Catholic Education

Twenty-five students from Barrie, Ont.’s St. Joseph’s Catholic High School experienced an Easter to remember as they travelled to France on a Remembering Vimy Ridge trip.

Accompanied by history teacher Trevor Carter, the students experienced a seven-day history class.

“The students did realize the sacrifice of the soldiers when they were sacrificing their comfort,” said Carter, describing the Easter Monday weather as typical for Normandy, France — wet, windy and cold. “But it was easy to handle the weather when you took into account what happened there 95 years ago.”

Mother goose a teaching aid in north Toronto school

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TORONTO - Education is going to the birds at Hawthorn School for Girls, with Grade 3 teacher Magdolna Hamza taking advantage of a nesting goose named Lola directly outside the window of her second floor classroom as a teaching aid.

On April 2 Hamza first noticed her new neighbours nestled in the rooftop gravel of the independent Catholic school for girls in north Toronto.

“I was doing my chores and opened the window and oh, there’s an egg,” said Hamza. “I was surprised there was no nest, just an egg.”

St. Robert’s takes robotics title

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THORNHILL, ONT. - In their FIRST Robotics Competition debut, the St. Robert’s RetroRams mechanically orchestrated a regional championship while earning the rookie all-star award at the annual competition.  

FIRST Robotics hosts high school regional championships  and invites winners, and select teams, to the world championships, to be held this year in St. Louis.

At the Toronto West Regional competition on the last weekend of March, 52 teams packed the Hershey Centre in Mississauga for a Rebound Rumble showdown where three-team alliances hit the hardwood.

Loretto Abbey ties one on for Sudan school

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TORONTO - Although Loretto Abbey’s 4th Annual Charity Cup Hockey Game ended in a 5-5 tie, there was a winner at the end — the girls in Sudan who will benefit from the $4,860 raised at the event.

“We’re going to give it to the Loretto Sisters who are trying to build a school, a high school, for girls in South Sudan,” said Loretto Abbey principal Alda Bassani. “This year all our efforts for charity are going to that cause.”

About 450 tickets were purchased for the April 4 hockey game at North Toronto Arena which pitted the school team against a staff squad. At $10 apiece, ticket sales raised the bulk of the money. Additional funds came from t-shirt sales, a Chuck-the-Puck contest and the sale of raffle tickets.

Ontario trustees not pleased with provincial budget

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Cuts, freezes and protections for education introduced in the 2012 Ontario provincial budget are not sitting well with some of the province’s partners in education.

While the province has chosen to protect small class sizes, full-day kindergarten and almost 20,000 teaching and support staff jobs in its austerity budget presented March 27, the government is also calling for the closure of under-utilized schools and potential board amalgamations to maximize resources.

Nancy Kirby, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association president, acknowledges the importance of early childhood education, but said going “ahead with full-day kindergarten on the same timeline ... is an expensive decision.”

St. Mike’s Choir School ranked Ontario’s top high school

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TORONTO - Toronto’s St. Michael’s Choir School topped the list in the Fraser Institute’s Ontario high school rankings for the second consecutive year. 

The semi-private Catholic school — famed for its music program — earned a 9.6 out of 10 ranking, soaring above the provincial average of six. These figures are based on the provincial Grade 9 math and Grade 10 literacy test results.

The Fraser Institute — an independent think tank that conducts peer-reviewed research into economic and public policy — released its rankings April 1. The annual school report cards offer tables showing how well schools perform in academics over a number of years.

Earth Hour in Toronto's Catholic schools

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TORONTO - It may have been lights out for an hour at 95 Toronto Catholic schools during Earth Hour on March 30, but St. Ambrose Catholic School went three steps further by encouraging students to participate in the morning announcements, bring a littlerless lunch and dress in black.

“This year we are focusing on the theme of 60-plus, going beyond just Earth Hour,” said Kathleen Sztuka, Grade 4-5 teacher and school science representative. “We see the awareness of the kids growing.” 

Sztuka, a 20-year educator, organized this year’s event and wanted to do more than simply flick a switch, which she did note is the equivalent of removing 43,000 cars from the road for an hour when done collectively. Making students stand out was the thinking behind ditching the school uniform for funeral wear.

Queen's Park protesters oppose Bill 13

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The Ontario Liberal government's anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, is more about social ideology than bullying, some 2,000 protesters were told outside Queen's Park on March 29.

"Bill 13 ignores the number one cause of bullying — body shape and image," said Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics.

"Dalton McGuinty's ignoring of the number one cause of bullying is proof that this (legislation) is not about bullying. This bill was not written by people who want to reduce bullying. It was written by people who want to change social views about human sexuality.

What’s in a name? Bill 13 looks at GSA title

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The NDP wants to grant Ontario Catholic high school students the right to name their anti-bullying clubs a Gay Straight Alliance.

The province’s anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, received second reading at Queen’s Park on March 26. Before the debate, the NDP education critic said his party wants to resolve the controversy over whether Catholic schools can call their clubs Gay Straight Alliances by letting students decide.

“What we’re considering as an amendment is giving students determination over the name of the committee that takes that up,” said NDP MPP for Danforth-Greenwood Peter Tabuns.

Silent depression no more with mental health advocate Harmony Brown

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Students, staff and special guest Harmony Brown came together on March 22 at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School to raise awareness about an often neglected issue — teen depression.

“There is a fear with admitting you have a mental illness,” Brown said to about 100 attendees.

Brown told the students that her battle with depression began at age nine, when physical abuse at home ended her “picturesque” early childhood.

“It was at that age that I began to have suicidal thoughts,” said Brown, now 36. “What I knew was I was in a terrible place and I wanted out. At nine there didn’t seem like there was a lot of other options.” 

Hamilton by-election vote ‘undemocratic’

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Majority rules at Hamilton’s Catholic school board as five of eight trustees voted to fill the Ward 6 vacancy by appointment instead of a by-election despite almost three years remaining in the term.

Chairperson Patrick Daly sighted both expense, which could exceed $100,000, and low voter turnout as reasons for the decision.

“We have to pay 100 per cent of that cost, there is no funding for that and especially in difficult budgetary times that’s a great deal of money and funds that we don’t have available,” said Daly, appointed a trusted after his father’s sudden death in 1985.