New OECTA president, James Ryan, gets his priorities straight

By 
  • August 25, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Limiting “data-driven education” and ensuring full-day kindergarten in Ontario are some of the key priorities for the new president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

James Ryan told The Catholic Register that these issues are on his priority list for his two-year term.

On the issue of testing, Ryan said North American schools, especially in the United States, have been swept by a “plague of accountability.” This is a trend, he said, which the association will oppose in Canada.

“What it’s done is turned many of America’s schools into testing centres as opposed to places where children and students learn,” Ryan said.

A focus on preparing students for provincial tests “pushes out most of the important subjects like arts, physical education and religion,” he said. “It’s a challenge when the drive to get test scores causes the central mission of Catholic schools to be forgotten.”

On the full-day kindergarten program, Ryan said OECTA is open to working with the Ontario government in establishing its promised full-day kindergarten program given the experience of eight Ontario Catholic boards with similar programs. The association would also support the employment of full-day teachers, rather than early child care educators, to run these programs.

According to Ryan, the association will also work towards ensuring the implementation of the 80 collective agreements it negotiated with the Ontario government. Its agenda will also include ensuring that “all of our Catholic schools remain safe places for our students and for our staff.”

One of the top priorities will continue to be preserving Catholic rights in education and rebuffing calls from opponents who want the public and Catholic education systems to be amalgamated, he added.

“We believe we have a challenge to make sure that all Ontarians understand the value and importance of all our (education) systems,” Ryan said.

Ryan, 47, has been a teacher for 19 years. He taught both elementary and high school, and worked as a special education resource teacher. Ryan also taught at Sunnybrook Hospital’s adolescent psychiatric division. He studied history at the University of Guelph, completed a Bachelor of Education at Newfoundland’s Memorial University and a Master of Education at the University of Toronto.

Since 2002, Ryan has held all of the association’s executive positions, except for treasurer, and served on many of its committees, including political advisory, human rights and collective bargaining.

Ryan and his wife, Kim, live in Toronto and are members of St. Edith Stein parish.

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