Seaside Magazine Bird

Parkland Secondary School – Happy 50th Anniversary!

by Jo Barnes – 

The ringing of the school bell evokes memories for all of us. For one local group of former Parkland Secondary School teachers, those memories are refreshed at annual get-togethers which this year will be made even more special with the celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary.
Celebratory events kick off May 3 and hundreds of invitations have gone out to former students and staff including a few who annually meet to reconnect, remember and enjoy the relationships that were formed when the school first opened. Joe Milligan, a member of this group, shares: “We were there the first year when the school opened. We stay in touch and do a brunch the first day of each new semester. For years, we’ve been getting together at 8:15 a.m. This is when the bell rang and we went running to class,” he says, adding with a smile: “Now we meet at 10 because we can.”

Parkland Secondary first opened for the 1973-74 school year, and the anniversary event planning committee is working hard to bring people together, share memories and celebrate the history and accomplishments of the school and its community. “It’s all about relationships,” says Stasia Hartley, former student and member of the event organization team. “It’s about celebrating those who lived in this school community and the memories that connected all of us.”

On May 3 the school will be open to the public with student-led tours available and an opportunity for retired teachers to enjoy their own tour from noon to 2 p.m. An opening ceremony at 2:30 p.m. will include ribbon cutting and music performed by former and current students. Later that evening, there is a social event at Mary Winspear Centre. Appetizers will be served, a no-host bar available, and Beacon Brewing will be onsite offering a special brew in honour of Parkland school. Meanwhile in the lobby, there will be school memorabilia including hoodies, choir sweaters, and T-shirts on display. For event tickets, email

A “Musical Homecoming” happens on September 20 at the Charlie White Theatre. The event, coordinated by professional singer Diane Pancel, features former Parkland students who, like her, have gone on to become professional musicians. Proceeds from the concert will go to Parkland’s Fine Arts Program. And finally, there will be a silent auction featuring art and donations from graduates.

Parkland Secondary has come a long way since that first opening bell. The North Saanich high school of about 525 students is a busy educational hub offering a wide variety of extracurricular sports and activities, performing arts, and unique academies in judo, hockey, and sailing and marine. It is also the only English-speaking school on southern Vancouver Island to offer the International Baccalaureate Program which focuses on inquiry-based learning and developing critical thinking skills.

One of the factors contributing to the school’s development and success traces back to an initial commitment to build firm educational foundations. Joe Milligan talks about the staff in the early days: “It was important to establish the traditions of the school. This was the driving force for the early staff who were building curricular areas and athletic and performing arts programs. As accomplishments grew, school pride grew.”

Pride is a word that comes up frequently when people talk about Parkland, and it’s repeated in the school’s slogan “Parkland Pride.”

“Parkland Pride has been around since the school opened 50 years ago,” remarks current principal Kal Russell. “Students and staff continue to be proud that they attend Parkland and represent our school and community.”

Former student, Eleanor Jones, who was in the school’s first graduation class in 1974, shares: “The phrase Parkland Pride has a double meaning. The school mascot is the panther which travels in a pride, and we all take pride in representing our school and community.”

After graduation, Parkland students continue to contribute to the community, and the friendships they forge last long after they leave the school. As a result, the school has formed deep roots throughout the Peninsula. “The experience at Parkland sets the stage for lifelong friendships,” notes Stasia. Adds Joe: “People stay connected. I’m always bumping into former colleagues, and staff stay in touch with students. It was and is a caring place.”

A half century is a significant milestone, but for Parkland students past and present, the school- inspired concepts of community connections and a creative learning environment are ideas that will always “ring a bell.”

Shopping Cart