>> Kate Wallace

Being a school principal is a 24/7 job, one where balancing the duties and ­responsibilities of the position with the needs of students, parents and educators far outweighs the rewards. Which is why we are especially proud to announce that Leslie Lee, principal of George Jay ­Elementary School, has been selected as one the top 40 school principals in Canada.

Not only is Lee one of only six ­British Columbia school principals named in ­Canada’s ­Outstanding Principals awards, she is also the only Vancouver Island ­principal ­honoured in this annual ­recognition by The Learning ­Partnership, a national ­charitable organization dedicated to supporting excellence in public education.

Principal Leslie Lee

Principal Leslie Lee was named one of Canada’s top public school principals. Photo courtesy of George Jay Elementary School.

“Leslie’s vision for the school inspires us all to work hard for our student body,” says Kate Wallace, president of the George Jay Parent Advisory Council. “Her respect for family and community has had a ­profound effect on student grades and ­created a ­willingness to push and learn more. Our school ­philosophy is ‘­Learning to Care, Caring to Learn’ and Leslie takes that ­seriously. She is a true ­trailblazer and we are all better for following her lead.”

George Jay was high on the ­provincial vulnerability index when Lee took charge in 2009, ­facing such challenges as a 35% transient rate and a student body of 45% English Language Learners. But Lee quickly established a safe, caring and ­inviting ­learning space by creating ­community partnerships that ensured students were healthy and ­well-fed at school, by ­initiating positive behaviour support programs, and by engaging a youth and family counselor to support at-risk students. The results were impressive—behavioural incidents decreased from 900 per year to 100, and Lee’s school-wide focus on improving writing, math skills and problem-solving increased the ­number of students ­meeting provincial grade level expectations from 66% in 2010 to 92% in 2012. As The Learning Partnership notes, “Leslie’s ­talent for leveraging ­strategic ­partnerships has transformed her school into an oasis of inspiration and ­forward-thinking for her students.” Lee has also pioneered ­effective use of enabling technologies at George Jay, with it now being the leading ­wireless school in SD61. George Jay has also become involved in such empowering activities as the urban-­agriculture focused ­Growing Schools ­Program, received a remarkable three awards from the 2013 Victoria ­Confederation of Parent ­Advisory Councils and recently announced the inclusion of a French Immersion program beginning in September 2014.

Under Lee’s inspiring leadership, George Jay has become an inclusive school focused on the whole child, a place where children and their families can connect to a world of learning and caring. It is a place where our students have an opportunity to learn and develop empathy and understanding in a school community as diverse as our ­society itself.