A Vision that seeks to be the “heart of the community”5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
“Based on advice from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and the experts at the COVID-19 Command Table, the Minister of Education has issued a Ministerial Order to close all publicly funded schools in Ontario for two weeks following March Break, in response to the emergence in Ontario of COVID-19. This order was approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. This means that Ontario schools have been ordered to remain closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020”. ~~ Premier Doug Ford – March 12, 2020
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been 30 months since Ontario’s schools were forced to close due to a threat to public health the likes of which had not been seen in a century.
And, as we have all come to appreciate, it’s not a stretch to say that COVID 19 changed pretty much everything: from how we interact socially, to how we work and play and learn.
The education system we knew back in March 2020 is not the same education system students, staff and parents will experience as school resumes for the 2022-23 school year.
And Waterloo Region’s Catholic Schools are ready, willing and able to not just take up the challenges created by COVID, but to also embrace the myriad opportunities that lay now before us.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board is the sixth largest Catholic District School Board in Ontario, serving the ratepayers and students of Waterloo Region. The school system traces its history back more than 186 years, to the opening in 1836 of the first local Catholic schools.
With 44 elementary schools, 5 secondary schools, an Adult and Continuing Education program serving approximately 10,700 learners, and an alternative education high school supporting approximately 40 students via various programs, the board’s total enrolment touches some 40,000 learners.
Perhaps most significantly, students have come to WCDSB schools from more than 110 different countries and speak more than 115 different languages at home.
The school board’s vision of being the “heart of the community”, offering “success for each” and “a place for all”, is more than just words. It’s a reality lived out each and every day.
Nowhere was this commitment more apparent than in June 2021, when the WCDSB became the first Catholic school board in Ontario to raise the Pride Flag at all schools and administrative sites.
Providing a quality, inclusive faith-based education — in safe and secure learning environments — has long been a primary goal in WCDSB schools. And as Waterloo Region becomes ever more diverse, bringing a sharper focus to issues of equity in all WCDSB activities, programs and services is more important than ever before.
Of course, as the thriving, diverse WCDSB community continues its own rapid growth, the school system’s physical presence in the community (a constant in Waterloo Region for more than 18 decades!), continues as well.
Coming years will see the opening of a new Grade 7 – 12 school in Kitchener, as well as 5 more new elementary schools across the Region.
And, as that journey into a bright future continues for the school system, two more personal journeys are continuing for key members of the WCDSB family.
Long-time Director of Education Loretta Notten officially retired at the end of August.
In her retirement message to staff, Director Notten said:
“Teaching is a vocation. Throughout my career I have always tried to hold as my moral imperative what is best for each child in my care. My fervent wish is that each person at Waterloo Catholic continues to believe that they make a difference. The analogy that is often used is that of the pebble that is dropped in the water and ripples out in impact. I hope that when people reflect on my time in education and in particular as Director of Waterloo Catholic, they will remark that my pebble helped to make a small difference. I know that my choice to come to Waterloo Catholic has made all the difference to me”.
Tyrone Dowling, who is stepping into the Director’s role, has been a part of the WCDSB “family” for most of his life: as a student, teacher, principal and now, Director of Education.
He served with distinction as a WCDSB principal from 1999 to 2020, when he was appointed Superintendent of Education at the Wellington Catholic District School Board.
In Wellington, he led a variety of key initiatives, including: the creation of the Wellington Catholic Equity Committee, Wellington Catholic Equity Action Plan, Wellington Catholic Staff and Student Census projects and the Wellington Catholic Mental Health Strategy. He was also honoured to be a member of the Indigenous Education Advisory Council.
“I am excited for the opportunity to return to Waterloo Catholic and look forward to working with our students, staff, families and greater community”, he said. “Throughout my career, I have been privileged to see great things happen when teams work toward a shared goal, learn together and celebrate accomplishments. Our work as Catholic educators is amplified through our faith, commitment to equity and student success.”
As COVID so deftly reminded us, the only constant in life is change.
And as Waterloo Region’s Catholic schools continue to change and adapt and innovate to meet the needs of ALL students, the school board continues to welcome the world to our growing family, with faith, hope, compassion and open arms.