Fayant buoyant about what new-look education facility can mean for students

Column: 
September 13, 2017

Scott Collegiate principal Shannon Fayant barely had time to breathe after the school’s final graduation before then embarking on the move to the nearby Mâmawêyatitân Centre.

REGINA–People often bemoan what it’s like to move to a new house and the stress that it entails.

Well try this: you’re the principal of Scott Collegiate and have just attended graduation ceremonies for the last time before the 94-year-old structure is demolished over the summer months.

Then less than 24 hours later, you’re operating out of a bare-bones facility with little or no connection to the outside world because whatever is still in the building is in boxes or in the process of being relocated to the adjacent Mâmawêyatitân Centre. In what is billed as a $42 million multi-purpose, integrated facility, the Centre will serve as the new school as well as a host of other agencies.

While some might be tearing their hair out at that point, there was a cerebral calmness about Shannon Fayant that meant she still found time to sit down for a discussion with the visitor wanting to chronicle this whole milestone.

Describing herself as a fairly calm person, Fayant cited two key components that helped her keep her equilibrium. First was her ability to compartmentalize things by day, and then probably even more important to her, was the calming effect of her last smudge in the old building.

“It’s not unlike teacher planning when you think about it,” she laughed, while quickly recalling how each of the previous days had brought about different emotions. This includes the realization that this transition was really happening and not merely being talked about any longer.

“For sure we [staff and students] were all pretty taxed and it was an emotional time, but I kept reminding everyone to take care of themselves first. For me, the smudge gave me that inner peace and closure of this place, and I felt it was very important that we honour this building. Then I felt I was ready and it was time. There’s no way we could have pulled this off without the staff because they are just so awesome and everybody pitched in to help make this happen.”

Looking back over the past school year, Fayant acknowledged that the impending move was always near the forefront. This involved sitting on multiple committees as they worked on problem solving and troubleshooting together.

“It’s a major transition and so I felt as the principal I had to be really on and alert. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and so there’s been a lot of adrenaline and excitement along the way.”

According to Fayant, the new facility has been a decade in the planning process. The overall intention was that Mâmawêyatitân (a Cree word for let’s all be together) would be the catalyst for the revitalization of Regina’s North Central neighbourhood.

It is a 100,000-square-foot facility that will include Scott Collegiate, a state-of-the-art child-care facility, a city recreational complex, a public library branch and a community policing centre.

Fayant said much of the thinking and philosophy to be entrenched in the new facility will be a focus on maximizing resources so there is a minimum of duplication, which is especially relevant in this time of dwindling education resources.

“Right from the planning stages, the hope was that this will be a gathering place for the community. It’s definitely something we all know was needed, and we want it to be very grassroots and to involve families in the community,” Fayant said.

“I know we are flipping the education experience in terms of how this will be a building for the whole community, but it’s about improving the services we provide and I’m proud of the people who sat at the table back in the day and had the courage to take these kinds of risks.”

Staff members who have come to Scott Collegiate in recent years had to apply with the understanding that the aforementioned integration model would be critical. “There’s an expectation that everyone has a full understanding of the model and the ability to build those relationships with other stakeholders will be part of our repertoire,” Fayant said.

“I see this building as being a hub for education as well as the community and we want to provide enhanced services for our students and families and get to know our community on a deeper level. I’m a big believer in listening to those voices and working together.”

While she is very mindful of not overlooking the fact that for many students, Scott Collegiate was like a second home, Fayant said the new facility has a good feel, and she sees limitless possibilities as part of this new adventure.

As an Indigenous person, Fayant is aware and comfortable with being a role model to the 98 percent First Nations students who attend Scott Collegiate. She also plans to maintain the open-door policy which she said has proven invaluable in many cases with students who have experienced difficulties.

“It’s humbling for me and I am cognizant of being a role model because I see a bit of myself in our students. I came from poverty and I’m aware of many of the struggles and the racism they encounter, and I try  to help them deal with it. The fact that I’ve been there, I think validates  what I tell them in terms  of overcoming difficulties.”

But as much as she is always prepared to lend an empathetic ear, Fayant is adamant that the students have to strive for more in terms of education, including pursuing post-secondary education. “We have to change the question from not if you’re going to graduate, but about when you graduate,” she said with a firm resolve in her voice.

Envisioning what life will be like at Mâmawêyatitân, Fayant’s imagination takes flight with the array of facilities that will be available. “I see champions among our students through sports, arts and what we offer in terms of it being a pathway to higher learning. Every day I see very strong, proud Indigenous people and we need to nurture that physically, emotionally and mentally. That’s the excitement. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like, but I sure want to be part of it and see where it goes,” Fayant said.