Sunday, 26 June 2016

An Open Letter to Staff, Parents, and Students of St. Martin's School

Dear Staff, Parents, and Students of St. Martin's School,

A little over five years ago, former Superintendent of Elk Island Catholic Schools, Chris Diachuk, offered me the opportunity to become the new assistant principal of St. Martin’s Catholic School. This was an opportunity that I had been striving towards for many years. I had a wife who was so very supportive and young children who thought it was very cool and exciting that Daddy was going to be an assistant principal.

I agreed with my girls that it was going to be exciting, but I was also very scared. I was working in a K-9 school at Holy Redeemer, but I was a junior high teacher who had focused on mathematics and physical education. Sure, I had been asked to teach a few grade five classes, but how was I going to fare in this new environment where most of the students were looking forward to losing teeth and as opposed to gaining a learner’s permit or a first job? Reflecting back now, it wasn’t so hard and my fears disappeared rather quickly. I realized one of the questions I needed to ask was, “What do young people want?” The answer was relatively simple: it is what all of us want. Like us, young people want to be heard, they want to be loved, and they want an opportunity to grow. For me personally, that is what I strived for. In any interactions with students, I was looking for ways to show I cared, to truly listen, and I was looking for ways to help students grow (in their faith, in their learning, and in their development as young people moving toward adulthood). Another understanding that I came to know that has been solidified for me time and time again is the understanding that the work we do in education is all about relationships. I have continually tried to develop positive and productive relationships with students, staff, and with the parent community. I hope to continue to do this. It is only in positive relationships that great work can be done. As individuals, we may not always agree, but if we work together with mutual respect, we can come to a solution that will work for all involved.

Fast forwarding two years, I applied for, but was ultimately unsuccessful in the position of principal at St. Martin’s. My wife Meghan always tells me that everything happens for a reason and I truly believe this. God has a plan and he is a master at executing that plan, even if we are completely unaware of the steps within that plan. The reason that I did not get that position at that time was because I need to be introduced to Joseph Dumont. Joe has become much more than the principal who would be my “boss”.  He has become a colleague, a mentor, and a friend. When I have a question about students, teaching, learning, the world of education, or electric cars, I know to go to Joe first. Our year at St. Martin’s seems to have flown by, but through Joe’s vision and leadership we were able to bring some new initiatives into St. Martin’s and plan for future ones. Those future initiatives (St. Martinsville and its student government, Junior University, Academy Programs, Kindercare, and a Family School Liaison Worker, among others) are now a reality.

After our nine months together, I was transferred to work at Holy Spirit Catholic School where I was the full time assistant principal. As a full time assistant principal, I was able to be involved in almost every decision that occurred administratively and was responsible for many different projects within the school. Despite my new school, I was always very aware of the activities and projects that were ongoing at St. Martin’s. In our weekly conversations, Mr. Dumont kept me up-to-date on all of the wonderful things that were happening at St. Martin’s.

Fast forward to the Spring of 2016 and as you are now aware, decisions have been made that will change the look of St. Martin’s. In early May, it was announced that Mr. Dumont would be leaving St. Martin’s for Holy Redeemer, a school located in Ardrossan. It was also announced at that time that I would be returning to St. Martin’s as the principal, a role that I am so very excited about taking on and now feel very confident about.

Despite a new face within the St. Martin’s office, the day to day operations of St. Martin’s will not change. There are phenomenal teachers who will continue to do high quality work and one of my major priorities will be to support the quality teaching and learning that is ongoing at St. Martin’s. Specifically, with the introduction of the One to One initiative that begins within all Elk Island Catholic Schools, as a division 2 staff, we will be working together to make sure that we are using the technology to enhance the learning, but not at the expense of ensuring we are teaching the curriculum that students need to continue to grow and be successful. The other main priority for my first year at St. Martin’s, as previously mentioned, will be to continue to build the positive relationships that were started during my last tenure at St. Martin’s, from student relationships to those with the staff, parents, and our community partners.  I truly believe it is the relationships that will continue to hold up St. Martin’s against any other elementary school in the province of Alberta.

So many wonderful things have happened in the last three years at St. Martin’s and they should be celebrated. We will use the successes that have been experienced to motivate and inspire us into successes in the 2016/2017 school year and beyond.

In closing, I would just like to wish the entire St. Martin’s family an excellent, enjoyable, and relaxing summer.  I look forward to seeing you all in the fall.


Dan Coles
Soon to be Principal of St. Martin's Catholic School


  1. Mr. Coles - you will be fantastic at St. Martin's. Good luck with the 3D printer - feel free to ask Mrs. Salsbury or some of her Digital Design students!

    Also, in 2018 you could buy a Tesla Model 3 and use it for your commute - no gas needed!!!

    All the best!

  2. Dan, this is such exciting news. I am so happy for you and there is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what God has planned. Congrats on your next big step and that school needs you to fill Joe's shoes. They're very lucky. Much love and all the best!