Principal Dan Russell leaves a legacy

Principal Dan Russell – his first week at G. C. Huston Public School (2010) (Saugeen Times Archived Photos)

With only four years until retirement, Russell is moving on to Alexandra Community School in Owen Sound, which is near his home.

It will however, be a difficult transition not only for students and staff but also for the parents and entire community.

When Dan Russell was moved to G. C. Huston Public School as Principal, he came with his motto … “be firm, be fair, be friendly”.

Russell was brought in to bring stability to a school that had undergone many transitions and to, hopefully, raise enrolment and improve school morale.

All goals were accomplished ‘in spades’.

School enrolment is now reaching capacity with renovations and improvements going ahead this summer, including the creation of an additional kindergarten class, and, up until now, school morale has never been as high.

While statistics rated the little school low academically, according to the numbers published by the Fraser Institute in 2014, Russell stood up in defense of the school, its staff and its students.

“It’s very unfortunate that such an organization would ‘pigeon-hole’ rural schools, one in particular, based solely on numbers while ignoring that it has achieved incredible heights when it comes to student involvement, increased attendance, parent involvement and overall community support,” said Russell at the time.

Following the release of the Fraser Institute rankings, Lori Wilder, Bluewater School Board Superintendent of Education at the time, supported G. C. Huston saying that it had become one of the most “…vibrant schools within the Board.”

Russell not only built school spirit with the staff and parents, but also with the communities of Saugeen First Nation and Southampton.  It was an important achievement that the two communities have readily recognized.

One of Russell’s lasting legacies will be the re-naming of the bridge that spans the Saugeen River. It is an initiative that he began with a vision to recognize the relationship between Saugeen First Nation and Southampton (Saugeen Shores) and, on June 21st, the bridge will forever be known as ‘Zgaa-biig-ni-gan’ in Ojibway, which means “we are connected”.

However, his leadership, compassion for students, his vision for a ‘connected community’, his ability to create school spirit while teaching the importance of discipline and parameters will forever be remembered and he will definitely be missed by students, staff, families and communities.

As Dan Russell says loudly every chance he gets and that he has instilled in the students and staff  … ONCE A HAWK, ALWAYS A HAWK!