When there are combined decades of dedication to Catholic education sitting at the helm of the CCSTA Board of Directors, there’s little doubt the following two years will be filled with continued action and a strong voice.
At the 2016 AGM held in Yellowknife in June, Marino Gazzola was acclaimed as CCSTA President and Tony Sykora was named Vice President.
Gazzola and Sykora are no strangers to Catholic education or to CCSTA, for that matter.
A product of the Catholic education system, Gazzola first became involved as a trustee with the Wellington Catholic District School Board in Ontario in 1990 when a sitting trustee became ill and had to resign. Gazzola was appointed and has sat as a trustee ever since, serving on all committees, chair of all of them at different times, as well as six years as vice chair and now in his 14thone-year term as Chair of the Board. Since that time, Gazzola has served as Chair locally, served a total of nine years in different positions provincially, including a two-year term as President, and currently still sits as regional representative on the provincial Board of Directors.
Adding to that, Gazzola has served two different terms on the Board of Directors at CCSTA, including his term as vice-president.
“Taking on the President’s role is a natural progression for me in my continued involvement with Catholic education,” he says. “Catholic education is a passion for me, and it continues to be to this day.”
Now that he’s been acclaimed as CCSTA President, Gazzola says items on his radar will be straight forward and simple: to protect and promote Catholic education.
“We should continue to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to choose Catholic education, and continuing to provide a faith based education system to the parents and students that choose to enroll in it,” he says. “CCSTA has a very important role to play. Everyone understands that education is primarily a provincial responsibility. We also know and understand that we have our detractors, and challenges to our right to exist will always be there.”
He refers to the struggles within the Atlantic Region and Quebec which have already faced and lost those challenges.
“The possibility continues to exist that the three provinces that currently have fully funded Catholic Education systems, those being Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, may one day face a similar constitutional challenge,” he says. “If that takes place then it would require the federal government to become involved, and in turn CCSTA would play a major role in lobbying the federal government along with our local MP’s as well as being the national voice for Catholic education. We can never let our guard down, locally, provincially and certainly not nationally. All of us must continue our efforts to keep Catholic education at the forefront and I am excited and proud to take a leadership role in fulfilling that task.”
Sykora comes on as Vice President
Since 2011, Sykora has served as the Alberta representative for the CCSTA Board of Directors. He attended Catholic Schools from Grade 1-12 in Edmonton Alberta. Upon moving to Sherwood Park and sending his own children to Catholic Schools, he became involved as a volunteer and a school council member. He was encouraged to run for the position of Catholic Trustee in 1998 and later served as Chair of Elk Island Catholic Schools.
“I believe a Faith-based education based on the Gospel Values of Jesus Christ is essential for the development of young people as they shape future societies,” he says. “Although Catholic Education is protected by constitutional guarantees, it is important to never get complacent about the gift of Catholic Education and ever important to demonstrate to other Catholics that we provide an education to our young people that honours the mission of the Catholic Church. We must also demonstrate and articulate that Catholic Education provides excellent value to society as a whole.”
“It is vital to have a national organization speaking as the voice for our system. That voice needs to be loud and clear,” Gazzola says. “We need to ensure that politicians of all stripes and at all levels understand that Catholic education is strong, it is vibrant and it is here to stay. We are not going away, and every single person involved with the Catholic education system needs to let everyone know that we will fight with every ounce of strength and courage to ensure that Catholic education in Canada remains strong and vibrant. We have and will continue to produce excellent graduates, across this country, who have gone on to be productive, contributing and discerning citizens.”