TORONTO - The rigours of a regular classroom can be too much for some students. They struggle to cope for a variety of reasons, be they social or emotional, mental health or medical needs.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

VAUGHAN, ONT. - It was a night of showbiz, glamour and big apples at The Angel Foundation for Learning’s eighth annual Evening to Feed the Soul Gala.

Published in Youth Speak News

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.

Published in Education

TORONTO - Catholic schools will remain welcoming places for all students in full accord with the Accepting Schools Act and Catholic teaching and tradition, said Cardinal Thomas Collins in a statement released June 5 after Bill-13 passed third reading to become law.

Passage of the bill means Catholic schools must allow gay-straight alliance clubs if requested by students.

Published in Education

Martin Sheen grew up in a home where rights were something you fought for.

The actor’s activism was inspired by his immigrant father who risked his factory job fighting for the right to unionize despite having 10 children and a wife at home relying on the wage he earned.

“It was an introduction into the real world,” said Sheen, recalling his father’s teachings of pride against prejudice. “My father was my hero, he struggled against prejudice (and) against the system basically.”

Published in Education

TORONTO - An initiative to improve the accountability of the Toronto Catholic District School Board by appointing an independent ombudsman has hit a legislative roadblock.

“The ministry is telling us that we cannot create our own ombudsman role,” said Ward 9 trustee Jo-Ann Davis, who is leading the initiative. “It seems odd to me that our Ministry of Education is not allowing Toronto Catholic to be as accountable as it wants to be.”

Published in Education

TORONTO - Grace Iafrate does one thing really well — she gets kids moving.

For this, she has received the 2012 Victor Angelosante Award.

"(I) look at sport as an avenue, a way to bring out other talents and gifts," said Iafrate, principal at St. Boniface Catholic School in North York. "It's a great honour to be recognized with the 17 other (past) recipients."

Published in Education

TORONTO - The Toronto Catholic District School Board's new three-year pastoral plan will focus on virtues of faith, hope and charity, one for each of the next three school years.

About 800 students, staff, parents and parish representatives from across the city were gathered inside the Montecassino Banquet Hall for the May 2 launch of Pastoral Plan: Faith, Hope and Charity. The plan aims to grow upon the areas of focus from the previous pastoral plan, word, worship and witness.

Published in Education

TORONTO - If you can’t find Andrew Walker in choir practice, leadership meetings or studying to maintain his honour role status, try checking the Toronto Argonaut schedule — chances are, if there’s a game, he’s at it.

“I’m a big Argos fan,” Walker said. “I’m a season tickets holder. My dad and I go to every game.”

Published in Education

TORONTO - Two Toronto Catholic District School Board students and teammates with the Senator O’Connor Blues have made their debuts with Canada’s under-17 national rugby team.

“I’m honoured to be selected. It’s a real accomplishment for me,” said Lucas Rumball, 16, who scored his first international try against Belgium while touring the United Kingdom recently with Team Canada. “It was exhilarating. I pounded it in.”

Rumball shared his international glory during the first two weeks of April with Michael Douros, 17. The students now plan to apply their international experience to the Blues for the team’s season.

Published in Education

TORONTO - Over the last two decades, student leadership has evolved and taken on new life, according to Greg Rogers.

“Twenty years ago, schools were just beginning to realize the power of student leadership,” said Rogers, co-ordinator of student leadership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Rogers has been on the frontline of this growth since the early 1990s, when as acting vice principal at Toronto’s Brebeuf College School, he asked to take the incoming Grade 9 class on a camp retreat to Olympia Sports Camp in Huntsville, Ont.

Published in Education

Looking to restore public confidence in school trustees, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) board has passed a multi-year plan that emphasizes trustee governance, mentoring and transparency.

“We are reducing the areas of ambiguity and providing more clarity,” said Ann Andrachuk, second-term chair of the board. “That will restore and improve public confience, not only for us but for Catholic education around the province. We’ve always been looked at as being leaders in Catholic education in the province and we’re heading in that direction again.”

Published in Education

The Toronto Catholic District School Board has reaffirmed a motion to make all schools “bottled water free zones” by September 2012.

“We’re the largest organization to ever tackle this in the country,” said trustee Maria Rizzo, who put the motion forward on behalf of all the board’s students.  “The TCDSB became a leader for social justice and the environment. Water is God’s gift to the planet and you shouldn’t sell it like a pair of sneakers. It’s as ludicrous as bottling air and selling it.”

Published in Youth Speak News

TORONTO - Students in Toronto Catholic schools will now begin their school day by singing our national anthem each morning.

On April 19, the Toronto Catholic District School Board voted 7-3 to have students sing “O Canada” a cappella during opening exercises.

To lead by example, trustee Angela Kennedy, who spearheaded the vote, uploaded a video of herself on YouTube singing “O Canada” without any background music.

Published in Education

OTTAWA - Parents must assert their rights as first educators of their children or bear the consequences of government policy that will profoundly re-engineer their children’s views on family and sexuality, says Teresa Pierre.

The director of Parents As First Educators (PAFE) said parents need to get involved in decisions being made that will affect their children.

“Start attending your parent-teacher meetings and start asking questions when you hear a proposal offered that doesn’t sound quite right, or worse, when you don’t hear anything at all,” she said. “Parents have a lot of influence when their criticisms are offered in a respectful way in a context of a community that knows you.

“The Church has told us the importance of parental authority in education and even suggested that families should work together to support each other,” she said, drawing from Familaris consortio (The Role of the Family in the Modern World), Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation.  This document describes parental authority in education as “primary and inalienable” and outlines the duty parents have to maintain an active relationship with teachers and school authorities, she said. Parents are to be advocates of family policies in society, the document says, and warns “families will be the first victims of the evils they have done no more than note with indifference.”

PAFE is a fledgling organization formed last spring during equity policy public consultations with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. When former Ontario education minister Kathleen Wynne introduced the Equity and Inclusive Education policy to Ontario schools in 2008, Pierre said, “It was designed to create openness to all forms of sexual expression by offering them as part of the curriculum from the earliest ages.” The controversial Bill 13, which mandates gay-straight alliances in high schools, is one prong of this policy, which includes a sexual education curriculum.

Though the Liberals tried to introduce the curriculum in 2010, it received so much criticism from parents the Ministry of Education withdrew it, Pierre said, though she notes Wynne has said the policy will come back. This curriculum would teach Grade 3 students about homosexuality and gender identity, teach Grade 6 students about masturbation and teach Grade 8 students about the concepts “heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual and intersexed,” she said.

“The second way the curriculum could be affected is that equity topics could be introduced almost anywhere in the regular curriculum,” she said, noting the Toronto District School Board issued a manual called Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: a K-12 Curriculum Guide that undermines traditional views of the family. The material treats homosexuality and gender identity as fixed characteristics, she said.

“The fact that there are lots of competing views on the origins of sexual identity or even the need for scientific proof is not even mentioned.”

Pierre said few parents even know about the policy, despite the public consultations.  She said the media, Church hierarchy and school boards play a role in dissemination of information but at the school level, parent-teacher associations should be informing parents about these policies.  

“Are they doing that? Most don’t,” she said.

“Even the people who do care and do know better are often afraid to speak against the culture. You need to overcome your own fear, which is the root of the problem.”

Published in Education