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Double admin shakeup at Whistler Secondary

New vice principal Jody Nelson to join new principal Nolan Cox



Whistler Secondary School is getting a new vice-principal this year, set to join new principal Nolan Cox for the 2014/15 school year.

The announcement of Jody Nelson's appointment is the latest in a series of changes in administration at the local school district, described by the superintendent as a "domino effect."

"I would say yes, over the past couple of years it has been more than usual," said Lisa McCullough. "This is something that we're seeing across the province and the country related to our retirements... It causes quite a bit of shuffling and movement."

Compounding the baby-boomer problem locally is the increasing enrolment in School District 48. For example, last year there were 60 to 90 new students in the district.

"Many districts aren't faced with this issue because of declining enrolment, but we happen to be a growing school district, so we actually have a demand for more teachers and more admin, not fewer," said McCullough.

For parents concerned about the double shake up in administration at Whistler Secondary, McCullough agreed that continuity and stability is always something they look for when mapping out the movements of the admin team.

On the other hand, that's just one consideration. Both Cox and Nelson come with experience in their administrative roles.

Cox comes back to Whistler as principal after being principal at Pemberton Secondary School for six years. He was WSS vice principal before that promotion.

Nelson, she said, is a long-tenured principal from the Central Okanagan who chose to return to teaching over the last few years. She is currently the District French Coordinator at SD23 where she oversees the French Immersion and FSL programs.

It was a factor in getting the Whistler job.

"We just asked ourselves what are some of the most predominant needs of that community right now and that's French Immersion," said McCullough. "We're trying to build a new French Immersion program at the secondary school and so Jody really is sought after provincially for her expertise in French Immersion and anything related to languages."

Nelson, who has two teenage sons connected to ski racing, is looking forward to her new role, and her move to Whistler.

"It's really important to the district to develop a strong French Immersion program with longevity," she said. "It's really important to meet the needs of all the students at all levels."

It a topic she calls "near and dear to my heart," given it has been the focus of most of her career.

Outgoing WSS vice principal Stuart Bent will take on a new role as mobile district leader to fill in a number of short-term administrative positions that are expected this year.

"His depth of experience is so excellent," said the superintendent. "We can put him anywhere at any time and he can do the job."

In other school news, McCullough notified elementary school parents of the changes at noon hour due to "phase one" of the teachers' job action.

The 15 minutes of classroom supervision at lunch will now see one adult supervising two classrooms with some exceptions for classrooms that are not close together, and for kindergarten classrooms.

"Teachers are on strike but because of the limited nature of it we tend to refer to it as job action," said McCullough. "It's their right to do this and it's our obligation as an employer to allow for that to happen."

The Labour Relations Board has ruled supervision as an Essential Service Order. Under that order, teachers are still required to perform supervision duties and districts are also expected to utilize excluded staff to replace teachers to the best extent possible.

"Now that's a difficult one to interpret, but we continue to work through BCTF, (Sea to Sky Teachers' Association) and ourselves here locally to interpret that and move to a place where we're allowing job action to occur, but also supporting student safety and meeting the guidelines of the essential services," said McCullough. "It's a lot of meetings."