Michael Pautler, left, executive director of the Institute of Catholic Education, visited with the staff of King’s University College. Photo courtesy of King’s University College

Catholic schools ‘tremendous benefit’ to Ontario

  • May 1, 2014

TORONTO - There have been no surprises for Michael Pautler since taking the reins at the Institute of Catholic Education last September.

All it has done is reinforce Pautler’s positive opinion of the faith-based school system where he has spent his entire career as an educator.

“It has simply reinforced my belief that the Catholic schools are a tremendous benefit to the province of Ontario,” said the executive director of the Toronto- based ICE.

Pautler developed that belief over the course of a 35-year career in Catholic education where he worked his way up through the ranks. His first teaching position was in Toronto before he moved up to a superintendent of education position with the Durham board and eventually director of education for the Catholic board in Halton Region. He retired from that final role last year to replace Sr. Joan Cronin at ICE.

“It was the case in those three jurisdictions that staff were extraordinarily committed and worked extremely hard, that students, parents and the full community were well served by the good works that went on in our Catholic schools,” he said. “My current role and responsibility with ICE has provided me with an opportunity to learn first hand that that kind of work goes on in all of the 29 Catholic district school boards across the province. Every board has its own distinct challenges and every culture is unique in some respect. That said, the common work of Catholic education is consistent across the province.”

Becoming the executive director of ICE not only broadened Pautler’s perspective from a narrow localized view to a provincial overview, it also changed how he looks at Catholic education.

“The mandate of ICE is really to ensure that we are supporting one another to ensure that that Catholic lens and the centre of faith is always front and centre in the work that is done in our Catholic schools,” he said. “There has been no intentions to consciously start new directions or pathways. This role is in many respects a responsive one rather than setting an agenda.”

ICE was first established by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario in 1986 to function as a partnership bridge between those who promote, maintain and facilitate the publicly funded English Catholic education system in the province.

But that isn’t to say that ICE is little more than a mediator of conversations. The organization also plays a pivotal role in the development and implementation of the religious education curriculum.

About a year and a half ago ICE, at the request of the Ontario bishops, revised the curriculum policy document for religious education at the elementary school level.

“We are continuing to support the implementation of that and the development of new textbooks and resources to support the elementary curriculum,” he said. “The bishops have now asked us to undertake a revision and an update of the comparable policy document that guides the secondary (school) religious education curriculum and that project is one of the major things on our plate right now.”

And that’s a task which many feel Pautler is well suited to oversee. During the course of his career he has received numerous honours, including the Diocesan Medal of Honour from the Diocese of Hamilton, the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association and the Canadian Educator of the Year from Niagara University College of Education.

As different as his newest role is compared to those of his past, Pautler welcomes the change.

“I had worked closely with Sr. Joan Cronin in her role at ICE over the previous 20 years or 25 years and so I had a fairly accurate understanding of the work and mandate that ICE undertook,” he said. “So there were no surprises when entering the new role. It is an opportunity to continue to be involved in Catholic education.”

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