When Shannon Dutson first sat down behind the principal’s desk in St. Paul’s Collegiate, most of the school’s current students weren’t born.
Seventeen years later, she’s winding down as she prepares to retire at the end of the month.
She says one of the biggest changes she’s seen in close to two decades is the school and school division’s increasing commitment to career and technology studies. Students can now complete the first year of an apprenticeship program before they get their high school diplomas — giving them a huge advantage prior to entering post-secondary education and their future careers.
Dutson said students have interned at local veterinary clinics, farm equipment dealerships and other area businesses. As well, those interested in finding jobs in travel and tourism are able to earn four credits through the Canadian Academy of Travel and Tourism program that the school began offering in 2000.
"We thought, ‘What’s something different that we can offer?’"
During Dutson’s tenure, St. Paul’s remained a Grade 7 to 12 dual-track French immersion school. She credits Prairie Rose School Division’s commitment to French-language revitalization for the stable student numbers in French immersion.
Later this month, Dutson will watch proudly as 28 graduates each receive their diplomas. It’s a memorable occasion, but will be even more so this year as it’s her last as principal.
An Elie resident, she said she knows there are many local activities to keep her busy and she’s looking forward to some travel.
"Now we can take a winter vacation," she added.