Former Ponoka resident Dale Boddy, now retired and living in Red Deer, has just self-published his first book: Profile of an Effective School Superintendent.
The book, which is a ethnography, meaning the scientific research of a person or culture, was a project he began in 1994. It was finally published by Friesen Press in March, 2021.
“It was a long road … You kind of learn a lot about yourself as you finish it,” said Boddy, adding feedback from editors was sometimes not what he wanted to hear, but he revised and persevered.
In the end, he believes it’s a work he can be proud of.
“I finished a project I put off for so long. I was very pleased to be finished with it.”
Boddy says potential readership for his book could be former and current educators, as well as people who knew him from growing up in Ponoka.
Boddy, who was a school superintendent himself, sought to better understand that leadership role through shadowing a well-known superintendent at the time.
In 1994, he shadowed his subject, who was renamed for privacy reasons and is referred to in the book as Ed Noyce, for a total of 16 days, over a period of about six months.
He had all his coursework completed for his PhD, but wasn’t able to get the dissertation complete in time.
What he found fascinating about the research process, was that because of the long observation period, he really got an authentic picture of how that person operated in a professional setting.
“You got to see the best of somebody,” said Boddy.
During his time shadowing ‘Noyce,’ Noyce was dealing with a crisis in the division. There was a challenge to the school district when a party wanted to set up a private school within the public system.
Boddy recalls that during a five-hour town hall on the subject, Noyce interjected maybe five times, which he says was extraordinary, considering how teachers like to talk.
Although considered a very successful administrator at the time, Noyce was notoriously low-key, and always diverted attention or recognition away from himself and towards students and other staff.
Noyce stated in promotional material for the book that Boddy was never invasive in his observations of him or his colleagues, and was always respectful.
Although Boddy had kept all his notes, taped interviews and journals, it wasn’t until the last four years or so, that with the time available to him due to retirement, he was able to complete the project.
His book was finished in March and by April, he had printed copies shipped to him.
“Self-publishing has really changed the world,” said Boddy.
Now that he has self-published, the work is complete, but unfortunately not as a dissertation that would complete his PhD as he wasn’t able to find an interested and compatible university.
“You can call me mister,” he said.
Born in 1948 at the Ponoka Municipal Hospital, he graduated from the Ponoka Senior High School in 1966.
Boddy played hockey in Ponoka growing up. His coach John Zahara, turned out a couple of NHL players, including his brother Gregg Boddy.
He was a bit of an “academic jock,” he says, playing football and was in track and field and part of the competitive swim team in addition to playing hockey.
He was part of the Ponoka Air Cadets from ages 14 to 16 or 17, he recalls.
The Boddy family lived on Chicken Hill in Riverside, and at the time, the street was known as Boddy Avenue, as they were the only family on the lane.
“Ponoka was a really good community for me,” he said, adding it had the right mix of opportunities, real-life experiences and safety growing up.
“We got exposed to all life had to offer … Our parents let us loose and we came home for supper,” he said.
Boddy moved away from Ponoka when he was 18 to attend university.
In his family, you either worked at the Ponoka asylum or on the family farm.
Although he’d wanted nothing more to stay home and work the farm, his father saw other potential in him.
Boddy recalls the pair went to look at a quarter parcel of land that was for sale, but after kicking around the dirt a bit, his father proclaimed, “You’re going to university.”
And not having a lot of role models in other professional fields, he decided to become a teacher.
“I chose what I thought I could do.”
He attended the University of Calgary on a hockey scholarship, playing on the varsity team.
Eventually he earned a masters degree in curriculum administration from the University of Oregon.
Boddy became a principal before he was 30, and was a deputy superintendent by 36 and made superintendent by 39.
However, due to downsizing, he found himself out of work and eventually became a real estate agent, leaving his dissertation incomplete.
Boddy says he still has some relatives living west of Ponoka.
Boddy’s thinking about trying his hand at writing again, and so far, he’s thinking if he does it may be a memoir about the process of writing his first book.
“I have to have some kind of job, otherise I’m underfoot and my wife gives me jobs I don’t like,” he said with a laugh.
Boddy and his wife recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.