Don Lefebvre served as an outstanding Catholic educator for more than 35 years, spanning the period from 1951 to 1987. His contribution to the growth and expansion of Catholic education in the Niagara region has been significant and lasting to the present day.
Mr. Lefebvre’s professional career began in 1951 at only 19 years of age in a Catholic elementary school in the east end of Ottawa. By 1956, Mr. Lefebvre had obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce degrees from the University of Ottawa. He later received his Master of Education degree from the University of Toronto in 1962.
Mr. Lefebvre began his journey as a leader in Catholic education in Niagara in 1959. He became a Catholic Elementary School Inspector in the City of Niagara Falls, the Township of Stamford, the Village of Chippawa, the Town of Fort Erie, the Town and Township of Thorold and the Town and Township of Niagara.
In the 10-year period following his appointment as Inspector, Mr. Lefebvre made a significant contribution to Catholic education. He provided leadership at both the local and provincial levels, where he played an active role on the executive of several professional associations including Secretary of the Separate School Inspector’s Association, and Vice-President of the Civil Service Inspectors’ Association.
Because of his proficiency in calculating the grants for his various Boards, Mr. Lefebvre was selected to serve on a six-member Grants Committee appointed by the Ontario Separate Schools Trustees’ Association. The committee’s work, over a two-year period, resulted in the Ministry of Education implementing an equalization grant to partially compensate Catholic school boards for their lack of secondary school grants for Grades 9 and 10 pupils, as well as their lack of assessment for secondary school purposes.
In 1968, Mr. Lefebvre left the Ministry of Education to accept the position as Chief Executive Officer of the Niagara Falls Separate School Board. The Board had 3,000 students and was entitled, for the first time, to hire its own Superintendent of Schools. A few years later, this position became known as Director of Education for both the public and separate school boards.
In 1968, the Ontario Association of Education Administrative Officials (OAEAO) was formed. Mr. Lefebvre was one of the founding members. The OAEAO consisted of supervisory officers from public and separate school boards across the province. Mr. Lefebvre was elected Vice-President of the Association in 1969, and served in that role until he left the supervisory officer ranks in 1970.
On January 1, 1969, the county system of education was formed. Mr. Lefebvre was the first senior academic official appointed by the former Welland Board with complete responsibility for the operation of the Board for two months, until the appointment of the first Superintendent, Alexander Kuska, K.S.G. He developed and authored the first board Special Education Plan in response to the provincial Special Education, Bill 82 legislation. A few years later, as Superintendent of Schools for Program, he developed a Curriculum Process Model, and a five-year Implementation Plan upon which his successor could build.
Mr. Lefebvre contribution to Catholic education during the 1970′s and 1980′s continued in a significant way, while he served as Principal and Superintendent of Curriculum. He played the lead role in improving the program offerings for students and developing curriculum guidelines and resources for teachers.
In an article about Mr. Lefebvre retirement that appeared in The Review on March 25, 1987, Lou Smyrlis, staff writer, concluded the article by saying: “It may not be long before Don Lefebvre is back at the Fitch Street headquarters of the Welland County Board.” These words proved prophetic for, after serving as General Campaign Chairman of a very successful Niagara Falls United Way Campaign in the fall of 1988, Mr. Lefebvre was elected easily as one of the Catholic school trustees from Niagara Falls. He served as a trustee of the former Welland Board for two three-year terms from 1988 to 1994. He was Chairperson of the English Language Section of the Board from 1990 to 1992, and then Chairperson of the Board from 1992 to 1993.
Mr. Lefebvre’s affability, welcoming manner, winning smile and booming voice graced the classrooms and board offices of the Catholic schools in the Niagara region for many wonderful years. By his example, in a quiet, unassuming and gentle manner, Mr. Lefebvre’s Catholic leadership style has shown students, teachers, principals, supervisory officers and trustees how to be better people and better Catholics. His significant contribution to Catholic education is still being felt by staff and students in many schools of the Niagara Catholic District School Board.
Inducted: January 27, 2006