About 30 Ontario trustees are currently enrolled in a landmark course that twins learning with developing relationships within their boards. The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association is offering an inaugural certificate course in leadership and good governance for Catholic school trustees.
The course is running from Jan. 19 to April 13, 2015. It’s the first time such an inclusive course has been offered through a collaboration between the OCSTA and several Ontario Catholic universities. “We’re responding to a mandate from our trustees,” said Brian O’Sullivan, Director of Catholic Education at the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, adding that they requested development of a learning experience which fostered good relationships between Catholic boards and universities.
O’Sullivan started designing the course last spring with trustees in mind, acknowledging their busy schedules. He noted that the trustees wanted the course to be as province-wide as possible so offering an online component was a natural choice.
During planning, O’Sullivan spoke with eight universities in Ontario with the aim of getting them on board to be part of the program. The response was positive. “I was very flattered by the warm reception I received at our Catholic universities,” he said. Eight universities initially agreed to be part of the program.
The course started to generate interest last fall when advertising was launched. Thirty trustees from a variety of boards across the province signed up for the inaugural course. Due to the number of trustees registered, it is being offered through four universities, including St. Augustine’s, University of St. Michael’s College, King’s College and the University of Sudbury.
The course content was created with input from a focus group of current trustees, as well as a focus group comprised of the university instructors teaching the program. The course includes 12 lessons total: 10 online lessons and two lessons for which students are required to discuss local Catholic issues within their region. He said OCSTA encourages trustees to use those two classes in an organized half-day visit to the Catholic university campus to meet their local instructor, develop deeper bonds with their local Catholic university and explore possibilities for future projects.
Each week, participants are required to complete about 2.5 hours of work, consisting of readings and writing a weekly reflection paper. Papers are then submitted to the individual’s university course instructor.
O’Sullivan said participants will gain a deeper understanding of the history of Catholic education in Ontario, the role of Catholic social teaching in modern society, as well as exploring the leadership lessons of Pope Francis. In addition, it examines youth engagement in Catholic education, the role of the trustee as a public advocate, as well as support for Ontario First Nations Metis and Inuit education.
Each student is also expected to produce a 10-hour project which focuses on leadership in their respective board.
“The aim is for them to roll up their sleeves and get involved in issues within their home boards,” O’Sullivan said. For example, one participant is creating a book for new trustees with helpful information as a resource to ease them into the position.
O’Sullivan said that the course isn’t just confined to the provincial borders, but sections also explore Catholic education around the world, looking at teachings in Asia, Africa, Australia and more.
Although the course is not a university credit course, successful trustees will receive a joint OCSTA/Ontario Catholic Universities certificate. For more information on OCSTA initiatives, please click here.