Western Secondary School

LeClair returning for another term, new high school a priority



By Ron Giofu


There will not be a race for public school board trustee in Amherstburg and LaSalle.

Ron LeClair was acclaimed as the Greater Essex County District School Board trustee and is happy to be able to return for another four years.

“Being acclaimed is something I wasn’t expecting,” said LeClair. “Now that it’s happened, I want to focus on the next four years.”

One of LeClair’s major focuses will be what happens on the Centennial Park site.

“From the perspective of the Town of Amherstburg, I want to see the completion of the new high school sooner rather than later,” said LeClair. “We put a lot of work and effort in identifying the site.”

LeClair said the first step was to provide the template and rooms required to the province. The next step will be to get some drawings of what the new school will look like.

Ron LeClair has been acclaimed for another four-year term as the trustee for Amherstburg and LaSalle with the Greater Essex County District School Board.

“I hope to see some drawings soon,” LeClair stated.

Public input will also be coming, he added, into what the new school will look like.

“There will be some public opportunities moving forward,” said LeClair. “We always engage the public on large projects.”

LeClair indicated consultations will also include teachers as well as the general public.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to build something good for the community,” he said.

With the school to be built on the southern 15 acres of the Centennial Park site, LeClair said that it is in the “downtown area” and that many students will be able to walk to school. Road access is “suitable” and LeClair believes it will be “more traffic friendly” for the town as school-related traffic will be moved off of Sandwich St. S. where the current General Amherst High School is located.

“You are getting traffic off of the main road,” he said. “I think it will be a positive location.”

LeClair added that he is confident that proper entrances and exits will be constructed with the best interest of traffic flow in mind. The school will be built to accommodate 819 students and is tentatively scheduled to be ready for the 2020-21 school year.

“We will have some field sport space,” he stated, though it does not appear there will be a track at this point. As for what is done with the 12 acres of Centennial Park that the public board did not purchase, LeClair said that is up to the municipality.

“What the town does with the remaining portion is a municipal issue,” he said.

The new public high school in Amherstburg is not the only new build that LeClair is looking forward to. He noted he is also wanting to see the completion of the new Prince Andrew Public School in LaSalle. That new elementary school will be constructed on Judy Recker Dr., near the Vollmer Complex.

The Greater Essex County District School Board is building the new public high school on the southern 15 acres of Centennial Park (blue shaded area).
(Image courtesy of www.publicboard.ca)

LeClair touted the Greater Essex County District School Board’s math task force and he would like to see that continue.

“We’ve all been very supportive of that,” he said.

Supporting the trades and assisting robotics programs are initiatives LeClair would also like to pursue further.

“I’ve seen the success those programs have had with students,” he said.

Building on academic and financial successes are also priorities, with LeClair noting that the public board is close to eliminating its outstanding debt.

“I’m looking forward to working with the community to make Amherstburg a great place to live and attend school,” he said.


Western Secondary School celebrates Class of 2018


By Julianna Bonnett


Western Secondary School held their 2018 graduation with tons of awards part of this year’s ceremony.

The graduation, which was held last Thursday night at the school, saw 39 students graduate from this year’s class winning bursaries, technical awards, academic awards and special awards.

This year’s award, consist of many, but the Amanda Lassaline award that was handed out came with a standing ovation from the crowd.

Western Secondary School graduates proceed into the auditorium during their June 28 graduation ceremony.

“Our daughter had to overcome a lot of obstacles, just like all of you. This award is going to the person that has shown the most dedication and drive and the person that has not given up,” said Ron Lassaline. The award was given to graduate Tony Wiebe for his undeniable courage and strength throughout his high school years.

Principal Angela Safranyos thanked the graduating students and staff for all their hard work the past few years but she had one last thank you before the night ended.

“Tonight is a night of memories but it’s also a night of farewells, we cannot thank the staff and students enough for all their remarkable achievements, but we must thank Mr. (Brent) Webster, who is leaving us.”

Western Secondary School students are led into their graduation by a bagpiper.

Safranyos rewarded Webster with a farewell speech and a memorable jersey to keep.

Webster shortly thanked the graduates and staff for everything.

“Thank you all for the amazing journey,” said Webster.

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.