What's happening at Manitoulin Secondary School?
Meet the Administrative Team at Manitoulin Secondary School
Rainbow District School Board is pleased to announce that Neil Debassige has joined the administrative team at Manitoulin Secondary School. The team includes Principal David Wiwchar, Vice-Principal Dawn Noble McCann and Vice-Principal Neil Debassige.
“David Wiwchar, Dawn Noble McCann and Neil Debassige have a wealth of experience in education,” said Director of Education Bruce Bourget. “With an exceptional teaching and support staff in an exceptional learning environment, they remain focused on the success and well-being of all learners.”
He added: “With his strong roots in the First Nations community, Neil Debassige brings an important perspective to the administrative team. His contribution will enhance our ongoing work in Truth and Reconciliation.”
David Wiwchar has served as Principal at Central Manitoulin Public School, S. Geiger Public School, and Webbwood Public School. Prior to being appointed to a senior leadership role, he served as Vice-Principal at Manitoulin Secondary School, Lively District Secondary School and Lasalle Secondary School where he began his career as a science teacher in 2000. He also taught at Sudbury Secondary School.
David Wiwchar was the Regional Environmental Education Lead for Northeastern Ontario in 2009 and continues to provide system-wide leadership in environmental education as a member of Rainbow District School Board’s Environmental Education Committee. A champion for sustainability, schools under his leadership have earned EcoSchools Certifications at the highest level. All schools are now on track to be certified in 2022, a cornerstone of the Board’s Environmental Education Plan.
After obtaining a Bachelor in Biology at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University, David Wiwchar earned a Master’s Degree in Biology at Laurentian University then a Bachelor in Education at Nipissing University. In 2011, David Wiwchar was recognized by Rainbow District School Board with an Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Co-Curricular Program for his efforts in bringing solar LED lighting systems to Costa Rica with students from various Rainbow Schools, including Manitoulin Secondary School. He also received a Sudbury YMCA Peacemaker’s Award and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“I look forward to continuing to work with students, parents/guardians, staff and the community of Manitoulin Secondary School,” said Principal Wiwchar. “It is a pleasure to lead the exceptional administrative team and the dedicated teaching and support staff committed to student success.”
Born and raised on Manitoulin Island, Dawn Noble McCann calls herself “a true Haweater” and “a Mustang through and through”. She joined Rainbow District School Board in November 2005 after gaining experience at two school boards in Southern Ontario.
“I have been a part of the Manitoulin Mustang family for almost 30 years as a student, a teacher, and now in the role of an administrator. Our Island carries a sense of togetherness which makes it a unique place,” she said. “I recognize the importance of relationships and value not only the school culture, but also the culture of the communities that we serve.”
She added: “Integrating the cultures of Island communities into the school has been critical. That work is ongoing today as we continue to learn and grow together.”
Following a brief posting at Assiginack Public School, Dawn Noble McCann transferred to Manitoulin Secondary School where she taught in the Social Science and English departments, eventually making Family Studies her home. She enjoyed teaching Food & Nutrition, Fashion, Parenting and Personal Life Management.
She was also the lead teacher for the school’s Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM) in Arts & Culture and Agriculture. Alongside students, she founded the Living Well Locker, a food and resource bank for students. She was appointed Vice-Principal of Manitoulin Secondary School in the fall of 2020.
After graduating from Manitoulin Secondary School, Dawn Noble McCann obtained an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Geography from Wilfrid Laurier University. She has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Windsor.
Another proud graduate of Manitoulin Secondary School, Neil Debassige looks forward to inspiring the next generation to value education, set goals, work hard and achieve success in all pathways – apprenticeship, college, university, independent living and work.
“It is my truth that education is the key to the success of our First Nations across Canada,” said Vice-Principal Debassige. “Improving outcomes for First Nations learners can only take place in a school built upon a foundation of safety, trust, respect, patience and understanding.”
Neil Debassige was born on Manitoulin Island and raised on the M’Chigeeng First Nation. After graduating from Manitoulin Secondary School, he attended McMaster University in Hamilton where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1994. He earned a Bachelor of Education Degree from Brock University in 1995.
Neil Debassige returned to M’Chigeeng First Nation in the fall of 1995 to join the staff at Lakeview School. He taught all subjects with a specialty in Math, Science and Physical Education to students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 and established the Outdoor Education Program at Lakeview. The program was designed to expose students to nature, with the outdoors serving as a classroom with unlimited potential for academic and personal growth. After teaching for five years, Neil Debassige began his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership with San Diego State University.
During this time, he served as Principal at Francine J. Wesley Secondary School in Kashechewan First Nation and then at Wasse Abin High School in Wikwemikong. In 2004, having earned his Master’s Degree, he assumed the role of Principal and Education Manager at Lakeview Elementary School in his home community of M’Chigeeng. In addition to his leadership skills, Neil Debassige has extensive experience in school improvement planning, professional development, learning communities, and leadership capacity building.
He is the recipient of many awards including the Laurentian University Native Person of Distinction Award, the Indspire Indigenous Leadership Award, and most recently, co-recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal from the Lieutenant Governor in 2018 for Indigenous Education Leadership.
Manitoulin Secondary School enjoys a rich history. Nestled on the shore of West Bay in the heart of the North Channel, it is the only public secondary school on Manitoulin Island.
Built in 1969, Manitoulin Secondary School was renovated to showcase its geographic location, natural setting, distinct history and rich heritage as it celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Renovations not only included upgrades to the building’s automation, water, mechanical and lighting systems, but an inspiring reimagining of the entire learning and teaching environment.
Throughout the building, architects incorporated natural elements like cedar and limestone, as well as traditional Indigenous culture, like the four elements, cardinal points, the circle of life, and the Seven Grandfather Teachings.
Heavy timber now frames the front doors, which open up to a bright and airy foyer, flooded with natural light. New wooden ceiling beams and a fireplace bring warmth and texture to the space.
The redesigned cafeteria has modern round tables, café-style seating, lounge areas for conversation and quiet.
The gymnasium, where new bleachers were installed, has sparkling new floors with a striking decal of the school’s long-time mustang mascot.
The school also features a new library with new technology, updated science lab, an agricultural classroom and refreshed washrooms, including a universal washroom.
The centrepiece of the renovation is the multi-purpose cultural room in the heart of the building.
A Three Fires Indigenous student space, it offers a central open area for ceremonies, smudging, drumming, storytelling, and teaching – all with a view through the main lobby to the main entrance and the central courtyard with benches, picnic tables, plants, trees and the sky above.
“All students can see themselves reflected in their surroundings and have a strong sense of belonging at school,” said Principal Wiwchar. “The most significant part of this project is the wonderful space created for students, staff, parents/guardians and the community.”