Barry Edgar has been involved with the handicapped on both a personal and a professional level throughout his lifetime. Barry was Principal of the Peace School of Hope when it occupied a wing of Montrose Junior High School in the 1970s. His experience with his younger brother Dale helped to make him more sensitive to the needs of handicapped students and their families. When considering options for individuals, he would often consider what effect a decision would have on his brother Dale. “How would Dale do with this? Is this fair?”
One of the most pressing issues during his time as Principal at Montrose was the push to get certification for the teachers from the Peace School of Hope. Barry continued as Principal of the Peace School at Montrose until Crystal Park School opened. The programs at Crystal Park were designed to meet the more complex needs of the handicapped students and their families.
Barry was Principal of Grande Prairie’s Composite High School for fifteen years. Programs for EMH (Educable Mentally Handicapped) and TMR (Trainable Mentally Retarded) were in place in the high school when Barry first started as Principal there. Those programs are now phased out. There was some degree of integration for handicapped students, depending on the individual. Barry saw some good and some bad examples of integration in practice.
With regard to integration, Barry wonders how much is gained over the personal satisfaction of doing well in a comfortable, familiar environment such as the Peace School of Hope or Special Classes in the high school. As Principal, Barry closely monitored the program to make sure integration was worthwhile. “If it was not working, then it would not be allowed to happen.” Barry regarded individual happiness as an extremely important factor to be considered. He is in favour of integration as long as it is a positive experience.
From a social aspect, if they could handle it, I thought it was good. And if it was individual work and other kids could help, I thought it was good too. But it was one that you had to very closely monitor so that it wasn’t integration just to say you’re integrated. It had to be worthwhile.
In the case where integration was not successful, there were always alternate programs available for the students to participate in. Students had access to the gym and woodshop facilities. “Flexibility and access to a tremendous facility was something we tried to achieve. And that was, again, a challenge because that place was going all the time.”
Barry says that the use of the word “retarded” in the early years of the Association was in no way derogatory. Still, the Association has undergone several name changes since its inception. “I think it was a response to what we now call political correctness, an evolution of correctness.”