Whistler elementary school principals say goodbye 

School district gets ready to hire a number of new educators

The principals of both of Whistler’s elementary schools are leaving.

Ron Albertin, who has been the principal of Myrtle Philip for the last five years, has decided to retire after 30 years in the school system. While Linda Watson, the principal who opened Spring Creek, is returning to her Interior of B.C. stomping grounds to become a principal in Kelowna.

"There are mixed feelings when you leave," said Albertin. "There is excitement and happiness about going on to the next state. But certainly there is sadness too. Myrtle Philip is a wonderful place. There are great kids, involved parents, and great teachers, so it is very hard to leave that. You sort of want to stay."

While Albertin has been principal he has shepherded students and staff through the splitting of the school student body when Spring Creek opened three years ago, championed an award-winning literacy program, and entrenched an open door policy for parents.

He plans to look for new challenges and perhaps spend more days on the slopes; after all it was skiing that drew him to Whistler in the first place. In 1970 he took a term out of university to work pushing the gondolas out of the old barn. After finishing his degree he returned and spent a couple more years working for highways and the lift company and getting in as many ski days as possible.

"Maybe I have come full circle," said Albertin, who also hinted that parents might find him volunteering for the literacy program in the future.

He admits he will miss watching the student’s exuberance on the playground, their show of talent at the annual Variety Show, and their pride in their work.

While it is always hard to leave a school, said Albertin, he believes Myrtle Philip is in good shape with a strong set of goals and a growth plan in place for the future.

Those same aspects give Spring Creek principal Linda Watson comfort too, as she finishes up her last term in Whistler.

"We not only have the growth plan with the school goals but we have also built routines, behaviour expectations, and a calendar of special events that have become the cultural norm of the school," she said.

The decision to leave, said Watson, was purely based on her personal circumstances. Her husband has been working for some time in Kelowna and her adult son and mother both live there.

"Of my teaching career I would have to say that I would probably remember this as the high point," said Watson.

For school district superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson the changes are part of the fabric of the current school system where teachers across B.C. are aging and looking to retirement or other challenges.

It also reflects the reality that the Howe Sound district is beginning to mirror the ebb and flow of metro districts, thanks to the upgrades to the highway making the area more accessible and the district’s growing reputation across the province.

"We are getting closer to being part of the Lower Mainland and we are getting closer for people outside our district boundaries to commute in and closer for people here to commute out, and so we are now part of the dynamic of retirement, and part of the dynamic of the staffing changes that are more normal in a metro district," said Erickson.

The Whistler principals are not the only ones leaving the district.

Director of instruction Alex Marshall will also be retiring and district principal Pius Ryan will be moving to Surrey, which has 66,000 students, to become the Director of Instruction — Diverse Learner Needs.

John Flack, principal of Valleycliffe Elementary School in Squamish, is also retiring and the vice-principal of Pemberton Secondary School, Glen Overgaard, is heading to Salmon Arm.

The deadline for the school district applications was Tuesday afternoon.

At press time 30 educators from within the district, around B.C., and beyond had applied for the positions, said Erickson. He added that the Sea to Sky corridor is a very popular place to come thanks to its outdoor activities and its strong reputation as a progressive school district.

However, the challenge of housing in Whistler is a concern, said Erickson.

"At the present time we don’t have any subsidized housing but we are talking about the issue," he said.

The new elementary school principals should be chosen in the next few days, with announcements for the secondary positions made in the coming weeks.


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