New QAE principal settles into role

In some ways, school administrators at Queen Anne Elementary didn’t have to look far to find its next principal. Before taking the job, Janine Roy was working just a few hours away.

But, a move to Seattle still required a border crossing, and a visa.

After spending decades in the Greater Victoria School District, Roy was intrigued and excited by the job opening in Queen Anne, and the “five pillars” philosophy, focused on creative thinking, social and emotional learning, self-directed learning, innovative technology, and creativity.

“Those have really been key areas of focus in my career,” she said, “I saw this posting and I thought, ‘That is my dream position.’”

Roy, who most recently worked as the district principal of learning initiatives in Victoria, arrived in Seattle in June. The timing gave her the chance to see the end results of a year of project-based learning for students, and to meet parents and staff during a transition period with interim principal Amy McCue Jessee. 

Roy brings with her a long track record of school administration work in Victoria, dating back to 2000. During the span, she spent five years at the principal of George Jay Elementary, a school where 93 percent of students were identified as members of vulnerable populations, and almost a third were learning English as a second language. But over her time at the helm, it was identified by the province as one of the most improved elementary schools in British Columbia. In 2006, she was honored as a winner of Canada’s Outstanding Prinicipals Award.

She later became the principal of Arbutus Middle School, which became the first school of choice for global education in the province, before taking on her most recent role as an administrator.

But after a full career in Victoria, why the decision to move?

“The curriculums are very similar in many respects,” she said. “Learning is the same wherever we go, and having the opportunity to work directly with children, and their families, and staff once again was a very exciting opportunity for me. I love Seattle, and I was really intrigued to come to a new professional and personal challenge.”

While Roy, her husband, and their dog have made the transition to the Emerald City, her two grown children, and her parents, remain in Victoria.

“I’ve been the family member who stayed in Victoria for so long,” she said. “So this is a real adventure.”

Along with continuing the focus on the established five pillars, Roy also sees copportunities from the looming construction on site. An addition of eight new classrooms and a gymnasium is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for children to be learning about how construction works, and how are designs planned and what are the different roles that are all involved to make that come forth,” she said.

The opening itself didn’t come without controversy. Soon after starting his sixth year at the school last fall, principal David Elliott was forced to resign by Seattle Public Schools officials after they claimed he had not completed teacher evaluations for the last school year. For the remainder of the year, Jessee has held the role.

But with that situation in the rearview mirror, Roy said the community has been incredibly welcoming.

“This has been truly a phenomenal experience,” she said, “to come and not know anyone, and to feel so welcomed.”

With the school year over, Roy said she plans to spend the summer getting to better know her new city, while also getting the chance to explore all the different aspects of Queen Anne Elementary.

“A school is a complex and dynamic place,” Roy said, “and every year it grows and changes to meet the needs of our students. Doing those learning pieces is something that I relish as an educator and I do every summer, so I’m looking forward to that delicious opportunity to really do some thinking and some exploring.”

But, Roy stressed, the school doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel because of the foundation it already has.

“I think this is a school where we have the opportunity to really honor what has been established,” she said. “The foundations that have been established by the five pillars are fantastic — they are why I came here — and I look forward to collaboratively working with staff and parents to always be seeing how these pillars will support the ever-growing learning and education of every single student in our school.”