Western Secondary School

People with disabilities given “A Night to Shine” at their own prom

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Over 100 people with intellectual disabilities were given an opportunity to “shine” in the spotlight of their very own prom last Friday night.

The Gathering Church, located in south Windsor, held “A Night to Shine” prom for those with disabilities with the event taking place at Western Secondary School. Patty Leno, public relations co-ordinator for The Gathering Church and wife of Pastor Garth Leno, said it is an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation with over 500 churches around the world holding similar “A Night to Shine” events.

It was the second time The Gathering held one, the first also being at Western Secondary School last year.

Leno stated the point of the event is to show the people with disabilities that “God loves them” as well as their parents, buddies and the community in general. She indicated that some didn’t get a chance to go to a prom while in school.

he Gathering Church held its second “A Night to Shine” prom event for those with intellectual disabilities last Friday night. It was held at Western Secondary School. Adam Hoehne and Jazzy Ankamah walk down the red carpet during the event.

“It’s an amazing night,” said Leno. “They are the stars, they are the kings and queens all night. It’s about recognizing people with special needs and giving them the opportunity to shine.”

The buddies were volunteers who ensured the attendees had a good time. Leno said people supported by Community Living agencies in the region were invited as well as those from Christian Horizons and other agencies who support people with intellectual disabilities. Staff at Western Secondary also helped with planning and invitations with Leno pointing out that some came from as far as Chatham to attend.

Two buddies even came from Toronto, Leno added.

Chantelle Bubnic performs karaoke during “A Night to Shine.”

“They came last year and they wanted to be part of it again,” she said.

“A Night to Shine” was originally scheduled to be in February but was postponed, and later cancelled, due to a snowstorm. The Gathering was able to regroup and bring it back this year but Leno said they will have to take a look at whether they can hold it again next year, noting they lost a lot of perishable items and man-hours when the event was originally cancelled.

“We have to re-assess after this year,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a very worthwhile event. We’d like to be part of it as much as we can.”

Tiffany Todd and Matthew Leung were two of the over 100 guests that attended the “A Night to Shine” prom.

The Gathering was the only church in Canada to host “A Night to Shine” last year and was only one of two in Canada this year, with the other being in Vancouver.

Nicole and Rachel Mantha came to the event and Nicole said Rachel was geared up to go to her prom.

“She’s been waiting all day for this,” said Nicole. “She’s been so excited. We’ve waited a long time for this day.”

Duncan Phelps danced with his date Hailey Nickelson as part of the evening’s enjoyment.

A “crowning ceremony” was held at the conclusion of “A Night to Shine” where all the participants were crowned king and queen of the prom.

“It’s awesome,” said Phelps. “I love how they changed the high school into a magical wonderland.”

Local dignitaries were also on hand to help cheer the prom-goers on with Essex-Windsor EMS and St. Clair College represented, as well as the Town of Amherstburg. Representing the latter were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, police chief Tim Berthiaume, Sgt. Matt Capel-Cure and Const. Kim Rathbone.

For more photos from the March 23 event, please check out our Facebook album.

New public high school location revealed

By Ron Giofu

 

The location of the new public high school has finally been revealed.

The town will sell 15 acres of the southern portion of Centennial Park to the Greater Essex County District School Board for $2,457,000 with the town putting the proceeds into a parkland reserve. The town will retain 12 acres on the northern end of the park.

The new 819-student high school will house both General Amherst High School students and Western Secondary School students with the estimated opening date being Sept. 2020.

“Amherstburg is getting a single location, dual high school that will be state of the art,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We’re ecstatic.”

Greater Essex County District School Board and town officials were pleased with the announcement that Centennial Park will house the new school to replace the current General Amherst and Western. From left: board chair Kim McKinley, CAO John Miceli, GECDSB director of education Erin Kelly, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair.

DiCarlo said the location is close to the downtown area and keeps students close to downtown businesses. It also enables many students to continue to walk to school, he noted.

The mayor called it “incredible” news and gave his thanks to the school board officials.

(UPDATE – As for the fate of the pool, tennis courts and baseball diamonds, DiCarlo told the RTT Wednesday afternoon: “All of these amenities are being considered in the context of the parks master plan and where they will be located.”)

Erin Kelly, director of education with the Greater Essex County District School Board, said the board has selected an architect and will be moving forward with the design process. She believed they would be able to combine the two schools and meet the needs of all the students.

Kelly said they will try and get a shovel in the ground as soon as possible.

“There’s a lot of decisions to be made,” she noted.

CAO John Miceli said the town is “really excited” because of the fact the new school will provide additional opportunities for the municipality. Additional community use could arise with the new school and programming could be developed for after-school hours.

The Ontario government has already put $24.3-million towards the new public high school. As for the current building, Miceli indicated the town has its eyes on it and the board has its ears open for those plans.

“It’s in a strategic location in the Town of Amherstburg,” said Miceli. “The board is willing to listen.”

The CAO added: “There’s more to come.”

Miceli also thanked the public board’s administration for working with the town to arrive at the agreement.

Ron LeClair, trustee for Amherstburg and LaSalle, indicated there are opportunities for co-operative education that will be within walking distance for students.

“This is wonderful news for the board and the Town of Amherstburg,” he said. “This is a win-win for the board and the town.”

While admitting “I can’t wait to get a shovel in the ground,” LeClair also said they have to complete the design phase first.

Councillor Leo Meloche noted the importance of the school to the community, and said parents and students alike appreciate the effort. Councillor Diane Pouget also offered praise to the public board for working with the town.

“It’s a special spot for many of us,” she said.

Pouget added there is work being done that would eventually allow for over 1,700 building lots to be created in town, but Kelly noted they have to build based on the students they currently have. If an addition were needed in the future, the board could seek further funding from the province, she suggested.

Councillor Rick Fryer said the new school’s inclusion of skilled trades for students is important and called it “an excellent idea.”

The announcement to sell 15 of the 27 acres in Centennial Park to the public board was met with applause by those in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.

Western Secondary School observes Remembrance Day

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Schools across Windsor-Essex County observed Remembrance Day last Friday and that included Western Secondary School.

Cadets from the Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment march in the gymnasium during a Remembrance Day service last Friday at Western Secondary School.

With Remembrance Day falling on Saturday this year, schools held ceremonies a day early with Western Secondary students assembling in the gymnasium. Two minutes of silence were observed for fallen veterans with wreath laying, inspirational songs and cadets from the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment also helping to mark the occasion.

Brandi Plantus, who teaches Grade 10 Canadian history at Western, said the school puts on a Remembrance Day assembly annually. She added that her Grade 10 class helped organize the assembly.

“I was really pleased with the participation today and the silence given throughout the ceremony,” said Plantus. “The students seemed to be really respectful and interested in learning about Remembrance Day.”

Western Secondary School students Nickolaus Danckaert and Robert Bennett lay a wreath.

Plantus said her Grade 10 Canadian History students just studied World War I so they were able to relate to the topics that were studying.

“They’ve really taken a liking to wanting to participate on this day,” Plantus said of her students.

Plantus thanked the cadets and others who also assisted in planning the ceremony at Western Secondary School.

Western Secondary’s annual “Pumpkinfest” draws big crowds

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

An annual tradition at Western Secondary School resumed last weekend with hundreds passing through the school’s hallways to support it.

“Pumpkinfest” was held Saturday and Sunday with people from around the Windsor-Essex County area converging on the local high school to purchase from the wide variety of craft and food vendors.

Western Secondary School students not only welcomed people to Pumpkinfest, they also collected goods for the school’s can drive. Front row (from left) Bryanna Fahringer and Myron Bennett. Back row (from left): Anthony Quiring, Trenton Breault and Duncan Phelps.

“We’re full this year,” said Sam Thomas, one of the Western Secondary teachers that helped organize the weekend event. “We have our regulars and we have some new ones this year.”
Some of the vendors also included Western students themselves, as a number of crafts and goodies made by the students were on sale.

“Everything’s great,” Thomas reported. “Everyone is happy.”

The gymnasium (shown here) and the hallways at Western Secondary School were packed with crafters and craft lovers as part of the Oct. 28-29 Pumpkinfest at Western Secondary School.

Over 100 students, or roughly one-quarter of the school’s population, helped volunteer. They joined staff members, former staff members and Western graduates in helping out.

“It makes it so nice,” said Thomas. “I don’t think there’s many places that happens.”

With so many former staff and students coming by the school for Pumpkinfest, Thomas joked that “I get lots of hugs this weekend.”

Western Secondary School students had their own crafts and artwork for sale as part of the Oct. 28-29 “Pumpkinfest.” The event is a fundraiser for the high school.

Money raised goes back into the school with Thomas stating that it helps pay for field trips, events and special guests. She added that she starts work on Pumpkinfest in May with bookings being accepted starting every June.

Janet Arnold shows one of the knitted items she had for at Pumpkinfest.

The students also enjoyed the event. Many were gathered by the main entrance collecting for the school’s can drive with student Anthony Quiring saying that the event allows them to represent their school to visitors.

“It’s awesome,” said Quiring. “I’m happy. We worked really hard.”

Feedback was positive, the students agreed.

“We’ve heard really good things,” said Quiring. “(The public) likes it here and we’re doing a good job.”

Josh Fex and Jaclyn Hertel look at some of the items for sale at Pumpkinfest.

Janet Arnold was one of the 110 vendors on site and was selling various knitted goods.

“I’ve been coming here for quite a few years now,” said Arnold. “I’ve got quite a few people who come back each year.”

New school year officially underway

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Buses, enrollment and education, oh my!

The 2017-18 school year has officially kicked off, and both of the school boards as well as Sharp Bus Lines are gearing up for what they plan to be another fantastic year.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in French Immersion, especially at St. Joseph in River Canard, as well as in our International Baccalaureate programs (at Assumption and Cardinal Carter) and academy programs,” explained Stephen Fields, communications coordinator for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. “In fact, we now have 457 students in our sports academies. The really nice thing about the growth in French Immersion at St. Joseph is that, as we add new grades for those students as they advance, they will be able to go directly into the Villanova French Immersion program after completing elementary school, which will help solidify the high school’s French program.”

 

 

Fields went on to say they have done some hiring in the elementary and secondary panels, as well as make additions to their occasional teachers list. Last spring they also announced the creation of a new construction academy at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Windsor, which will see 20 new students starting there in September. The goal is to help address a skills gap in local trades. Additionally, they are launching a new STREAM – Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics- Academy at Holy Names. They currently have about 65 students registered.

“At Villanova, we continue to build on the strengths of our very successful robotics team, which performed admirably in both national and international competitions last year,” said Fields. “We received some new funding to create an Apple Mac lab there, which really enhances our existing computer tech courses, where students are doing coding and building apps within the context of those courses. This will really provide a great foundation for these students as they move into post secondary education and eventually, related careers. This is also connected to the coding programs that are being integrated into our elementary curriculum at St. Joseph and Stella Maris.”

In the public school board, public relations officer Scott Scantlebury said after years of declining enrolment, they have finally stabilized, particularly at the secondary level. There has been some hiring of teachers over the past couple years, however, Scantlebury said they will have a better idea what their needs are for this year once they see enrolment numbers. As for major development, Scantlebury noted their new cloud-based learning program – Edsby.

“After piloting the system at a number of schools, this year parents at all schools in the Board will be able to sign up and have real-time communication with teachers and track their student’s academic achievement, attendance, etc.,” said Scantlebury. “It’s a great tool for parent engagement and involvement. As well we have expanded the access to the elementary literacy programs Lexia and Empower…we’ve seen, where it’s been used, positive impacts on kids’ reading levels, especially with students who were struggling with literacy. We also have changed the way we deliver English as a Second Language in elementary schools. Students will now receive the program at their home schools rather than at a central site, before graduating to their home school.”

 

Grade 9 orientation at General Amherst High School featured fun activities.

As for the location of the new school, Scantlebury said they have not finalized their plans. Their original projections, which he said they have discussed at the funding announcement for the opening, are still the same. Once the board has a site, a design and approval from the Ministry of Education, the construction will be tendered, which Scantlebury said takes about 14-16 months to build a school once work begins.

Not only are the school boards gearing up for the school year, but Sharp Bus Lines has been preparing as well and is asking a few things from students, parents and motorists.

“Students should arrive at their bus stops 10 minutes prior to pick up time,” said Crystal Williamson, regional manager for Sharp Bus Lines. “Wait at your designated stop in a safe spot, standing back from the curb or roadside yet visible to your bus driver, always remember to stay away from the danger zones outside of the bus, if required to cross watch for your driver to signal it’s safe to do so not before this and the crossing gate extended as well as the overheads and stop arm activated.”

Williamson said they are also asking motorists to keep in mind that school is back in session and asks them to slow down and be very cautious when approaching stopped school buses because “a child who may be running late for their stop could appear out of nowhere and cross the street.”

Over the summer, Williamson they have been preparing by taking all of the buses into the shop for the mechanics to go through, making sure the fleet of buses are safe for the students. The routes are checked for directional errors and timing, to ensure everyone arrives safely and in a timely fashion. Additionally, drivers come in to cover off refreshers and go over new routes.

“We love kids,” said Williamson. “Patience and kindness are the major things that we look for in our drivers.  Children have bad days just like adults so sometimes we need to cut them some slack.  We have hired/trained 8 new drivers over the summer and we are always looking for those special individuals to fill the seat.  As we always tell our drivers – they may be the first smile a child sees in the morning.  Make their day.”

So whether you’re a new or returning student, a parent, or even a fellow motorist, school is back in session and both the school boards, as well as Sharp Bus Lines hope everyone has a safe and happy 2017-18 school year.