At exactly 10:50 a.m. on a Thursday morning, a crowd of students walks out the front doors of Ladysmith Secondary School, chanting “Save Dave” and holding up two large signs.
They want School District 68 to know they’re unhappy that their principal, Dave Street, is being moved to Woodlands Secondary School in the fall.
“We’re walking out to save our principal,” said Grade 9 student Jonah Forster. “We’re just protesting to keep him here in Ladysmith. We feel he’s a really strong administration figure, and he’s really good for the school.”
Forster says studies have shown that in the last five years, since Street has been at LSS, the school has improved a lot. LSS was the second-highest-ranked secondary school in SD68 in this year’s Fraser Institute rankings, and it was listed as one of the 30 most improved secondary schools in the province.
The students had planned to walk out of morning classes at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, May 8, but Street made an announcement discouraging them from taking any action.
“He said don’t do it, that it’s disrespectful to the school board, as much as he appreciates it,” said Grade 12 student Madison Cooke.
Students gathered off school property, clapping and cheering whenever new students joined their group.
Part of the reason Cooke participated in the walkout is because she appreciates Street and all that he does for students.
“He isn’t just a principal,” she said. “He’s more part of the community, and he brings people together. He’s more like a friend. Talking to my mom, she said she never had a relationship with her teacher, so it’s a new way of looking at school.”
Cooke feels that Street should stay at LSS because the school will be going through so many changes this September.
“There are so many changes going on next year, with the Cedar students coming here and the Grade 7s coming here,” she said. “With that many changes, we feel Street would have the best grasp of it and keep the school maintained. We don’t feel another principal who doesn’t know one name could come in and do what Street is doing. He’s the one who is going to Cedar, talking the students and getting to know them, and he’s planning a dance to bring them together. He’s the one welcoming them into our school, and he’s not going to get to enjoy it.”
Cooke says if the students could send one message to School District 68, it would be that Street deserves to stay at LSS.
“He deserves this amount of love,” she said.
Street has been principal of LSS throughout Cooke’s entire high school career.
“I won’t even be here next year, but I don’t think it’s fair to take away a part of the school that’s so meaningful,” she said.
Steve Rae of the Save Cedar Schools group has also expressed dismay at Street’s new assignment.
In a letter to superintendent David Hutchinson, he called the decision to move Street from LSS to Woodlands “completely irresponsible” and said it “shows a complete lack of vision or care for the students of this community.”
“The one breath of fresh air has been Mr. Dave Street,” wrote Rae. “He is one of the reasons our family chose LSS. Apparently several other families in this area feel the same way we do, as over half of the School population chose LSS, despite the fact you refused to supply buses. What does that tell you?
“He has gone out of his way to make my daughter and the rest of the kids who are being displaced welcome and looking forward to being part of the Ladysmith community. He has visited the school several times to make an attempt to get to know all the kids and to try and make this ridiculous transition as painless as possible for our kids.”
LSS referred the media to SD68’s communications department on this issue, and spokeswoman Donna Reimer says in the school district, principal transfers are an annual process.
“Board policy states that the periodic transfer of school administrators is encouraged and expected, with such transfers viewed as a healthy means to encourage professional growth and to enrich school programs,” she stated in an e-mail. “In addition to the policy to periodically transfer principals, transfers also occur to respond to such situations as the retirement of a principal or the closure of a school.”
For the next school year, there will be 12 changes in principalships — nine at elementary and three at secondary — as well as six changes in vice-principals, according to Reimer.
Street has been principal of LSS since Feb. 1, 2009.