Sitting in Ray Miller’s office, the Belmont Secondary school principal gets emotional when asked about his career in education.
After years of living and breathing Belmont Secondary, attending prep rallies and getting to know students, faculty and staff, Miller, who is usually seen sporting the bright blue school t-shirt, is getting set to retire at the end of the year. What’s made his retirement even more special is he was also the recipient of an outstanding administrator award from the B.C. Music Educators Association – an honour that brought Miller to tears.
“It’s amazing to be recognized for something I just normally do,” he said. “I don’t feel I did anything special. I was surprised and appreciative.”
Miller started his career as a high school science teacher in Spirit Wood, Saskatchewan in 1983, before eventually moving to the West Coast in January 1988.
In Greater Victoria, he worked at a number of schools across the Victoria and Sooke districts, including Cedar Hill, Arbutus, Reynolds and Spectrum Community School in Saanich.
It was at Spectrum that Miller started taking an interest in the music program with the goal of reviving it. When he first came to the school, the program had roughly 25 kids. Miller, who admits he has a weakness for the “underdogs,” designed and reshaped the school curriculum so music programs didn’t overlap with university prerequisites.
“We made is so that music kids could get music and they didn’t have to make a choice. If a music kid wants to take music, but they have to take physics 12, they’ll choose physics because it’s something that they need for college or university,” Miller said.
“But by creatively making the timeline so there’s very few conflicts for music kids, then if they select music, they’ll get music. That was a powerful change. We did very creative things within the timetable so kids could find that pathway to their music programs.”
Through his work, Spectrum’s music program grew to roughly 200 students. Redesigning the curriculum was also a top priority when Miller joined the faculty at Belmont Secondary, where he also helped grow the music program by introducing new classes such as marching band, drum line, digital music and beginner band.
It was Miller’s work reviving the schools’ music programs that caught the attention of the B.C. Music Educators Association and earned him the award.
Aside from the school’s music program, one of the highlights of Miller’s career has been overseeing the transformation of the old Belmont into “Belmont 2.0” as he puts it.
“He’s really the architect of the renewal of Belmont school. Ray had a huge part in moving from the old building to the new building, the design of the building, how classrooms would look. All of that was a huge amount of work that he did,” SD62 superintendent Jim Cambridge said.
“I hope Ray reflects back on the major work that he’s done and how he’s supported teachers in the last few decades, how he’s impacted so many kids’ lives and how he’s created a structure that’s going to continue on.”
During his retirement, Miller has plans to continue his teaching ways in Cuba. His father-in law runs a business called Spanish Studies in Cuba, and in January, Miller will be shadowing him, with hopes of taking over the business.
The school district’s board of education has appointed Jim Lamond as the new principal of Belmont Secondary School.
Lamond has a bachelor of education degree from Brandon University, Manitoba and a master’s of education from Simon Fraser University. He will be moving to the community with his wife and two children, and will officially take over the position on Jan. 1.