Back to school at Crofton Elementary School will involve many changes for safety due to COVID-19, but also marks the introduction to students of a new principal.
Tim Ylagan takes over the position from Jennifer Calverley, who is now the principal at Khowhemun Elementary School in Duncan.
Ylagan just turned 40 on July 26 and the occasion was marked by a small birthday parade in Ladysmith where he resides. He intends to bring the same vibrancy to the principal position as his predecessor, leading a tremendous teaching staff that’s always been one of the most important qualities in making Crofton Elementary such a great school.
“The staff here are super experienced and they’re coming in early,” said Ylagan Monday. “The majority of the staff are returning.
“Jen was excellent. We worked quite a bit with the transition. I’m definitely going to work as a team here and rely on our strong staff. They want to be here and that makes a difference.”
Ylagan was born in Manila, the Philippines, and his family immigrated to Canada when he was very young, staying in Vancouver briefly before settling in Fort St. John.
“That’s where I grew up and graduated high school,” Ylagan noted.
He later went to the University of B.C. for undergrad studies in psychology and obtained his teaching degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton where his parents had moved in the interim.
“As a college grad, you come back home,” Ylagan reasoned. “My mom was a guidance counsellor and I was thinking in that route.”
He also studied at UVic and returned to Fort St. John to work in the school system for 10 years as an elementary counsellor, behaviour support teacher, Grade 3-4 teacher and vice principal.
“They threw me around,” Ylagan chuckled. “The north is really good – there’s lots of opportunity.”
The district is similar in size to the Cowichan Valley, he pointed out.
Ylagan eventually relocated for a job in the Cowichan Valley School District as a district principal of support services before applying for the principal’s job in Crofton.
His wife Jennifer is also employed by the district at Chemainus Secondary.
“My wife’s from Coombs,” he added. “We know the Island fairly well from the summertime (visits).”
Switching the locales of their upbringings for residency has worked out well.
“She did her time there and now it’s her turn,” laughed Ylagan. “We really enjoyed the north. It was a great community and growing up there. I was really excited about the position here and a new challenge. I still feel like a tourist.”
A direct principal’s role is exactly what Ylagan was looking for at this time.
“It definitely rekindles the excitement of working with kids and working with families which is a bit different,” he said. “At the district you’re a bit more further removed.”
There’s been a lot of work to do in general without even taking COVID regulations into account over and above the usual preparations for the transition.
“It was a short summer,” conceded Ylagan. “There was a lot of conversation in the district to make sure we knew what was going on, making sure we’re in the loop and touching base with Zoom.
“It’s challenging. The landscape is dynamic.”
The first September with COVID is going to present numerous challenges, but Ylagan is confident everything will be handled well with the appropriate measures. Students return to school Sept. 10 to give staff an extra couple of days to make sure everything is in place.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s happening in the background,” Ylagan indicated. “It sets us up for the eighth and the ninth to start our conversations with our teachers.
“We need to be flexible. What we have for a plan now may change as needed.
“I think the challenge is how do we make students feel welcome and safe and not lose focus of the relationships we’ve built here.”
Ylagan is well aware of the important role the school plays in the community and is loving the atmosphere.
“It’s a great responsibility and also a great privilege to work in that capacity in the community,” he said.
“This is a beautiful school.”