has to go through the principal’s office then it’s only a top down approach,” he said. “If you empower the people around you, recognize their expertise, things will flourish.”
Mr. Dansereau always encouraged the well-being of his students (healthy body, healthy mind). He worked exhaustively to bring specialized drama and dance programs to the school, featuring Broadway musicals as a highlight. Believing in the importance of the principal’s involvement in his school, he, himself, has participated in the end of year dance show making a cameo appearance on stage. He also gathered resources to equip a fully functional fitness gym with all the latest equipment so that students could work on their physical conditioning.
In 2015, Mr. Dansereau was the only Quebecer to have been selected as one of The Learning Partnership’s Canada’s Outstanding Principals of the year. The program recognizes the unique and vital contributions of principals in publicly funded schools.
Upon hearing that he was a recipient of this award, Mr. Dansereau remarked: “I am humbled by this award. I am so happy to be part of a profession that helps students become responsible and contributing members of our society and more importantly good human beings. This award is shared with a group of dedicated educators that work with me and helped create innovative programs. To receive an award for this is truly amazing.”
“Claude is a true pedagogical leader who engages his staff, students and parents in working towards their collective vision for their school,” said EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini commented when he received his award. “He believes in building capacity and using evidence based strategies to produce sustainable changes in his school. He is always looking to meet the needs of his multi-ethnic community of students who have a wide range of intellectual abilities.”
Mr. Dansereau was also the president of the Association of Montreal School Administrators representing over 100 administrators.
In reflection of a highly successful and fulfilling career, Mr. Dansereau emphasized the importance of flexibility and the ability to adjust to change in order to ensure that a school’s services can meet the needs of its clientele. The success of the Allongé program, is one such example. Another is communication. “The way we communicate has changed drastically,” he said. “We don’t use the intercom anymore. We text to make initial contact, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the reality of the 21st century. Once communication and trust are established, we function the same way as we always have.”
Mr. Dansereau affirms that students have the same basic needs as they did 38 years ago, sharing: “They are still kids and you are a role model and a figure of authority, security and safety. Education and learning is not only a cerebral, rational concept. It is an emotional concept. Learning takes place, especially with teenagers, when there is an emotional connection with the teachers. You need to foster positive relationships.”
This principal reaped tremendous satisfaction from his students’ successes. “I’m one of the blessed ones because I’ve working in so many different areas of education. That has been an extremely positive experience,” said Mr. Dansereau. “But the most satisfying thing has been seeing students succeed, functioning well, graduating, and hugging me when they receive their diploma. That’s what it’s all about.”
Mr. Dansereau welcomes Donna Manos, current principal of Honoré Mercier, who will take his place at LaurenHill in the coming school year. He is looking forward to remaining active in the field of education once he retires. With his extensive experience in the social affairs schools, special education, at Westmount and LaurenHill, the French sector of the PSBGM, and the English sector of the EMSB, he has a wealth of expertise to share. His priority, though, will be becoming a grandfather in the fall!
Michael J. Cohen