Brenda Blancher, the Grand Erie District School Board’s first female director of education, is set to retire.
Blancher, whose career in education spans almost 35 years, will leave her position as head of the public school board on July 31.
“Brenda’s dedication and commitment to our students, our staff, our parents, and our communities has been evident since she started as director of education,” said Greg Anderson, chair of the Grand Erie board. “Brenda has always been an excellent listener who seeks information from all sources, then work collaboratively in the best interest of our students and our families.”
The board accepted Blancher’s letter of resignation at a committee meeting on Jan. 13.
Blancher, who completed her teaching degree in 1985 and her masters of education degree in 1999, started her career as an English teacher with the Wentworth County Board of Education.
She was in the classroom for nearly a decade before moving into administrative roles with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. In 2001, Blancher was promoted to vice-principal and, two years later, principal, taking on a role as student success leader.
She came to Grand Erie in 2007 as superintendent of program. In 2010, she was named a superintendent of education. Finally, in 2015, Blancher was selected director of education.
“Brenda broke through the glass ceiling at Grand Erie,” said Diannah Dean, an Ontario principal council executive and principal at Woodman-Cainsville School in Brantford.
“As director, she has been a highly visible and constructive leader. She has this incredible ability to be fully present in a conversation and asks the courageous questions to prompt reflection and solutions, validating the work we all do as a system.”
During Blancher’s five-year tenure as director, she oversaw the opening of two new elementary schools and the expansion of the French immersion program. She also launched Grand Erie’s multi-year plan, providing strategic direction to guide the work of the school board.
“The multi-year plan was never an administrative document to Brenda,” said Rita Collver, vice-chair of the board. “She has embodied this plan, modelling its ideals each and every day.”
Blancher said her retirement plans include tackling a very long reading list, hiking more often, spending time with family, travelling and pursuing volunteer work.
“I will forever be grateful for the confidence trustees placed in me and for their ongoing support,” she said. “The opportunity to lead as director of education with Grand Erie has truly been the highlight of my career.”
A search for a new director will begin shortly, said Anderson, adding that the board expects to have that person named by the end of the school year.