Mississauga school to go private

  • June 8, 2007
{mosimage}MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - For the first time since Ontario’s Catholic schools received full funding in 1984, a publicly funded Catholic school is going private.

In September 2008 Holy Name of Mary Secondary School will become Holy Name of Mary College School with tuition pegged at about $14,000 per year for 500 Grade 7 to 12 girls.

The Felician Sisters who founded the school and still own the building have decided to terminate their lease with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board because they didn’t believe the board was committed to maintaining an all-girls school, said spokesperson Sr. Andrea Rita Marie Kowalczyk.

“We’ve been committed to this (all-girls education) for over 40 years. We weren’t going to drop the ball now,” said Kowalczyk.

Where the provincially funded board would only commit to a five-year lease with a 15-month opt out clause, the sisters now have a 20-year lease with an option for either party to terminate the lease after five years.

{sidebar id=2}The group founding the new private school is spearheaded by alumni and staff of St. Michael’s College School , the private, Catholic, all-boys school in midtown Toronto. The Basilian Fathers who run St. Michael’s will provide direction and advice as the school gets up and running, but the all-girls Holy Name of Mary will be independently run and incorporated under its own lay board.

Migration of a publicly funded school into the private, independent system is not a vote of non-confidence in the way the provincial system is run, said Education Minister Kathleen Wynne.

“I see it as a business deal,” said Wynne.

The rate of Ontario students leaving the public system for private schools has slowed in the last four years and 95 per cent of students remain in the public system, Wynne said.

Kowalczyk said the deal offers the Felicians the security of a long-term commitment which will allow them to redirect lease money to a variety of social justice projects in the future. The sisters also anticipate being more actively involved in the life of the new school.

“We will have a bit more of a role to play in that we anticipate a sister will be on the board, and certainly we will be playing a role of spiritual guidance for the students — and our presence in the school,” Kowalczyk said.

The Felicians founded Holy Name of Mary as an independent, private all-girls school in 1964. It became part of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board in 1971 and the sisters moved their living quarters out of the school building in 1983. There are no sisters teaching at the school now.

The school has a reputation for academic achievement with the vast majority of graduates going on to university and some of the highest standardized test scores in the province.

For parents like Adrienne Margie, who has a daughter in Grade 9 at Holy Name and a son at St. Michael’s, having a private school option for her daughter equivalent to St. Michael’s is important.

“I like the Catholic part, I like the all-girls part, and frankly I think you get what you pay for,” said Margie.

Margie allows that her daughter’s teachers are “quite excellent,” but she lacks confidence that any publicly funded school can maintain high standards in all of its programs and staff.

“I think that perhaps if you’ve got a private thing they can be more selective with their teachers. Maybe they can get rid of them if they’re deadwood,” Margie said.

“We haven’t been totally happy with the publicly funded system,” said Kathy Grbac, a supply teacher and mother of four. “There’s a lot of holes in that system.”

Grbac’s husband is a St. Michael’s alumnus and the couple has two sons at the school.

“In any system there’s great teachers and not-so-good teachers. I think there’s the assurance (at Holy Name) that there’s going to be greatness here throughout. I guess that’s what you pay for,” Grbac said.

St. Michael’s College School president Fr. John Redican says he understands why parents would be willing to pay for private education on top of their taxes.

“Unfortunately, some of the experiences that the publicly supported system has had, particularly in the last 10 years, particularly under the Harris government and the response of the school boards to those kinds of political pressures, has led me to believe that we need to have both publicly supported and independent schools,” Redican said.

A system of more than $1 million per year in bursaries and loans makes St. Michael’s available to low income students, and the same will eventually be the case for Holy Name of Mary, said Redican.

Dufferin-Peel board chair Bruno Iannicca said there were “no hard feelings” over the Felicians’ decision to turn the school over to a private board.

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