isn’t yet daybreak when superintendent Janine Griffore, coffee in hand,
starts the one-hour drive to her first appointment in Windsor. A massive
daybook and a huge pile of papers sit on the back seat.
"I decided to live in Chatham because it’s halfway between the places
on my beat," Griffore explains. "Also, I set up my meetings by
region so I don’t have to retrace my steps. But my office is in London. I
try to stop in at least one day a week to catch up on admin work." The
Southwest French-language Catholic school board, Griffore’s territory,
extends from Windsor to London to Owen Sound.
In the dawn light at 7:30, Griffore turns into the parking lot at École
secondaire E.J. Lajeunesse. The school is almost as busy as downtown Toronto
on a Friday night. The superintendent picks up her messages on her cell
phone and returns a few calls.
On the way to her meeting with the principal, Griffore exchanges friendly
greetings with several colleagues. She and the principal, Bertrand Fournier,
sit at the boardroom table and spread out their files and notebooks.
Griffore listens carefully to Fournier’s summary, asks some questions and
requests copies of documents. Together, they review and discuss some of the
school’s plans for meeting the professional learning objectives of the
board. This year, the focus is planning and evaluation.
Griffore is articulate and expresses herself with care. Her 13 years of
teaching French have left their mark. During the meeting, she sheds new
light on the school’s situation, gets the information she needs to make
decisions, puts out ideas, recommends solutions and sketches an overview of
the board as a whole. Her expertise is the product of years of experience in
the education system.
Griffore has been in her current position since January 1998. Her
responsibilities include supervising schools, elementary and secondary
school curricula and special education. In addition, she is on a number of
internal and provincial education committees.
"I got to be superintendent sort of by chance," Griffore reveals.
"When a few positions opened up, people I knew encouraged me to
Griffore was a teacher at École secondaire Pain Court, near Chatham, then
its principal from 1986-1993. She became a learning consultant with the
Ministry of Education’s consulting services in the Southwest District
before moving on to the ministry's London office as an education officer. In
1995, she became superintendent of the French-language section of the
London-Middlesex District Catholic School Board.
"I love my work, but sometimes I miss teaching. I’d like to go back
to it some day, but at the elementary level this time. That way, I’ll have
covered all the bases," she says.
Before touring the facilities that are about to be renovated — "I’m
a very visual person, I need to see the facilities to get a good idea of the
situation" — Griffore gives Fournier the names of a few resource
people and promises to bring up some of the issues they’ve discussed with
the relevant board staff.
Just as she leaves the school, Fournier gives her the name of a book he’s
recommending. It was written for new teachers who are starting their first
day in the classroom.
used to read for enjoyment, but right now, most of what I read seems to be
work-related. I think it’s important to stay informed about new
developments in education," Griffore says.
Griffore’s next stop is the board’s Windsor office, for a two-hour-plus
training session by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. The
topic is the administration of the provincial tests for Grade 10 students.
Griffore uses the time before the session starts to set up two appointments
later in the day, one with Constance Legentil, Director of Learning
Services, and the other with Director Michel Serré and the Director of
Student Services, Pauline Morais.
Meanwhile, impromptu consultations, discussions and negotiations involving
groups of two or three people are going on in the hallway. They’re every
bit as efficient as more formal meetings.
The training session, which is done by videoconference, is for principals
and teachers in Windsor, Sarnia, Essex and London, as well as board members.
It’s meticulous training, in which the scope of the procedures is
unusually broad, leading to a buzz of questions and discussion after the
Next, Griffore and Pauline Morais go to Michel Serré’s office. Serré
explains that he has to join an audioconference at noon, so the two women
quickly give him a thumbnail sketch of the situation some schools are
experiencing. They look at the options and the budget and make decisions
from a student-based perspective. This session is followed by a private
discussion between Griffore and Serré.
Heading to the boardroom to meet with the Director of Learning Services,
Constance Legentil, Janine finds out a meeting has been arranged at the
board for 4 p.m. That means she'll have to come back after visiting École
élémentaire St-Ambroise in St. Joachim, a 20-minute drive away.
While the two women discuss professional learning for teachers, Griffore
eats her lunch — an apple. "I always have something to eat in my
purse," she explains. She doubles as a courier, delivering a thick
envelope to Legentil. She had picked it up in Ottawa the day before at
a provincial meeting.
The board is currently studying the new professional learning require-ments
for teachers. Griffore says, "The board sponsors training sessions:
every teacher has two days of compulsory training and is offered a range of
workshops tailored to his or her individual needs. It’s unfortunate that
the board's training sessions are not recognized. Counting all of the
training our teachers
get, they meet and even surpass the Professional Learning Program
requirement of 14 courses.
"Locally, what we want is to deliver this training across the board and
to have our courses meet the College requirements," says Griffore.
"Plus, we want to make sure our teachers get the training in French. It
isn’t easy having to take courses outside the region, whether we're
talking family considerations or financial ones."
At her next stop, Griffore tours École élémentaire St-Ambroise in
St-Joachim. The entire building has received a fresh coat of paint and is
looking rejuvenated. The principal, Mariella Brûlé, has put all of the
learning resources in the staff room, the gym has been renovated and the
playground and front lawn have been landscaped, partly by the students.
Griffore admires the work.
After her tour, she sits down with the principal to review the events of the
past few weeks and the objectives they set. They discuss problems unique to the
school and Griffore listens and suggests solutions. Brûlé tells her about
projects such as the fundraising campaign, trips, correspondence, a visit to
a secondary school, and so on. "Yes," Griffore says, "it’s
important that elementary school students already see themselves in
secondary school. In the southwest district, we want to develop young people
who are just as at home in French as in English. For most parents, it's
really important for their children to be bilingual. Many young people will
end up working in English, but they need to identify as Francophones.
"I really enjoy working in curriculum. When I was a principal, I often
developed pilot projects that were curriculum-related," she remarks on
the way back to Windsor for a meeting with people from the children’s
rehabilitation centre. En route, she calls her office in London to add some
items that she discussed with colleagues during the day to the agenda of the
board’s next executive committee meeting.
Back in Windsor at the board office, she spends a half-hour by herself in a
borrowed office updating documents, reviewing notes and making calls. Then
she’s ready for the last meeting of the day, which will discuss agreements
concerning special education services. The negotiations are conducted with
kid gloves. Co-operation is the order of the day among the four
The day is over at 4:50 p.m. "It was a typical day," Griffore
says. "The amount of work I get through doesn’t change much during
the school year."
She says, "For me, it’s about giving back what I have received. My
entire education took place in our region’s French-language schools. I
grew up here, in French, and I think it’s important for young people to
maintain their identity and improve their French. I’m working for the
survival of the francophone community."
And, adds Griffore, "It’s important for our schools to be recognized
as quality schools."
Southwest Catholic French School Board
Conseil scolaire de district des écoles catholiques du Sud-Ouest
Certified in 1980
Faculty of Education, University of Windsor