With a career spanning more than four decades, Kevin Kobus has fostered a reputation as one of the most dedicated and influential leaders in Canada’s Catholic education community.
Over the last 40 years, Kevin has held various leadership positions within Catholic school boards, the Ontario Ministry of Education and on numerous provincial and national associations. His colleagues say he is highly regarded – even legendary – across Ontario and Canada for his extensive knowledge and judgement, collaborative approach, honesty and integrity and commitment to students.
This June, Kobus will be recognized by the CCSTA for his exceptional contribution to Catholic education in Canada with the prestigious 2016 Higgins Award. The award is given out annually to one extraordinary individual in memory of a distinguished Canadian jurist and Catholic School Trustee, the Honourable Justice James Higgins.
“In the history of Catholic education, there is a select group of servant leaders who have dedicated a lifetime to making an impact at the provincial, national and local levels for the benefit of Catholic schools and Kevin Kobus is most certainly in that group,” explained Kathy Burtnik, President of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, in her nomination letter. “His wisdom is borne of faith and experience. He has not only addressed the provincial needs of Catholic education in Ontario but he has served as a wise advisor and corralling force in addressing Catholic education issues across the country.”
Born and raised in Renfrew, Kevin started his career as a teacher with the Renfrew County Separate School Board. He then made his way south to the Toronto Catholic District School Board where he served in various positions for 25 years. From serving as a teacher to the Superintendent of Education to the Superintendent of Employee Relations, Kevin gained an enormous amount of experience, which led to opportunities within the government.
In the late ‘90s, Kevin served as a senior policy advisory on the Education Improvement Commission and was part of a four-person team that worked to develop policies that would help guide school boards through their initial year of amalgamation.
He was subsequently hired as the Director of Education, Chief Education Officer and Treasurer of the Board for the Simcoe Muskoka CDSB from 1998 to 2003. He served on the first board of directors of the then newly formed Catholic School Boards Services Association (a cooperative of the Ontario Public and Catholic school boards).
He then went to Queen’s Park. Kevin served as Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of Business and Finance of the Ministry of Education from January, 2004 to April, 2005. This is a significant role as few educators from the Catholic community have served as an ADM.
Following his time with the government, Kevin returned to the TCDSB to serve as the Director of Education and Chief Education Officer from 2005-2008. In 2008, Kevin joined the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association as the Senior Policy Advisor of Labour and Finance. Two years later, he was named its Executive Director until his retirement in 2015. With his extensive background in labour and school-board management, Kevin helped the OCSTA shape and influence some of the most important education legislation in recent years, including the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act of 2014.
“Catholiceducation in Ontario is a complicated and delicate enterprise. Kevin’s success in so many positions, over such a long period of time, shows that he had the gift of acute political sensitivity,” said Ontario Court of Appeal Judge Peter Lauwers, who worked alongside Kevin since the early 1980s. “Kevin’s work over the years demonstrates his deep love of the Church and of Catholic education and his strong commitment to social justice.”
In his nomination letter, JohnCrocco, Director of Education at the Niagara Catholic District School Board, explained why he feels Kevin is the most deserving recipient of the Higgins Award this year. “Kevin’s exceptional leadership and passionate dedication to Catholic educational excellence is renowned throughout the Catholic Education Community in Ontario and Canada,” he wrote. “Among his distinguished personal and professional characteristics… it is Kevin’s constant willingness to assist in whatever way possible, to enrich and foster the unique Catholic educational experience for all students across Canada, which makes him an exceptional role model for Catholic leaders in our country.”
Throughout his four-decade career, Kevin’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. He received the 2003 OCSOA Provincial Award for Exemplary Leadership in Catholic Education. In 2008, the Catholic Education Foundation of Ontario gave him the Medal of Honour and a year later he was named the 2009 BE Nelligan Award recipient for leadership in Catholic education. Just last year, he received the Father John Redmond Award from the Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario (CPCO) for extraordinary service in Catholic education.
Kevin will accept the 2016 Higgins Award before his peers this June at the CCSTA AGM in Yellowknife.