September 2009
Engaging Our Communities
The 2009-10 school year is well underway and I’m sure Catholic boards across the province are busy welcoming new and returning families and digging into the task of delivering quality Catholic education to the almost 600,000 students in our schools.

Your Association is currently focused on addressing the priorities and issues you have shared with us.  One of the ways we amplify our voice around the issues that are important to you is through effective communications with the government and education partners at the provincial level.  While that work is essential, local communications is just as important.

Last spring I encouraged each board to arrange meetings with their MPPs to ensure local politicians had an understanding and appreciation for the value and impact of Catholic education in their communities.  Be sure to invite your MPPs to special events at your schools this fall in addition to following up with meetings planned.

MPPs are of course not the only target audience for our message about Catholic education.  Our parish communities are another extremely important audience and are also key to the future strength of our Catholic schools.

Can your parishoners identify you as one of their region’s trustees?  As representatives serving the needs of our constituents it behooves us to make ourselves visible and accessible to all parishioners in our community.

Here are some ideas that I suggest you incorporate into your fall plan to raise your profile and that of Catholic education in your parish:

  • Arrange a meeting with Pastors in your constituency and identify opportunities where you might be able to deliver a brief announcement at the opening or end of Mass.  Your announcement might include information about upcoming key events in your school communities from Thanksgiving celebrations to Advent activities.
  • Arrange a meeting with your local Bishop(s) and area priests to discuss the importance and value of publicly funded Catholic schools in Ontario today. OCSTA has created speaking notes that articulate the distinctive nature and value of Catholic education.  It is an idea speech to customize and use at community gatherings.  These speaking notes can be downloaded directly from the “Members’ Area” of the OCSTA website ( – you will need your login information).
  • Identify various ministry committees within your parish that might be interested in meeting with you to discuss the value of publicly funded Catholic education to Ontario communities and the role that the community can play in supporting and promoting Catholic education.  Use the speaking points referenced above to support your presentation to these parish groups.
  • Finally I would ask that all Chairs contact their local Catholic Women’s League and Knights of Columbus representatives to inquire into the possibility of addressing the local chapter of both groups.

One of the traditions at OCSTA that is appreciated by our members is the annual fall phone campaign that is carried out by the President and Vice President of the Association.  This year Nancy Kirby and I contacted every school board and school authority in the province.  Not only is this a great opportunity for direct, interactive dialogue between Boards and the Association, but it gave me an opportunity to gain insight into the current themes and issues that are weaving their way across the province.  Those themese include:

  • Transportation Consortia: policies are not being consistently followed by all members of the consortium, creating some significant challenges.
  • Bill 177 – Student Achievement and School Board Governance Act: many boards have concerns about Bill 177 and its potential impact on effective school board governance.
  • Full Day Learning:  Boards have many questions around the implementation of the government’s planned full-day learning program (JK/SK).
  • Copyright Tariff:  Boards have concerns around addressing the retroactive costs of the copyright tariff.

Without question we have challenges and opportunities to address this year and we are ready to do so.  I encourage each of you to attend one of our upcoming OCSTA Regional Meetings where we will be discussing many of these important issues (visit the OCSTA website for details:

I wish all of our Catholic school boards another successful, faith-filled year and may the peace and love of Christ be with each of you as you continue in your vocation as Advocates, Guardians & Stewards of Catholic Education.


God bless,