Helen McGregor (left) is the third DSBN superintendent to be scouted to lead the administration at a school district outside of Niagara since 2020. She takes up her new role at the Vancouver District School Board (headquarters pictured right) in January.
The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) must be doing something right.
Last week, the school board announced that Helen McGregor, current Superintendent of Curriculum and Student Achievement, will be leaving her position at the DSBN to take up a directorship at one of the top school board districts in the country. In the new year, McGregor will become the Superintendent/Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver District School Board (VDSB) – an incredible achievement and promotion.
But what makes the story even more special is that McGregor, who has been with the DSBN for 11 years, is the third senior administrator since 2020 to leave their position at the DSBN to take on such a prestigious role. McGregor is joined by JoAnna Roberto and Wes Hahn, who have both moved on to be directors in other school boards around Ontario.
When asked about the success of DSBN employees, Board of Trustees chair Sue Barnett spoke the praises of the local school association. “Our superintendents have been head hunted for top positions on boards. I think what it does is speak very highly about how our board is run, and the fact that we hire top notch staff to go into positions where we need them.”
Barnett’s theory as to why so many DSBN employees have found success after their time in Niagara has to do with the way the local superintendents allocate their time. “Our superintendents spend about 70 per cent of their time in the schools, so they really know what’s going on, and understand what needs to happen in our schools.”
As for McGregor herself, she agreed with Barnett’s sentiments when it comes to how the DSBN sets up employees for success.
“Innovation at the DSBN has inspired me strive to meet the needs of students…While at the DSBN, I had many opportunities to listen to students, and how they expressed what they wanted for their education, and for their futures. Student voice is a powerful approach to making a system best meet the needs of students.”
Both Barnett and McGregor also sang the praises of their fellow employees at the DSBN.
“People are what makes an organization great, and I see that daily across the DSBN. During my school visits I see staff doing their best for students during classes, during recess and lunches. On top of that we have amazing people offering students many extra-curricular activities as well. Many staff work diligently behind the scenes to keep schools clean and well maintained – they need to be acknowledged as well,” said McGregor.
Regarding her future role, McGregor is looking forward to the challenges that a new school board will bring and is excited to help Vancouver develop its new education plan.
“I was inspired by the work that the Vancouver School Board is leading in British Columbia for their students. They are an innovative board that is removing barriers to student success. They are also currently developing their new five-year education plan and I am excited to be engaged with that process. Most of all, I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve the students, staff, and community in Vancouver.”
And while one might think that losing employees to other school districts may be frustrating, Barnett says that having employees head-hunted doesn’t bother her at all. “It’s kind of an interesting juxta-position, because we have these really bright, articulate, well educated people that are doing terrific jobs, and of course other boards are running in and scooping them and putting them in positions of authority. Am I upset about that? Absolutely not!”
Yet, it’s very clear that McGregor was a cherished employee that will be missed.
“It has been a privilege and honour to work with Helen. She grew into an outstanding leader at the DSBN and has contributed a wealth of knowledge and positive change to many system, student, and staff initiatives. While she will be greatly missed, we’re glad the DSBN had the benefit of her expertise, and we’re confident she will lead students to success in the Vancouver community,” said Warren Hoshizaki, DSBN Director of Education.
Barnett spoke to the specific qualities that made McGregor such a special part of the DSBN team. “She has a really wide area of expertise, and she’s a very calm person. She’s capable of extremely complex thinking and thinking outside of the box. She understands all of the pieces that are needed to do a really good job as a superintendent.”
Finally, when it comes to advising others who may have aspirations to have a career similar to hers, McGregor has some simple advice.
“The best advice I would give is to always be a learner in the career path that you choose. The world and conditions we are living in are constantly changing and I believe that embracing change is so critical to being able to support students who are our future. If you are passionate about inspiring learners and working with children and youth, then a career in education is a great choice.”
McGregor begins her new role with the VDSB on January 1, 2022.