Sue-Ellen Miller started with the Quesnel School District as a Speech and Language Pathologist in July of 1995 and took on a number of positions leading up to her final stop as Superintendent in November of 2005.
Miller says a lot has happened in 16 years, but she says the one thing that stands out as a fond memory for her every year is graduation…
“I have attended for 18 graduations, and 17 proms, and I have loved being there because I really believe that’s the culmination of the work of every educator in our district. And just to see those young people ready to go off into the world is just a privilege.”
The graduation rate for Indigenous students has consistently done up in Quesnel and is at a pinnacle right now, which is something else that means a lot to Miller, who was the District’s First Nations Education Program Coordinator briefly in 1995…
“Absolutely, that’s probably the most profound position that I actually held in the District. It was probably also my shortest. I was just holding a spot while we were searching for an indigenous person to lead that department. I say it was the most profound because I felt it was life changing for me, it really helped me think about what was really critical and what was important to help our Indigenous students be successful, and I had a great teacher I worked with. Sylvia Boucher was our Language and Culture teacher, and she taught me so much and shared so much, that it really made a huge difference in my career.”
Of course, Quesnel’s new junior school will also go down as a highlight during her time as Superintendent.
“From the time I started 16 years ago I was taking over the work of previous people like Ed Napier who had been lobbying for a new school to replace Quesnel Secondary School at the time, Quesnel Junior School now. When you have declining enrollment it’s hard for government to invest those kinds of dollars, because we know it’s going to be a 50 million dollar school into a small district, but in the end it’s the right thing to do and we’ll have a beautiful school that will last 50 more years, so ya it’s pretty exciting that that’s happening.”
Miller acknowledges that there were also some challenges in her position over the years.
“Most of the challenges end up being around the struggles with the district finances, so trying to be able to provide the best quality you can with the funds that you have. So, off and on over the years when the enrollment started to decline , we had to make some really difficult decisions. It’s one of the hardest things. I think the other things that are really difficult when there is some type of a tragedy, involving a child or an educator, those things stay with you your whole career.”
Miller says the process around potential school closures was also difficult at times.
“That was right up there with the most difficult and challenging. If I can put the positive spin on it before I put the negative, the positive spin is that we still have both of those little schools. You know, we had concerns with being able to afford having Parkland and Kersley. In the end the money came through from government to keep those schools open. The hard part of that is we did have to close Baker because we really could not balance the budget without making a difficult decision.”
Through it all, Miller says she really enjoyed working with such great staff and Trustees.
“You know people in the Quesnel School District come to work every day because they care about providing a quality education or a quality space for kids to be educated, so it doesn’t matter what the roll they play in the District, people really do do their best work and really do care about kids. It’s been great to work with people in that capacity. I’ve always joked over the years about our motto “Together We Can,” but I actually really mean it, and it means something to me because the staff is really collaborative, and they really do try to problem solve.”
Miller’s retirement goes into effect on January 1,2022.