Former school board chair, long-time educator passes away

    INVERNESS COUNTY: A long-time volunteer, school board chair, and educator died last week.

    On April 5, former Strait Regional School Board Chair Mary Jess MacDonald passed away.

    According to her obituary, MacDonald was educated in Mabou then went on to Normal College at age 14, returning home to Queensville at 16 to teach in the same one room schoolhouse in which she began her own education. She continued her studies at StFX, earning her Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education, and Masters in Education, then went on to earn specialties in reading and special education.

    For 37 years, MacDonald served as a teacher, supervisor of special education, and assistant superintendent of schools, her obituary states, noting that after retirement, she spent 24 years as the elected school board member for southern Inverness County, then later as board chair and president of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association.

    For many years, MacDonald represented the Town of Port Hawkesbury on the Inverness District School Board, then later on the Strait Regional School Board.

    During the regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council on April 5, Town Councillor Hughie MacDougall called MacDonald “a great friend of the Town of Port Hawkesbury.”

    Noting she was glad MacDougall brought this up during acknowledgements, Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton sent along her condolences to the MacDonald family.

    “There were not too many people who didn’t know Mary Jess,” she noted. “She was an extraordinary person, certainly not afraid to take on roles in the community and show leadership, not just in Inverness but to represent the Strait area. See definitely was a trailblazer and certainly a role model for many.”

    Chisholm-Beaton also commented on MacDonald’s leadership style.

    “She was definitely all about bringing the voice of the people to whatever table she was sitting at. She always made herself accessible and available to citizens who had positive feedback or even any issues,” she noted. “My sense is that she continued to be elected to positions because of her leadership style and she was very much a leader for the people.”

    MacDonald’s passion for learning and education was recognized in 2012 with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.

    In addition to her time volunteering with local theatre like Under the Map, MacDonald’s obituary described how she loved to sing, and graced churches and stages across Nova Scotia.

    MacDonald was predeceased by her husband, former Inverness Warden Ed MacDonald, and former Strait area journalist Allena MacDonald. She is survived by her son Dwayne, a former Inverness Municipal Councillor.