Catholic Education

OSHAWA, ONT. - When the doors opened at Msgr. Paul Dwyer High School in early September, it marked 50 years of secondary Catholic education in Oshawa.

The celebrations commenced Sept. 9 at the school in the city east of Toronto, with events scheduled for the duration of the school year. The year-long celebrations are to allow as many of the school’s approximately 8,000 graduates — who include author Randy Boyagoda, former Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Andre Talbot and comedian/actor Justin Landry — to attend.

“We wanted to share this celebration over the course of a year so that if someone is away for something they didn’t miss out,” said Randy Boissoin, chair of the 50th anniversary Committee. “We thought if it was over the course of a year we could generate excitement and build up to May 2013 and hopefully with that excitement work on creating an alumni database.”

Boissoin wants to establish an alumni scholarship fund to assist school graduates who face rising post-secondary tuition costs.

The original high school, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, operated out of their local elementary school and was named St. Joseph’s Senior School when it opened in 1962. Private at the time, the school offered only Grade 9 and 10 classes in its inaugural year, adding Grade 11 the following September, and Grades 12 and 13 in subsequent years.

“The interesting thing at that point is that the convent for the Sisters was not ready,” said Sr. Conrad Lauber, appointed the school’s principal in 1967, the same year the Oshawa Separate School Board began providing $300 per student in Grades 9 and 10. “At that point the Sisters were driven from Morrow Park (Toronto) out to Oshawa, both the elementary and secondary teachers, and they were picked up again at six o’clock and taken back.”

By the time Lauber became principal — a post she held until 1979 — St. Joseph’s Senior School had relocated and became known as Oshawa Catholic High School (the name change came in 1965). One year later the construction of the convent on the school’s new grounds at 700 Stevenson Rd. N. had been completed, meaning Lauber no longer faced the more than 50-km commute.

The early years were a struggle for the school, as full funding of Catholic education was still years down the road. Unable to compete with the salaries from the public system, Oshawa Catholic High School relied on clergy and dedicated laypeople, who were willing to forego the salaries and benefits offered by the secular school board. This reliance on the latter grew even greater in 1969 when tragedy struck. After an end-of-year staff social, a station wagon with a number of staff in it was involved in an accident. Two Sisters and a lay teacher were killed, and four other Sisters were injured and unable to return to the school. Lauber was the only one able to resume teaching duties.

With few available and qualified clergy, Lauber turned to the laity to fill the positions, putting extra financial stress on the already struggling school.

“At one point when I asked the (Sisters of St. Joseph) for more funding our general superior ... told me that we might not even be able to continue next year because we didn’t have the finances,” said Lauber.

With no additional funding forthcoming, nothing significant at least, Lauber turned to the local community to save the city’s only Catholic high school.

“As we lost Sisters from the staff we had to replace them with laypeople and our costs increased significantly. So to stay alive we ran a walk-a-thon,” said Lauber. “In those days we walked miles not kilometres. The kids walked 25 miles and the parents walked five miles and we raised $56,000.” 

Such success turned the walk-a-thon into an annual event which helped cement full-spectrum Catholic education in Oshawa, said Boissoin, who remembers participating in the walk-a-thon as a student from 1974 to 1979. 

“When we were forced to do the walk-a-thons and the fundraising activities there was an incredible Oshawa Catholic High School pride within the community ... it also solidified us as a community,” he said. “It was an opportunity for people to show that this is important. When you had a walk-a-thon of that magnitude ... it was almost like a statement.”

It was during this era the Sisters of St. Joseph first sought another name change to honour Paul Dwyer — the spark that lit the school’s flame.

“Msgr. Paul Dwyer was the inspiration behind the founding of the school,” said Lauber. “He’s the one that wanted Catholic education in Oshawa.”

Although approved, Dwyer declined the honour in 1973, telling Lauber over lunch that he felt Dwyer would be too hard for immigrants to spell — something he felt conflicted with his image of welcoming new Canadians with open arms.

“He also said so many other people were involved in the establishment of the school he didn’t want to take all of the credit,” said Lauber, who saw the name change in 1976 to Paul Dwyer Catholic School following Dwyer’s death that year. “Obviously his wishes to not have the school named after him were ignored.”

OECTA deal aims at avoiding strikes, official says

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TORONTO - In an effort to be facilitate local bargaining procedures, avoid potential strikes and remain responsible to younger teachers, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) signed a tentative two-year deal with the province earlier this month, a deal that has angered their public school counterparts.

"This framework will now constitute each and every collective agreement within the province. They'll go through the local bargaining process to go ahead and address that," said Kevin O'Dwyer, OECTA's provincial executive. "It tries to be pretty responsible to the younger teachers."

Parent group wants trustees to fight Bill-13

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TORONTO - Parents as First Educators’ (PAFE) president Teresa Pierre is urging Ontario’s Catholic school trustees to pressure their boards into refusing to implement Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) in Catholic schools.

“A legal opinion (from lawyer Geoff Cauchi) obtained by PAFE argues Catholic trustees are obliged to refuse to implement GSAs in Catholic schools,” said Pierre at a news conference held in the shadow of St. Michael’s Cathedral in downtown Toronto July 5. “Mr. Cauchi says a reasonable court should find that ‘it would be absurd to expect a Catholic board to tolerate the presence in its schools of student groups that present an anti-Catholic counter witness.’ ”

Nelly Furtado helps out on donation that kept on growing

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Students and staff at Queen of Peace Catholic Elementary School in Leamington, Ont., have 15,000 reasons to celebrate.

That’s how many dollars the school’s efforts have raised for a clean water system at a new all-girls secondary school in the Maasai region of Kenya. 

After the students raised $5,000 during their Clean Water campaign, a component of Free the Children’s Adopt a Village program, they learned their efforts were matched, not once, but twice.

Education directors extend their run to tackle amalgamation

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Two directors of eduction at small Catholic school boards in rural Ontario have shelved plans to retire so they can fight for their boards’ survival.

Paul Wubben of the St. Clair Catholic District School Board and Bruce MacPherson of the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board were to wrap up their careers this summer but both have decided to stay on, at the request of their local trustees, as each board faces being swallowed up by larger neighbouring school boards.

Staying on was not in the plans for either director, but then came March, the provincial budget and the A word — amalgamation.

Mississauga principal takes Premier’s leadership award

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MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - This year’s Premier’s Award for Excellence in Leadership has been awarded to a Catholic school board representative for the first time.

“It was a very humbling experience,” said Mark Cassar, principal of Corpus Christi School in Mississauga.  “I tend to not like too much attention on myself that way but to have your colleagues and the parents and your students cheering for you, it was an amazing feeling.”

Cassar received the award from Education Minister Laurel Broten at a ceremony that Premier Dalton McGuinty also attended June 12. The spotlight kept shining on Cassar the following day as the Corpus Christi community recognized his achievements during its year-end celebration.

Toronto students celebrate aboriginal culture [w/ audio]

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TORONTO - Some 75 staff, students and parents were treated to a day of aboriginal music and dancing as the Toronto Catholic District School Board celebrated National Aboriginal Day June 21.

"We invited some aboriginal people to celebrate with them and to demonstrate some of the celebrations as part of their culture," said Bruce Rodrigues, TCDSB's director of education. "It's important to acknowledge (aboriginal culture) so that our students can have an understanding of the diversity that we have within the system."

National Aboriginal Day has been celebrated in Canada since 1996 to recognize, celebrate and preserve the unique aboriginal cultures while acknowledging their contributions to contemporary Canada.

St. Dominic's honours fallen soldiers

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The Grade 7 students at Oakville's St. Dominic Catholic Elementary School were the driving force behind the establishment of the Bronte Veterans' Garden along Halton Region's Veterans Highway. For several years, the students have been creating posters as a tribute to Canada's fallen soldiers from the mission in Afghanistan. On June 15, the St. Dominic's students were joined by Canada's Defense Minister Peter McKay, who helped unveil two plaques at the garden dedicated to Trooper Marc Diab and Col. Geoff Parker, two soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan.

(All photos by Boris Hofman)

Bill-13 claims its first victim as trustee opts to resign

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It isn’t just members of the Catholic school system being rubbed the wrong way by the Ontario government’s Bill-13.

The passage into law of the province’s anti-bullying legislation was the final straw for David Goldsmith, a trustee for the Lambton Kent District School Board.

“Bill-13 is causing me a lot of heartburn,” said Goldsmith, who will officially step down from his position June 30 after nine years with the southwestern Ontario school board.

At-risk Hamilton school graduates 8

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Good Shepherd Notre Dame House School in Hamilton, Ont., graduated its largest class yet on June 19, with eight students collecting their high school diploma.

For Loretta Hill-Finamore, director of youth services at Good Shepherd Centres, having a graduating class of eight is very inspiring.

“That’s our goal, for everyone to graduate,” Hill-Finamore said. “We’re so proud of them.

St. Mike’s athletic director Forbes retires

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TORONTO - It's not the championships, the money and certainly not the hours that Paul Forbes will miss as St. Michael's College School's veteran athletic director sizes up retirement after 36 years.

"It's the personnel, the people you work with. They started as colleagues, as peers, but many of them are close personal friends now," said Forbes, who was appointed athletic director at the midtown Toronto private Catholic school in 1985. "The staff and students I've been privileged to work with over the years is the best part of the job."