Mountainview school

7450 cote-st-luc road, Montreal, quebec h4w 1r1

(tel) 514-483-3477     (fax) 514-483-3492


A Short History
of Mountainview

by Danny Olivenstein

In 1977 The Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal and Shawbridge Youth Centres responded to the Batshaw Report on the reformation of social services in Quebec by opening up the first English social service school in Montreal, The Project Centre. It was first located downtown on University Street near Pine Avenue in a building leased from McGill University. Student access to the school was limited to students in 3 Shawbridge group homes, Rosemere, St. Rose and St. James, along with up to 6 students from the community. The teaching staff was small and included the first head teacher, Ben Faigan, and the first new teacher hired, Danny Olivenstein. The first principal was only hired in October, he was Ralph Ross.

The first year proved challenging as the new school burned down in November and the school was first temporarily housed at the Shawbridge offices on Pine Avenue, and then in a temporary apartment building on Peel Street. The new staff under the direction of Ben Faigan began to develop the concept of individualized instruction. The curriculum was limited to the three main subject areas of English, Math and French along with another social science such as History or Geography. Naturally sports played a large part in the school but without a gym the school had to use whatever parks or rented facilities it could.

In 1978 the school moved to a location on Dorchester Street (now Rene Levesque) just east of St. Laurent. Danny had left the school to become the only teacher at the new Reflection Unit on de l’Eglise and was replaced by Tina Miklos (who would later become the teacher at Jeanne Sauve). At this new location Ben Faigan expanded the program to include a modest wood shop and a kitchen. The school staff changed quite often however, and the location was far from ideal. Ben left to teach at and finally become principal of the Montreal Association for the Blind (M.A.B.) and Mackay. In the academic year 1983-84 the school moved once again to an annex beside the new Batshaw offices on L’Acadie Avenue near the Rockland Shopping Centre. The new organization, Batshaw Youth Centres, had been created with the amalgamation of Shawbridge and Ville Marie Social services. The new school had large spacious classes upstairs with a very modest wood shop and kitchen downstairs. Space for the students to congregate was very limited and the “backyard” was really a concrete loading area for trucks delivering loads to nearby shops. Once more there was no gym, or art room, and lockers consisted of two large communal lockers where everyone put their belongings together. Brian Greenway was the head teacher and a basic program of English, Math and French was started, along with basic wood work and gym at a location in NDG where the students had to be transported back and forth over an hour twice a week only.

In 1985 when the Reflection Unit on Bourbonniere temporarily closed Danny Olivenstein was assigned as an extra teacher at The Project Centre. When it became clear that the unit was not going to reopen soon he was given the assignment of teaching students with special difficulties in reading, writing, and math. The next year, after Brian Greenway left, Danny became the new head teacher of The Project Centre. The new principal was Don Laing, but as The Project Centre and Mountainview School in Prevost were under the same administration we slowly became The Mountainview Project Centre and then finally just Mountainview, one north, one south. The school expanded its programs to include history and geography at all levels, computers, home economics and civil law. A year later Pat Piedimonte and Louto Roumain joined the program as childcare workers and the construction of the present team began. Some of the teachers included George Boutillier, Harry Cling, Martine Janser, Michael Chechile, and Murray Shields. The school, which had mainly accepted students from only the three group homes previously mentioned, began to accept students in need from all over the Batshaw network and offered a program from grade 7-11. These were exciting, interesting years as the school constantly challenged itself to rework programs in order to give our students the best service.

In 1990 Danny took a 3 year leave of absence to teach in northern Quebec in Chisasibi with the Cree school Board. Linda Ross became the temporary head teacher in his absence. The school continued to increase its academic courses. When Danny returned in 1993 both the school and Batshaw began to experience new phenomena. More and more students with severe learning disabilities were beginning to enter the educational and social service networks and their needs differed greatly from students in the past. In 1995 Mountainview School moved to its present location in Cote St. Luc and an opportunity to meet these challenges arrived. For the first time the staff of Mountainview had their own school building to utilize. Initially the citizens of the surrounding area did not welcome us but, with a series of rules and regulations limiting students to our building during the school day, opposition eventually melted away and we are an accepted part of the community.

The school building frankly was a mess and the staff of Mountainview worked hard to repair, paint and alter the building. At this point the old PSBGM was dissolved, as were all the confessional schools, and replaced with the new linguistic school board, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB). Our principal, Don Laing, left and was replaced by a young, energetic principal, Claude Dansereau. He pushed the school towards reforming its programs so when our first shop teacher, and superb hockey coach, Murray Shields, retired he was replaced by a dynamic teacher, Marcel Beaudet, who built our first kitchen, developed our first true professional work shop, and began a diversified wood and French program. When our English teacher George Boutillier retired, Mountainview was looking in a new direction and hired a special education, art and of course hockey expert, Alain Turgeon. Alain developed a wide-ranging art program and later teamed with art therapist, Debbie Walsh, to expand the program to include workshops at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and a yearend vernissage, once at the museum, itself. English, Science and Home Ec. teacher, Lucinda Lamontagne, then joined the staff and added hands on programs appealing to our students. Claude left to work in the larger school network, and was replaced by Gail Somerville, who only stayed one year. The next principal was Marie Vegiard. When a new position became available she hired Roseanne Peters, specializing in special education in mathematics, as well as ethics and science later on. The new team focused on making the subjects more hands on, more concrete and underscored the importance of individualizing our programs to meet the students’ needs. With the acquisition of our own gym and sports fields nearby the athletic department under Pat Piedimonte began to flourish. A highly diversified program including basketball, hockey, volleyball, soccer, football, baseball, badminton, and European handball was established, and competition for the yearend trophies was fierce. An ice hockey program once a week was an added plus that most schools lacked. Batshaw expanded its team by adding the new position of team leader. Andrea Yearwood joined Pat and Louto and added a new dimension of style, grace and care to our program. When Brian McGirr assumed the position of Program Manager the present Batshaw team was completed.

When Marcel decided to take a teaching position at Mountainview North, and our long time math teacher, Harry, decided to retire, their places were filled by two new enthusiastic teachers, Roger Pabros, for math and computers, and Brian Ulric, in the wood shop. Roger completely revitalized the math department and brought a new sophistication and expertise to our computer program which had previously stagnated. Along with Roseanne he pioneered the use of Smart Boards in the class, introduced new Apple computers and has begun a program of specialized projects dedicated to the areas of photography and short film production. Brian, along with our caretaker, Wayne Franks, turned the wood shop from a class into a business. After Marie left she was replaced by Felix Gelbart who encouraged Brian to establish a wood shop program which takes students who are seeking to enter the work force and trains them in the work related skills they will need to eventually get a job. The class builds furniture but really specializes in building and installing kitchens. They are presently at work refurbishing our own. Last year Lucinda decided to take a new teaching challenge at John Grant High School and was replaced by our last member of the present team, Tracy Clarkson, teaching English and History. Along with Danny she participated in an exciting new program whereby poets from the Quebec Writers Federation help our English classes develop and publish poetry “zines”, mini-magazines of creative poetry. This year Larissa and a new writer, J.P., will join our program. After Felix retired our present principal, Jacques Monfette, joined our team and has brought a new perspective to our staff with his years of experience at Mackay and the School for the Blind. He’s also a dedicated Canadiens fan!

While the school team consists of both teaching and childcare staff, a third essential element also is there to lend support. Paola Barzone is our present guidance counsellor and a terrific listener. She is there to both offer our students information on the diversity of school, work and adult ed. programs available as well as to provide a confidential ear when students need one. Our caretaker, Wayne Franks, goes way beyond his duties to provide tremendous support in the wood shop and to entertain us with his piano recitals. In the office our secretary, Bev Walsh, is on leave and is presently replaced with the incredibly efficient, organized and prepared Cathy Plesz. She makes the entire administration look good!

The one constant in Mountainview’s history has been change. As the needs of the students evolve so must our programs and approaches to learning. The new educational Reform presents some daunting challenges to our students and the school must learn to adapt to this new reality if we are to successfully serve the needs of our future student body. This philosophy has always served as the core of our belief system and will continue into the future as Mountainview invites you to become part of a longer short history.