Two major administrative announcements followed the March 14 meeting of the council of commissioners of the New Frontiers School Board. The council accepted the resignation of long-time director general Rob Buttars, who will be retiring from the board this summer, and moved immediately to name the current assistant director general, Michael Helm, as his successor.
“I absolutely wanted to leave at the end of a school year,” says Buttars. “It is the right time,” he adds, while noting it still feels very surreal. “I’ll miss the job and the community. We’ve had some challenges over the years, but we have had successes as well,” he says, noting is it especially nice to be leaving on his own terms.
Buttars admits the last few years of his mandate, spent navigating the board through the pandemic, were some of the most challenging of his career, but in a very different way. “It was really about supporting the team and doing that important job of keeping staff and students engaged during a very difficult time,” he says. And while it was difficult, he says he is especially glad to have been working in leadership at that time.
He is now looking forward to spending more time with his family, engaging in his personal interests, and is hoping to get in a few rounds of golf once he officially leaves the position in July.
In a public notice issued by the NFSB, the chair of the council of commissioners, John Ryan, paid tribute to Buttars and his 18 years of service with the board. “His tireless efforts and dedication to New Frontiers have contributed to the school board’s success; he will certainly be missed,” he writes. In an interview, Ryan reiterates that while Buttars’s presence will be missed, he is leaving behind a legacy. “Rob has the right priorities and he kind of carries everyone with him,” says Ryan. “He spoke very loudly by his example and does not realize the impact this example has had. He gave us such confidence that he would make the right decisions.”
Ryan says Buttars’s decision to announce his retirement well in advance allowed the council to plan strategically. “The last thing we needed was to introduce uncertainty,” he says. Instead, the council fell back on what Ryan attributes to Buttars’s practice of prioritizing what was best for the system. “In looking at the big picture, we put in place a competent person and kept our stability,” he says of the decision to appoint Helm as the next director general.
Buttars says he is equally pleased with the commissioners’ unanimous decision to name Helm as his successor.
As a graduate from Chateauguay Valley Regional High School in 1990, Helm brings 26 years of classroom and administrative experience. He has worked as a teacher, a vice-principal, and principal at Howard S. Billings high school in Chateauguay, as well as director of educational services and transportation with the NFSB, interim director of finance and material resources, and as assistant director general.
“I am honoured and privileged to be given this opportunity,” says Helm, noting this new appointment represents a very happy and proud moment. He says he is looking forward to using the knowledge he has built throughout his career to keep the NFSB on a course that continues to hold student success as its main focus.