Marino Gazzola was recently chosen as OCSTA's new president

Defending Catholic education high on Marino Gazzola’s OCSTA agenda

  • May 9, 2012

TORONTO - Marino Gazzola, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association’s (OCSTA) new president, said he will be working to defend and promote the Catholic school system during his two-year term.

Gazzola was chosen the trustees’ association president at its 82nd Annual General Meeting held in Kingston, Ont., April 26-28.

“The main priority for myself, and for the association, is to continue to defend Catholic education, promote it within the province and protect it to ensure that Catholic education is around for a very long time and for future generations,” said Gazzola, a 22-year trustee who is also chair of the Wellington Catholic District School Board. “There are always challenges coming up.”

Originally Gazzola got involved as a trustee to help battle local issues within his board. But in 2007 he became a member of the OCSTA board of directors where he served as vice president for the past two years. Since joining the board, Gazzola’s centre of attention has shifted from Guelph, Ont., where he is a sergeant with that city’s police force, to a province-wide scope. 

“There is legislation that comes up from time to time that we want to ensure that we have input into it so that it doesn’t hurt our values or mission,” said the father of six. “Obviously Bill-13, which is on the table now, creates a challenge for us to ensure that as it passes, as it goes through, there is nothing in it that is going to erode our Catholic values.”

Bill-13 is the anti-bullying legislation currently being debated in Ontario’s corridors of power. It is not that Gazzola, or OCSTA in general, is opposed to the intention of the Liberal’s anti-bullying law. Rather, it is the bill’s focus on sexual orientation over other forms of bullying which concerns the new president.

“Any type of bullying is not acceptable,” he said. “Students are bullied for many, many reasons in our schools. I support anything that will assist our students.”

Placing so much weight on one specific cause of bullying worries Gazzola. He feels others will be further marginalized as solutions lack generality which could ultimately harm Catholic education.

“(We need to) ensure the way it is developed, the way it is put forward, that we can work with it, and I’m sure we can,” said Gazzola.

He then pointed to the section of the bill that allows the use of names other than gay-straight alliances as proof that, through collaboration, this bill can support students’ interests while protecting Catholic values.

But this is just one of the provincial pieces of legislation that concerns OCSTA.

“Funding is going to be a huge challenge. We’re still waiting to see what happens with some of the new issues that are coming out of the new budget,” said Gazzola, citing amalgamation, resource allocation and collective bargaining as other issues. “I think immediately these are the ones that will hit us the hardest.”

Gazzola says he will look to his predecessor, Nancy Kirby, who will serve as OCSTA’s past president, for guidance when needed. 

“I can look to some of the ways that Nancy handled some of the issues and certainly learn from it,” said Gazzola, who worked closely with Kirby over the past two years. “Having her for consultations, to draw on her experience, is going to be a huge asset.”

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