The president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association recently said the organization is thrilled to embrace encouraging comments regarding Catholic education by Ontario’s education minister.
On May 3, the province’s education minister, Liz Sandals, publically vowed to defend the Catholic education system in Ontario and praised its achievements during a keynote speech at the OCSTA annual conference.
While addressing the crowd of about 200 people, Sandals openly acknowledged that Catholic boards have been committed to improving student achievement and have been a key partner in the success of Ontario’s education system. In addition, she drew attention to the fact that a spirit of collaboration is once again reigning in the government – and told the Catholic school trustees attending the conference that she is willing to defend the Catholic education system.
“Our organization is very excited to hear her speak so highly of the Catholic education system – and to defend it,” said Marino Gazzola, president of OCTSA and chair of the Wellington Catholic District School Board. “It leads us to think and believe that our relationship is strong with the Minister, knowing she supports the system.”
Gazzola has known Sandals for about 20 years, as they have served in alongside each other professionally. Sandals is a former public school trustee and the president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association. From a personal point of view, Gazzola said he has a great relationship with the Minister and is pleased to continue that moving forward. “As an organization we’re thrilled with her comments,” he said.
“It reinforces everything we have always said about the importance and viability of Catholic education,” Gazzola said, noting it is evident that Sandals respects the Catholic system.
John Stunt, executive director of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association, also acknowledged the comments as a positive step forward. “As an organization that works with Catholic partners across Canada to provide our Catholic students with exemplary places to learn in their faith, the public praise from Ontario’s education minister speaks volumes towards strengthening those relationships.”
Even with Sandals’ willingness to continue that positive partnership with the OCSTA, Gazzola said there is still work to be done to ensure co-operation on all levels.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Gazzola, referring to keeping the Catholic education system top of mind and involved in the province’s education decisions. “We want to be part of discussions, part of the process. Now it seems we have that opportunity to do so.”