Longtime École St. Mary Principal announces retirement

Daily Herald File Photo Mark Phaneuf, who announced he will retire as Principal of École St. Mary High School on Wednesday, speaks to the St. Mary Class of 2022 in June, 2022 at the Art Hauser Centre.

A staple of the Prince Albert Catholic School Division is retiring from one role and briefly moving into another.

Mark Phaneuf, in his 19th year as Principal of École St. Mary High School, announced his retirement on Wednesday, effective Jan. 31.

Phaneuf has accepted the Acting Superintendent of Human Resources and School Operations until June 30 for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division. He said the time was right to retire from the position.

“Everybody tells you that you will know when it’s time and you kind of hit that point,” he said. “We were just at a position in our school division where there was a position that needed to be filled at central office and I felt that I had some skills to offer. Thankfully the division has the confidence in me to do that, but obviously the other side of the coin, which is incredibly difficult, is it’s my 19th year here and leaving after that much time is going to be so difficult with all of the relationships that you have built over the years.”

Phaneuf said building relationships was a big part of why he got into education. He said he will miss the interactions with the entire school community.

“You become part of each other’s lives and it really becomes friendships into adulthood sometimes,” he said. “Those relationships with the students and the staff and even the parents, the whole school community, they really become a part of your life and you become a part of their life. You celebrate some of life’s greatest joys with them and sometimes you work through life’s greatest tragedies and those are the things that you will remember the most as you leave.”

Phaneuf explained that he considered being a principal to be a stewardship position, and he always made sure to treat it with respect.

“You are looking after something that is very precious and insuring that it is in good shape to pass to the next person,” he explained.

With this announcement, Dwayne Gareau has been named the Principal of École St. Mary High School. Gareau is currently the Vice-Principal at St Mary and will assume the duties as Principal effective Feb. 1.

“I couldn’t be happier for the school and for Dwayne Gareau,” Phaneuf said. “He is very ready to take on the added responsibility with Jason Bourdan, the vice principal. They are going to move this school in the direction that it needs to go.”

As a former student, teacher, coach and vice-principal of École St. Mary High School, Gareau brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role of principal.

Phaneuf said it’s a cliché, but he will relish have the chance to spend more time with family once he leaves the position.

“The fact of the matter is, as cliche as that sounds, I am really looking forward to spending time with my wife JIll and my son Matthew,” he explained. “Really, they are the big measure of why I have had any success whatsoever. (It) is because of their support and them being a part of this as well….

“Time is the one thing you start to realize is a very precious commodity and I just look forward to spending time with them.”

Dedicated and passionate about quality Catholic education, Phaneuf has been heavily involved in various positions and committees in the school division. He has served as a Teacher Assistant, Teacher, Vice- Principal and Principal over his career.

Phaneuf began his teaching at St. Michael Community School in 1991. Mark has also held the administrative positions of Vice-Principal and Principal of St. Francis School and Principal of École St Mary High School for 18 years.

He has also been a longtime coach with the Marauders volleyball program.

“That is going to be hard,” he said. “I have always cherished from the time I was a Teacher’s Assistant in the school division back in the really early to mid 80s until now I have always prided myself on coaching.

“I know that Rene Quintall, the head coach that I worked with for volleyball a number of years, I’m sure that they will find somebody to replace me in that role, but I am really going to miss that. It’s that time that you spend with the guys and with the team and really throughout the province and throughout Western Canada.”

Earlier this year the team traveled to Spruce Grove, Alberta for the David Pysyk Memorial Tournament and the interactions are always the same.

“We traveled to Alberta and played teams from Manitoba, Alberta, beat British Columbia, we really interact with people all over and I am really going to miss all of those interactions. It’s funny we would walk into a gym in Prince Albert, it would be no different walking into a gym in Edmonton or Saskatoon you knew all of the refs and they knew you and you knew a lot of the parents on the other teams. That is going to be very difficult to walk away from,”

Phaneuf will assume a temporary position as Superintendent in Human Resources and School Operations, where he will put his skills developed while working as a principal to good use.

“It’s Human Resources and School Operations, so I will be working closely with senior administration in the school division and school board at the table with staffing going forward to next year and beyond,” Phaneuf said.

The school operations side works closely with principals in the division. Phaneuf said he has the greatest respect for Prince Albert’s elementary school principals, and credits a lot of St. Mary’s success to their efforts.

“It can’t be stated strongly enough that the high school runs as well as it does because of the great job our elementary schools do,” he said. “The kids come and they know what is expected of them before they come here. They know that being part of Prince Albert Catholic Schools is something pretty special.”

Phaneuf is looking forward to beginning his new role. He’ll fill it until the end of the school year, while one of the division’s superintendents takes a temporary leave of absence.

Like Phaneuf, Gareau is also looking forward to his new role.

“I am excited to maintain and promote all of the positive academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities we offer students,” Gareau said in a school division press release.

“We have an amazing staff and student body, and I look forward to working with them in my new role. It is a privilege to become the principal of École St Mary High School, and I look forward to working with all present and future students, families and staff.

“At this time, I would like to sincerely thank Mark Phaneuf for his dedication and investment to École St Mary High School, and I have appreciated his administrative mentorship over the last eight years,” he added.

Phaneuf has been principal so long that he has had children of former students that he said were too many to count

“Really when I first got here my first year those students would have been 18 and I have been here 19 years so those kids are 37 now,” he said. “You start doing the math on that a lot of them have had children and many of them we have been blessed that they have chosen to send their children back to École St. Mary.”

Reflecting on his time in the Catholic School Division, Phaneuf said you work with people in their times of triumph and times of tragedy.

“The one thing as a Catholic administrator is I really work to see the face of Christ in each person that I deal with and more importantly you want them to be able to see the face of Christ in you,” he said. “Whether you are congratulating somebody because something positive has happened or the odd time you are disciplining somebody or dealing with tragedy, you want to mirror that face of Christ back to them.

“It’s a huge responsibility and it’s one that I have really cherished the opportunity to do that for over three decades in our system over two decades as an administrator for almost two and a half and almost two decades here at Ecole St. Mary, what a blessing to work here as long as I have.”