“We are working to find our alumni,” says Anick Leclerc, the principal at Gault Institute in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. She is hopeful there may be interest among former grads and the extended Gault community to give back, by volunteering to help develop a breakfast club at the school in partnership with the Breakfast Club of Canada.
Leclerc says she is looking for ways to introduce more opportunities for students to meet with seniors or older individuals who share a connection with the school. “When you are with elders, they bring a sense of calm; they bring a rich vocabulary, and storytelling,” says Leclerc. “A breakfast club will allow students to take their time, enjoy a breakfast, and start their day,” she says, noting that the volunteers will be contributing to a renewed sense of community – something she is hoping to spark within the school.
Leclerc acknowledges that Gault Institute is unique in that students come to the school from all across the greater Beauharnois-Salaberry-de-Valleyfield region. She says she wants to help her students to see the school as a welcoming environment. “We are all from different areas, and we don’t see each other over the weekend. But, when we are together, look at how rich we are,” she says of her students and their diverse backgrounds.
“I am a product of this school,” Leclerc adds, noting she taught at Gault for 15 years before moving on. In March, she left Chateauguay Valley Regional High School to take over as principal from Brigitte Barrette, who is retiring. “I am at Gault now for good,” she says, suggesting it is both uplifting and exciting to know she will finish her career where it began.
Leclerc says she has been “feeling the pulse” of the building, the staff, the students, and their families to learn what the community needs. Her observations will feed into a five-year plan, which will include an expansion to the school to ease overcrowding.
In recent years, Gault’s student population has swelled to over 300, and this rapid growth has coincided with a ranking of 10 on the New Approaches, New Solutions intervention strategy (NANS), which measures the proportion of students from disadvantaged areas. This ranking translates into smaller group ratios and a need for more classrooms. “Our specialists are all on carts,” she says. “They don’t have a room. We are really having to share space,” she explains, noting this is another reason she wants to focus on building a sense of community spirit within the school.
“We are trying to be creative and see what we can do, because this community is important to the overall Valleyfield region,” she says. “If I can find community partners, maybe we will find some solutions,” she adds, suggesting she has no doubt the school will overcome the growing pains in new and positive ways.