When Principal Michael Wetzel walks the halls of Saint John Paul II School (SJPII), he tells students he walked the same halls when he was their age. “I admit my experience was very different. I’ve seen the school evolve a lot.”
Raised in Scarborough, he has spent his teaching career in the community and counts himself lucky to return to the West Hill high school as Principal. Michael is proud that many members of the staff were also raised in Scarborough and are former students.
SJPII is home to almost 1,400 students and is accredited to offer the International Baccalaureate diploma, as well as gifted, cooperative and extended French programs. The building is equipped with science labs, tech shops and drama, art and music rooms, as well as the expected cafeteria, library and gyms. For the 2015 PanAm & Parapan American Games, the school hosted the roller speed skating competition on a newly paved outdoor track. Students also have access to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
“There has always been diversity in the school. Now, 80 per cent of our students have neither parent born in Canada, and the ingredients of the melting pot have changed. Many parents expect their children to become doctors, engineers or lawyers, or similar professionals. It comes from a place of caring. Parents don’t understand our education system. We need to communicate that. We look at engaging parents in a different way.”
Following the Ministry of Education Pathways to Opportunity, he works with his staff to point out alternatives to university, including over-looked prospects in trades.
Michael cites the Parent Council as one of the most rapidly evolving parts of the school, leading advocacy for the school and for Scarborough East, citing the needs for recreation space, community theatre and health and wellness support.
“They’ve been fantastic, very positive. They ask, “What can the school be?“
Principal Wetzel’s answer is optimistic.
“Our history and our position is a phenomenal opportunity that can’t be missed. I think there’s a lot of growth and potential. We have a relationship with a world-class recreation centre and university on our doorstep. So many things could happen. I see it every single day.”