Noel Martin steps up for Catholic education again

By  Catholic Register Staff
  • October 27, 2006
TORONTO - Noel Martin thinks 42 years in Catholic education is not enough of a good thing. So he’s come back for more.

OCSTAIn his new role, Martin will be director of Catholic education for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

The new position means Martin will be able to share with trustees across Ontario his expertise gleaned from working all those years with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

“It was a chance to further serve the cause of Catholic education,” he told The Catholic Register Oct. 19, a  month after succeeding Robert Anderson at OCSTA.

The role of OCSTA is to help trustees at Catholic school boards across Ontario to fulfil their responsibility to be good stewards in running their boards and nurturing the Catholic faith. Over the years, the role of trustees has had to evolve to deal with changing circumstances. With the arrival of full public funding in the 1980s, the trustees now see their freedom to direct board spending diminished by government funding formulas. However, the need to build the Catholic presence in the schools has never been greater.

Martin, a native of Ireland whose Canadian career in education has spanned being a teacher, vice-principal, principal, superintendent and director of education, thinks trustees have a key role in holding all board staff accountable not just for wise administration, but also for how well they work to build Catholic community.

Martin recalled an essay published in The Catholic Register in August by Msgr. Dennis Murphy, one of his predecessors at OCSTA and a highly regarded expert in Catholic education. In his article, “New times, new leaders in Catholic education,” Murphy talked about seeing the schools as often the only place where students will experience what it means to belong to a Catholic community.”

“In his article, Msgr. Murphy put his finger right on the challenge,” he said.

Catholic schools must work not just to teach the right beliefs to students, but to model correct behaviour as well.

The kind of Gospel values that Catholic schools can instil in their students form a “sign of contradiction in a very materialistic world and a world of instant gratification,” he added.

Significantly, the Ontario government has recently recognized that schools must do more than teach reading, writing and arithmetic. On Oct. 16, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that his government is starting a new initiative to support character building in schools.

“Education is about more than reading, writing and creating good workers,” the premier told about 700 people gathered at a provincial symposium in Toronto. “At its heart, it’s about developing well-rounded citizens who will help build a strong, caring and compassionate society.”

McGuinty’s observation wasn’t news to Catholic educators. This is what their schools have always been about, Martin said.

The OCSTA praised the government’s move, though it reminded McGuinty that Catholic schools already doing what he proposes.

“Catholic schools have long held the belief that children can develop into compassionate, discerning and moral individuals who contribute to the common good of society if spiritual and moral values are integrated into every aspect of the curriculum,” the association said in a press release.

And Martin pointed out that the provincial Education Act, under section 264 (11), outlines the duties of a teacher. These duties include inculcating virtues such as truth, justice, loyalty, purity and love of country.

But for Ontario’s Catholic schools and their 600,000 students, the work continues. “I think we have been successful, not always as much as we like, but overall. Sometimes kids are absorbed by their high-tech lives, but when you really challenge them, our kids come through.”


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