“A GREAT PLACE TO BE”: ALC anniversary a trip down memory lane

Mike Mackay opened the door and turned on the lights. As his eyes scanned the room, his only thought was to say “interesting.”

It was the first time Mackay, the original principal of A. Lorne Cassidy Elementary School, had seen his office since his retirement 21 years ago. A lot has changed in both his office and the school over the years. The changes, and similarities, were front and centre Friday at the school’s 25th anniversary celebration.

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Arthur Lorne Cassidy after receiving his BA from Queens University, 1958. (courtesy of the Cassidy family)
Arthur Lorne Cassidy after receiving his BA from Queens University, 1958. (courtesy of the Cassidy family)

Brian Cassidy is the son of the school’s namesake, Arthur Lorne Cassidy. He attended the celebration with his 85-year-old mother Dorothy.

“It really warms our hearts today to see what a vibrant institution this school has become in 25 years,” he said in a speech.

Born in the area in 1929, Lorne Cassidy excelled at school and started his first teaching job at Secondary School No. 4 in Goulbourn in 1947 at only 18. When he was 19, he married Dorothy Garland, then 16. Dorothy was one of his students and they had known each other for a long time. In 1950 they moved to Kingston for 15 years, returning in 1965 so Lorne could take a job with the Carleton School Board as School Inspector.

Lorne moved up the ranks, becoming a special advisor for the director of education. In 1970 he was promoted to his final job as Superintendent of the Schools. Throughout his career, he became known for his dedication to creating an education system that fits the needs of all children.

“Some students didn’t seem to fit into the academic or technical streams in high school, so he made it his mission to pave the way for them to start learning a trade they were interested in,” said Brian, referencing Lorne’s successful mission to open Sir Guy Carleton trade school on Baseline Road.

Lorne died in 1982 of heart problems, which were masked by his arthritis. “It all went down in one day, we were shocked,” Brian said.

The love for education continued, with all of Lorne’s children having taught to some degree. “We’re all our father’s children, definitely.”

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Over the years, hundreds of teachers have come and gone. The only teacher who has been there from the start is Suzanne Morneau. “It’s still a great place to teach,” she said. Among many stories, the little-known fact that the school is technically 26 years old. When it opened in 1990, there was no opening ceremony as teachers then were on work-to-rule. Classes went ahead and the official opening was recognized the next year.

She also explained the school’s duck mascots. Before the school was built, the entire area was a marsh. Workers had to clear away the wildlife, including a family of ducks. Even when the marsh was long gone and the school in use, mother duck came back every day. The ducks have become a metaphor for the school’s family-like community. For every teacher who leaves, there is a duck somewhere in the school.

What has changed in the past 26 years? “Beside the face and the wrinkling?” Morneau asks with a laugh. She says one of the biggest changes in her classroom over the decades has been technology. When the school opened, it was considered cutting edge. No other school in North America gave every student their own email address. They also had one of the first SMART boards, an interactive whiteboard made for education by SMART technologies. Now, students bring in their own computers and smartphones.

“This was a big deal when we opened,” Mackay said, reflecting on his time there. “It was a forward thinking school… It was a great place to be.”

Outside his office, he turned his attention to the school’s large ceremonial brass key. It’s given to a departing student at the end of each year. Mackay tried to recall the first student to get it. He can only recall it was a girl in grade one.

“She was about that high,” he said with a chuckle and a hand to his knee. At that moment, current principal Andrew Canham walks in. Mackay says he looked at the office “So that’s the original desk,” he said. “I believe it,” Canham replied.

Mackay walks down to the staff room, noting very proudly that he insisted on a dishwasher in the kitchenette during construction. He points out every duck in the room, trying to recall which teacher they were for. Down the hall, he points them out. “There’s a duck. Another duck.”

Brandi Macgregor graduated ALC in 1996 only to return as a teacher, until moving to Richmond Public School. She says it was one of her ALC teachers, Wendy Jewel, who inspired her. “Her love for students, how she met the needs of all the students in her class.” Macgregor is only one of many teachers who used to be students at the school.

For the hundreds of teachers, students and parents, past and present, the evening ended with a concert by local singer Grace Lachance. Lachance, 16, graduated from ALC in 2014. She recently released her first single through a professional label.

“All the teachers were so supportive… I really liked this school,” she said.

ALC founding principal Mike Mackay holds the school’s ceremonial key. Photo by Devyn Barrie.
ALC founding principal Mike Mackay holds the school’s ceremonial key. Photo by Devyn Barrie.

 

Former teacher Brandi Macgregor (left) embraces former teacher and Vice Principal Wendy Jewel. Photo by Devyn Barrie.
Former ALC student and teacher Brandi Macgregor (left) embraces former teacher and Vice Principal Wendy Jewel. Photo by Devyn Barrie.

 

One of the many ducks on display at the school. Photo by Devyn Barrie.
One of the many ducks on display at the school. Photo by Devyn Barrie.
Suzanne Morneau (lef) with Grace Lachance. Morneau has taught at the school since it opened a quarter century ago. Photo by Devyn Barrie.
Suzanne Morneau (lef) with Grace Lachance. Morneau has taught at the school since it opened a quarter century ago. Photo by Devyn Barrie.

 

Former student Grace Lachance performing on-stage. Photo by Devyn Barrie.
Former student Grace Lachance performing on-stage. Photo by Devyn Barrie.

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As for Brian, he’s happy to see his dad’s legacy live on.

“Because I was part of the flagship early French immersion program and bilingualism has come to define my life and career, I think my father would have been particularly pleased to have his name associated with this school.”

“Happy 25th anniversary! Here’s to at least 25 more.”

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(Devyn Barrie is a former A. Lorne Cassidy student.)

 

 


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