Thornlea Secondary School

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"Thornlea" redirects here. For other uses, see Thornlea (disambiguation).
Thornlea Secondary School
Thornlea logo.png
Think and be thought of
8075 Bayview Ave.
Thornhill, Ontario, L3T 4N4, Canada
School number 947814
School board York Region District School Board
Religious affiliation Secular
Superintendent Dennis Connor
Area trustee Susan Geller
Principal Sheri Epstein
Vice principal Janet Atkinson
Joseph Foti
School type Public school
Grades 9 to 12
Language English
Area Thornhill
Mascot Pharley J Cumquat
Colours              Purple, White and Black
Newspaper Ka-Boom
Founded 1968
Enrollment 780[1] (October 2013)

Thornlea Secondary School is a public high school that opened in 1968 and is located in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, on the north east corner Bayview Avenue and Willowbrook Road, just south of Highway 407.

The school began in the late 1960s as an educational experiment. The curriculum was unique, varied and highly specialised, following a trimester system, and students were encouraged to address their teachers by their first names and focus on independent learning. The school attracted innovative teachers and self-directed students. Around 1980, with the introduction of a school Disciplinarian, this model gave way to a more traditional, but still high-achieving academic environment.[citation needed]

During the late 1970s, the school mascot, Pharley J Cumquat adorned in purple and white brought the student body together. Many alumni remember fondly the 'purple passion pit' which was later turned into the dramatic arts classroom.

Extracurricular activities[edit]

Thornlea students often play key roles in the social activist life of Thornhill, and have, in the past, helped organize the Terry Fox Run, as well as the Walk Against Male Violence.

Generally, the school is known externally for its support for social causes. The school, which in the mid-1990s had an enrolment of over 2300 students and a staff of perhaps 150, was once known for its Grade 9 and 10 Gifted Program, Talented Athlete Program, musicals and other arts programs, all of which were cut or starved in the late 1990s as a result of political pressures in the Board, and ostensibly an effort to lower the student population. This era saw the retirement or transfer of many dedicated teachers, the firing and hiring of new department heads, frequent curriculum changes, and the discontinuing of many specialty courses as the OAC program (Grade 13) was eliminated.[citation needed]

Thornlea also boasts a thriving artistic community, with many prominent Canadian musicians among its alumni, including the groups The Philosopher Kings, Prozzak, By Divine Right, Kick Butt! Stop Smoking, hHead, Flutterboard, Hayden, and Moxy Früvous. Some of its more active extracurricular organizations are arts-oriented, in addition to other influential athletics-oriented organizations, two prominent ones being the Drama Club and the Music Council. The two organizations have been known to collaborate on intra-scholastic events and concerts. Notable quasi-annual examples of such events are known as Thornstock, and An Evening of the Arts. The Thornlea Lights Sets Sound (TLSS) committee also plays an instrumental role in the organization and orchestration of the school's extracurricular activities, as it is accountable for the technical work that many of the aforementioned events necessitate: for instance, the operation of audio-visual equipment, stage set-ups, mechanical labour and assistance, and so on.[citation needed]

Thornlea's Drama Department is one of the most active in the region. In the last year of OAC, they conducted a weekly show called Maxwell's House that the OAC students put together in 2001-2002 as their collective graduating project. Sets, scripts, direction, stage managing, and acting were all undertaken by the students, and their show was free every week of the 13 episodes. More recently, it boasts a theatrical season of 6-8 shows per year that the public pays to see. A common annual event of the department is the S.O.A.P festival, which is in its 18th annual year. Their black-box theatre space, Theatre Two One Nine, is the most flexible theatre space in a York Region school, with flexible audience seating, and state of the art lighting and sound. All aspects (Lighting, Sound, Sets) of Theatre Two One Nine can be set up, programmed, run by the student technicians of TLSS.

Another prominent group at Thornlea is Thornlea's Athletic Council (TAC), which annually organizes an auction, athletics-related charity fundraisers, and a year-end Athletic Banquet, one of the school's best-attended events, and also participates in the administration of Thornlea's many successful sports teams. Other clubs include a yearbook committee, an anime club, an environment club, art and film clubs, a prom committee, and a local chapter of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA). The school has a tradition of student and teacher activism on certain humanitarian-related issues. In January 2005, after the Tsunami Disaster in South-East Asia, a group of students quickly got together and organized a fundraising drive that collected over $5000 in less than a week.

Thornlea has recently become a dominant power in York Region Basketball and with a strong senior coaching staff.[citation needed].

Most student events at Thornlea are organized by Thornlea Student Association Council (TSAC). TSAC consists of six executive members and three appointed directors as well as three representatives from each grade. TSAC's major events include Thornstock, an end of year music festival, Some Wonderful Entertainment (SWE), Hip Hop Away From Violence, a charity hip hop concert, and Spirit Assemblies, once per semester indoor concert/games show/spirit activity events in the gymnasium.

In the late 1990s, Thornlea students published a newspaper called Deadline. This paper, unfortunately, was discontinued the year after its editor-in-chief graduated. During the 2001-2002 school year the Music Council funded the publication of an arts-oriented paper called Volume, which again was discontinued after the graduation of its entire editorial staff at the end of that year. A new publication known as Ka-boom has recently been founded, the latest in Thornlea's turbulent but prolific tradition of student journalism. Other past student publications included Shonen Knife and Thornlea RAW.

For a short time, in the early 1980s, Thornlea was the hub of a student-driven journalism movement that published a newspaper called "The Underground." The paper only published a handful of editions before school administrators discovered the identities of those involved, and shut it down.

Academic life[edit]

For all of its extracurricular idiosyncrasies, Thornlea is by all accounts a reasonably paradigmatic Canadian high school with departments in a fairly standard set of subject areas. Alongside traditional disciplinary staples such as English, mathematics, science (chemistry, physics, and biology), Phys. Ed, and social science (divided evenly between history and geography), Thornlea also offers courses in the fine arts, music (vocal, choral, orchestral, wind ensemble and jazz), drama, Introduction to Business studies (General, Marketing, and Accounting), and design and technology (Automotive Maintenance, Communications, Media & Film studies, Woodworking and Engineering, Cosmetology). A survey course in philosophy that is generally popular among Thornlea seniors has also been offered inconsistently over the years, depending upon the availability of a qualified instructor. A variety of popular creative writing courses have also been offered over the years, again, the existence of which has typically been a function of instructor interest and availability.

Students from Thornlea have been known to perform extremely well in provincial competitions in the sciences, such as the Ontario Biology Competition, hosted by the University of Toronto, and various mathematics and engineering competitions hosted by the University of Waterloo. Business students have also done extremely well, with Thornlea sending many to the DECA international finals over the years, as well as having many students achieve high scores on the ¢OIN CA Challenge accounting contest, run by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. In addition, Thornlea has been recognized as claiming the top prize for several years in Wilfrid Laurier University's Stock Market Competition. Thornlea also has an excellent Modern Languages department, as evidenced by its students' consistently high scores in regional and provincial French competitions over the past decade.

The acceptance rate of Thornlea graduates into post-secondary institutions, in general, is quite high. Whether this is due to rigorous academic standards at Thornlea itself, Thornlea students' own peculiar diligence, or the overall socio-economic privilege of the community is largely a matter of speculation.

The school also plays host to many dedicated special education courses & classes (some integrated, some self-contained) including: Autism (various courses run based on need), Alternative Education, and Acquired Brain Injury.


The physical structure of the building itself has been the target of many complaints, notably due to its poor internal ventilation, and its noticeable lack of exterior windows (there are windows inside the school). This architectural peculiarity is accounted for by the fact that Thornlea was originally intended to be a prototype for an educational model where extrinsic stimuli (such as vegetation, the sky, wildlife) are minimized, while intrinsic stimuli (such as bookshelves, other students in class, computer terminals) are maximized. The idea was that students would then be less distracted and more psychologically conditioned to focus on their studies during the day. However, some classrooms and staff rooms are located in the middle of the school surrounded by walls. This leads to overheating and poor ventilation in summer. At some point the experiment was abandoned, and a new southern wing was built during the 2000-2001 school year, complete with windows for every classroom that has an externally facing wall.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the school gained local media attention when it was discovered that the principal planned on painting over the murals that adorned the empty spaces above the lockers.[2] This caused a large backlash and a petition reached over 750 signatures on[3] Following this, a meeting was called in the school library, over 160 students were in attendance, exceeding the capacity of the cafeteria. Today a small handful of murals still exist in the school with the vast majority being painted over with the school colour (purple).

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°49′46″N 79°24′11″W / 43.82944°N 79.40306°W / 43.82944; -79.40306