In the beginning
It was in the fall of 2002, after 4 years being on the St.Thomas More Governing Board and PPO and having put in notices of upcoming public events at the school like Scholastic Book Fairs, Movie Nights in the Auditorium with the first Harry Potter flick, or those wonderful outside flea markets in the front parking lot at 6100 Champlain Boulevard, the light went off.
I first started « Verdun School News » in the Verdun Messenger in print, to reflect the Anglophone population’s concerns and interests. I felt there was a need for local schools to get the word out for their many public and/or community events, public fundraisers to the local community, instead of getting lost in the shuffle with legion and church bingos, rummage sales and other smaller events in the Social News Column.
Schools needed to have their own section and the Messenger management at the time wisely and quickly concurred. Editor-in-chief Pierre Lussier also gave me a mandate to cover the major school board news. We were also a good supplement to kiddy mail from the schools to the parents as we all know that many a notice have flown away as paper airplanes or disappeared in the bottom of lockers.
In two weeks, we were rocking and rolling and banging out columns every week like clockwork. We had three little schools and a segmented high school for IBO students only. The area was teeming with all sorts of activities and it was a pleasure to observe and report to the local community. Those days, but not too long ago, it was a Smith-Corona electric typewriter and then bringing copy to Pierre Lussier
Principals, teachers, home and schools, GB chairs, were faxing us all sorts of bits of news which made me dizzy just reading it, and also with the cooperation of most motion picture studios, we allowed readers to partake in the excitement with contests and chances at winning passes for blockbuster movie premieres.
Changes through the years
But times, as in any other areas of endeavor, changed through the years. The print media world was and has been increasingly going digital, which meant less print and less space.
With an imminent move to another branch of media, I decided that this was the swan song year.
I dedicate this last column to all the wonderful students I reported on and to the many parents who read these columns and delighted at their children’s achievements. I also send kudos to the teachers and administrators whose events I had the pleasure to plug and promote. It has been a privilege to bear witness as you bore the responsibility of preparing our children for the great big world out there. Keeping in mind, and as many of you know, that my father taught for 42 years, including 16 in Verdun, it sometimes can be a thankless job. My hat goes off to all of you.
But what about the all the events! There have been so many for the Eastern most zone of the LBPSB. I was amazed in seeing BA students for 4 years help homeless teens keep their feet warm in the cold winter months with the Socks for Pops drive and collecting over a thousand pairs of socks for Dans la Rue and watching students raise $25,000 over the past 6 years in the CIBC Run for the Cure national event.
There was Verdun Elementary 6 years ago as they cut the ribbon to begin their 25th Annual Terry Fox Run with invited guests. There was Riverview School who was part of a Guinness Book attempt to be part of a record of most kids reading at the same time across Canada. It was exciting to watch all these readers read away, and over at BA, there was Montreal singer and South African native putting the school in a groove that the building possibly hadn’t experienced in a while and melting the snow on the outside with some winter heat during an uplifting event for Black History Month. Of course, I can’t forget the sight of watching students listening to Olympic sweetheart and five-time world champ Jennifer Heil tell students to go for their dreams and then taking pictures with them as they wore Jennifer’s Olympic silver from Vancouver.
All-time top events
Someone recently asked me if I could list possibly the Top 5 events I covered and even be part of. It was difficult, but came up with something and in no specific order.
There was the Canadiens sponsoring a Day with the Habs at the Old Port with the Quebec Breakfast Club. Riverview was part of the group of schools who lucked out as they were partnered with star player of that year, no.27 Alex Kovalev. It was a treat to watch him help lace up skates of some of our local students. We gave it front page coverage in colour.
There was the return of a full-service high school to Verdun and seeing the grand old building at 6100 Champlain get a new life after seeing our local students go by an almost empty shell of a building on the 112 bus to high schools in LaSalle.
I can’t forget last year around this time as a future PM of Canada paid a visit and talked to the graduating class of BA. In a passionate voice, Justin Trudeau challenged the grads to take action, saying that the future was now and not tomorrow.
At Verdun Elementary, the senior band led by music teacher Jennifer Hayden, was honored with other area schools for having received Band-Aid grants of $10,000 during preceding years by opening up a full blown media event at the Hard Rock Café hosted by singer Gregory Charles.
But I do have an all-time event and it happened just last spring at the annual spring concert at BA. I had the pleasure of arranging for Canadian rocker and six-time Juno award winner Sam Roberts open up the show. It was the first time in BA concert history that a well-known recording star was present. After an electric acoustic set of some of his hits and after a cool setup by music teacher Gary Lindner, four senior students backed Sam on a thumping version of his smash hit, “I Feel You” after Sam proclaiming, “We have a band!” It was a moment that those 4 students will never forget.
I also had the pleasure of covering so many awards evenings and BA convocations. I hopefully gave readers, including, students, parents, teachers and administrators a front seat to part of the action of various events and not just a copy and paste press release.
Plenty of People to Thank and acknowledge
Certainly throughout the years, in producing a weekly column of this type, one definitely needed the collaboration of many players and various parties throughout the years, many thanks are in order to those who made this weekly media ride a pleasure.
From the Verdun Messenger, big thanks go out to editor-reporter Mr. Pierre Lussier, former desk editor Martine Mimeault, former South West news director Mathieu Robert-Perron, and former publisher and West Montreal regional director Louis Mercier.
From the Lester B Pearson School Board, we thank former and current Chairpersons Marcus Tabachnik and Suanne Stein Day, former secretary-general Bill Stockwell, former sector or regional directors, Gary Saunders, Chuck Merilees, and Carol Gray, and those in the communications areas, Jim Hendry and Daniela Scoppa, and the wonderful cooperation through the years of Verdun Commissioner Doug Flook.
It should be noted here, that throughout the years, we have scooped up various bits of info, which possibly had people looking in the Commissioner’s direction and asking, did he or didn’t he spill anything. In fact, it was the other way around. I often let him know what I was working much to his bewilderment. A school board, like any other organization or corporation, is not immune to leaks and conscientious people who see some injustices or inefficiencies and the only way to get things done is to go to the media. Hats off to those individuals, the public thanks you.
I would like to thank these honored BA grads along with their parents who allowed me to feature these superstar students and their various accomplishments and let readers know that they were just regular teens with special talents of some form or another and they are: Kayla Vardon for her wonderful singing throughout the years. Superstar athletes Shauna Agard, and Treyvon Grant, who often outscored the opposition in basketball and cleaned up with a multitude of shiny medals in both indoor and outdoor track meets.
There were all-around superstars Susan Young and Amanda Pidlisny who excelled at whatever they did whether it was academics, athletics, the arts, or performing community services more than required. There were three students who grew up together in high school and probably were the best rhythm section ever produced by the music department and it was comprised of power drummer, Mylissa Koeppe, bassist Kevin “Mr. Bass” Earle, and keyboardist the legendary Taylor Scott Covey who handled keyboard keys in a cool laid-back style.
There were two students who singlehandedly raised funds for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Children’s Wish Foundation, in different school projects. We acknowledge Cassandra Wakefield and Cole St. Jean who, respectively, put together a battle of the bands event and raised $1100.00 and organized a soccer baseball tournament and raising $2006.00.
We can’t forget students Nicholas Nadeau of the class of 2008, who got a perfect score for his Personal IBO project, the first one ever to do it and students Roop Sekhon and Astik Patel, who picked up 12 awards and certificates in their grad years and are the most decorated in BA history, and along with several others named here and unnamed, are examples of what the public education system can produce in talent and would probably clean up against any competition from private schools.
There have been wonderful teachers throughout the years who either kept me busy throughout the years covering their many events in various areas such as athletics, the arts, and community events and/or most of them having had the pleasure of doing features on them and they are: From VE, music teacher Jennifer Hayden-Benn, from BA: former drama teacher Jim Colley, art teacher Michelle Wright, dance teacher Jessica Mender, and teachers Debi Dixon, now a VP at Riverdale High and Amanda Liste.
I certainly would like to thank many of the current and former administrators as they are the ones who make things run smooth, From VE, David Estok, Joanne Brady-Merola, and David Chisholm. From Riverview, Deborah Gross, Myriam Rabbat, and Chuck Poirier, from St. Thomas More, Giancarlo Crasci and from BA, Angela Andrews, Brian Acton, Chris Cyr, Dona Bianchi, Veronica Johnson, Natasha Mentore, and Andrew Henry.
But I reserve my highest praise and thanks for these six awesome individuals, who through the years, had the biggest doors open for me and all facilitated the flow of information to get it out there to the community, and have become close professional acquaintances and/or dear friends.
From VE, long time GB Chair, Lynn Ducolon-Pidlisny, From Riverview, long time Home and School President and librarian, the mild-mannered Jennifer Holmes, and from BA, longtime junior ERC teacher Tamara Beach, music teacher par excellence, Gary Lindner, and current Vice-Principal and Principal respectively, Alix Adrien and David Abracen, my deepest thanks for being there.
To the fine folks at BA, I certainly am not going anywhere as I still will continue to serve with pleasure and enthusiasm as one of two Community Reps on GB, and do what I do best, scoop up big names and offer them to admin to visit and talk with the students and to hopefully keep on getting big ticket prizes for much-needed funds for a variety of causes, but no hockey tickets this year. Do I see Bon Jovi in my crystal ball?
To the folks at Riverview, I remain at your disposition, as you plan your 85th anniversary Celebrations.
Many of the students who are now in CEGEP or University still keep in contact and let me know on their progress in the big world out there, and their parents, I am proud to say, have become close acquaintances and friends of mine. They know who they are.
As the end of an era is upon us, and if everything stays on track, a new Chapter will soon begin to the benefit of the Montreal education community as a whole, as I soon expect to make a major media announcement. So stay tuned. Thanks for reading and maybe thanks for listening and viewing. Let the music play! You just never know with Bobby D! It truly has been a slice!