It took a vision, a persuasive argument and a team to make the Pauline Johnson 50th anniversary happen.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

June 15th, 2018



What makes a community work?

Things just don’t happen – they don’t just fall off the back of a truck.

Someone has an idea, there is something someone wants to do.

Sometimes a person doesn’t like the way something is being done and they want to have it changed.

Other times people see an unfortunate situation and they want to make it better.

Burlington is a community with a lot of wealth. There are people who are not wealthy but overall the city is financially comfortable.

Some describe the city as complacent.

Others see something that isn’t happening and they think something should happen and they mobilize and make it happen.

Carie DeMunck

Carie DeMunck

Carie DeMunck, a parent with children at the Pauline Johnson (PJ) public school, was touring the Frontenac public school that he daughter was to attend next year. Pauline John public school is a K to 8; Frontenac is a Middle school.

While touring Frontenac Carie learned that they had celebrated their 50th Anniversary in May of 2017

In September of 2017 Lori Waugh was appointed as the new school principal. She told the Parent Council meeting later that month that the school would celebrate their 50th anniversary the following year.

“Nobody really jumped on it” said Carie . “It was brought up again at the November Council meeting when the principal recommended putting a committee together to mark it in some way. It was then that we learned there were time capsules that were marked for opening, which the majority of us on Council, including myself, had been completely unaware of until that point.

“Initially we all shied away from it because we all knew what a big job it could be and the event /fundraising planning always seems to fall on the same four or five people. It’s difficult to get people on board and motivate parents to volunteer and be leaders within Council.

“By the November meeting I had already started looking up news articles for our school to see what was in the local history and general interest articles. That’s when I jumped in and said to myself – I’ll do it.”

Carie met with Dave Woodward, a 1968 staff member at PJ who returned to the school in the 70’s as principal.

Trips to the library to dig out whatever the Historical Society had on the school.

With her mind made up and he best friend beside her Carie headed for a meeting with the principal to sell the plan to her.

DeMunck - air duct

Carie DeMunck pointing o where the two time capsules were stored – no one knew.

With the concept thought through and the team in place Carie was ready to put it in front of principal Waugh.

I was thinking a formal assembly and tree planting was a fitting tribute especially for working in a time capsule reveal, and doing a public reunion on a Saturday which would require the principal to be totally on board.

Carie is one of those people who can use words to paint a picture.

“So picture this” she said. “Do you remember that picture of Merkel and Trump at the G7?

Well I was Merkel and Waugh is sitting there like Trump and we presented the ideas. I said I would run the whole thing and she said Ok.”


Chiefwoods the Pauline Johnson ancestral home.

She took her kids on a tour of Chiefwoods, the Pauline Johnson family home in Brantford to get a deeper idea as to just who Pauline Johnson was and came away with a much better understanding of just what Canada has in the way of an Indigenous population and how Canadians have related to them – not always that well.

The Indigenous people have been given a bad rap said Carie. “We need to open up our minds and become more aware of our colonial past and begin to collaborate with the First Nations.

Carie didn’t make the two day 50th anniversary celebration happen all by herself. Her 11 years on the school’s Parent Council meant she had all kinds of contacts and a network of her own she could call upon.

Along with principal Lorie Waugh and Parent Council Chairs, Patty Chanda and Jenn Cooper-Cabral stepped up when there was a need and ran the student volunteers and bought the cake and helped with decorating and attended all planning meetings.

“ Patty is my right hand, without being asked, she’s cool and collected, organized, doesn’t get her feathers ruffled, lets me vent to her when I’m frustrated, is highly objective, not overly opinionated, steps in when she sees a need, she doesn’t like the spotlight either.” The two have been close friends for 10 years.

Next for the team that made the celebration happen?  Well all those posters and picture the students put together have to be put into a 50th anniversary time capsule to be opened on perhaps the 75th anniversary.  Carie has found the containers she want to use.  No stopping this lady.

Mary Alice Looking - with smile

Mary Alice St. James, retired Pauline Johnson public school principal.

Mary Alice St. James, a former and now retired PJ principal speaks glowingly of Carie DeMunck. “She epitomizes the positive impact of volunteerism in a school. With 17 years of involvement at PJ where she saw her three children Jessica (Nelson High School), Ryan (Frontenac Public School) and Emilie (Pauline Johnson Public School) pick up the first part of the education she made a positive difference. As a School Council Member Carie learned leadership skills that served her well as she coordinated Pauline Johnson’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.

In a small neighbourhood school, volunteering is welcomed. It makes a huge difference. Carie liaised with many to begin and follow through with a vision of inclusion, involvement and reflection of the impact of life particularly in a small community has made to many over the past 50 years.
Carie humbly says that the successful two days of events are due to her team of parent volunteers, the PJ Staff current and past, the students and their families both current and past. True, everybody assisted BUT it was Carie who led the team, developed the vision and ensured its meaningfulness and celebratory feeling.

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