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The OCSB’s 5th Annual Keep the Promise Summit

In 1989, all three federal government parties promised to end child poverty by the year 2000. Today in Ottawa, 1 in 5 children live in poverty. This is unacceptable! After the Keep the Promise (KTP) National Summit in November 2014, I was so impacted by the commitment, determination and passion of young people that I felt compelled to keep this conversation going. With 20 Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) retiree volunteers ready, and the OCSB committed to host, the conversation continued … with some 50 schools and 250 students participating.

“If any of you happens to see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator, you are a participant, and you have an obligation to do something.” June Callwood

Friday, May 4th marked the fifth KTP Student Summit with the theme “Child Poverty – Hidden in Plain Sight”. It was all about raising awareness! Participants were challenged to keep the conversation going in their schools, at home and with any adult that will listen. We hoped to ignite a spark in our young leaders, so one day they will find solutions to end child poverty. Based on the positive feedback we received from participants, it’s clear that the sparks were ignited!

St. Patrick’s High School participates in Memory Project

During Catholic Education Week at the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB), we get to see and experience the beauty and vibrancy of OCSB student talent through various events and activities across the city. I recently had the opportunity to hear about a heartwarming project from St. Patrick’s High School‘s art club. Here are the highlights of my conversation with OCSB Student Success Arts Consultant Katie Lewis-Prieur and St. Patrick’s High School’s Arts Department Head Mirella Frost.

Mirella: “I first heard about The Memory Project from my niece who studies art at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Her art class participated in it, and I thought it would be so rewarding, so I decided to propose it to my Art Club. The Memory Project is a non-profit organization that sends hand-drawn portraits to children living in refugee camps in Syria. Seeing as most of the students had studied portraiture with me in the past, they were so excited to participate.”

The social work of OCSB Social Workers

The work of OCSB School Social Workers make this possible by supporting the whole child and enabling them to access the curriculum, achieve academic success and grow as future citizens.

Achieving success at school can be hindered by various social and mental health challenges. School Social Workers have the expertise in mental health, social systems, and community resources to help overcome these barriers. They are concerned with the social determinants of health, and focus not only on the unique needs of each student, but also on the role of the wider social-economic context impacting our diverse communities.

Students may be referred for service from an OCSB Social Worker by school administrators and resource teachers, or requests may come directly from parents/guardians or the student. The involvement of a Social Worker may be an effective support to overcoming barriers to regular school attendance. They provide a variety of interventions and supports to students, parents, and school staff including such services as: counselling, clinical consultation, crisis response, professional development, and referrals to community support agencies, to name a few.

The work of our Social Workers support our Board’s mission to create the best possible conditions in which a child can develop and achieve their full social, emotional, spiritual, and academic potential.

Easter Blessings from the Director of Education

Photo: St. Pius X High School students from the school’s Developmental Education (DE) class bless school staff with a thoughtful Easter gift of appreciation. @StPiusXOCSB #WeAllBelong #ocsbLent

When I think back to Easter as a young child, I remember with fondness Easter egg hunts, family gatherings, new Spring outfits (usually matching for me and my sisters), even little gifts like skipping ropes and marbles (no doubt to get us outside of the house for a while). It was the day that our Lenten observance came to an end, holy water reappeared in the font at the entrance to our church, the Alleluia was sung once again, and purple vestments and decor gave way to the white of Easter.

While we all have different memories of Easter, we remember what it means to be an Easter people. It’s more than Easter eggs and new Spring outfits, and goes beyond the symbols of our faith. We are called to care for one another, for those who are most in need, and for our planet. We do this daily in our schools. Let’s recommit ourselves, as we journey together in these last three months of the school year, to be God’s love and spirit at work in our world.

Bi-Giwen: Coming Home – Truth telling from the Sixties

Bi-Giwen: Coming Home, Truth telling from the Sixties is an exhibit focused on the survivors of a time in our recent history where Indigenous children were taken from their families by child welfare services and fostered or adopted into non-Indigenous families. My Grade 11 History class was invited to attend the opening ceremony of the exhibit. Elaine Kicknosway, a Sixties Scoop survivor, introduced us to the exhibit by sharing her experiences. She spoke of the names given to her generation (“policy children” or “catalogue kids”) and how Indigenous families had been victims of “institutions” for decades. Her 14 year old son is the first in her family to live without institutional intervention.

Ms. Kicknosway’s words resonated with the students as they explored the exhibit. They read stories of losing identity and not knowing where to find it, and about the abuse that accompanied institutional living. These courageous stories were rendered life-size in the exhibit. Many of my students noticed that while the stories were all so different, in the end, survivors had a loss of identity and a lack of choice in their own history. Students commented on the fact that there are still people alive that experienced the Sixties Scoop and are not just dates in a history book. “They are still alive, this actually happened,” Logan Crawford said. Another student reminded us of the dark time in our past and how the exhibit cast a light on it to ensure something like this will not be repeated. We all agreed that we had been blessed to experience Bi-Giwen and we hope to aid in the reconciliation process by passing on the truth of the Sixties Scoop.

St. Francis Xavier High gets a new wing

On January 31st, Saint Francis Xavier High School hosted a Liturgy and Blessing Ceremony for the New Wing Addition to the school. Archbishop Terrence Prendergast presided over the Liturgy in the school chapel. The chapel was filled with several board personnel including Chairperson of the Board, Ms. Elaine McMahon, Director of Education Ms. Denise Andre, Superintendent Mary Donaghy and Superintendent Fred Chrystal. We were blessed to also have in attendance Mayor Jim Watson, representation from the Ministry of Education, as well as several community partners including the school council chairs and several student representatives.

A plaque unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony took place at the entrance to the new wing. Principal John Pedari gave a tour of some of the contemporary classrooms including a multi-purpose room and the spacious new Grade 7 art room, which is adorned with samples of the wonderful artwork the students have produced. Mr. Pedari spoke about how innovative and functional the space is and how students are deepening their learning in the new collaborative space.

Fostering resilience to help prepare for tests and exams

As parents, we want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy and to grow up reaching their full academic and social-emotional potential. It is always difficult as a parent when we see our children experiencing challenges or difficulties that cause them feelings of stress, sadness, or fear. Our natural instinct is to want to rush in and to “save them” from this hardship. However, in reality we can not save our children from all the challenges they will face in life. How can we prepare them for those challenges that are an unavoidable part of life, like not making the sports team they wanted, not doing as well as expected on a test, or the loss of someone dear to them?

This is what resilience is all about — being able to bounce back from the challenges we face and to learn from them. Being resilient can help our children learn coping skills and find solutions to academic and social problems. It is a key factor in positive mental health and overall life success. Our high school students are busy studying for their first semester exams and our Grade 3 and Grade 6 students are preparing for EQAO evaluations. These are opportunities to help them develop healthy coping skills. Keeping an open dialogue with your child will go a long way in helping your child develop resilience. We’ve assembled some tips to help your child manage realistic pressures.

A blessed beginning for a new school

On November 22, 2017, the OCSB held a sod-turning ceremony to celebrate the construction of a new Catholic elementary school in Kanata North. Construction has begun in the Marchwood Lakeside Community of Kanata North. The state of the art school will sit on a 6.52 acre site and will have the capacity to accommodate 460 students.

The assembled crowd then watched as students from St. Gabriel Elementary School gripped shovels and participated in the sod turning for their new school. A special blessing was performed by Fr. Virgil Amirthakumar, Parish Priest, St. Isidore. Director of Education Denise Andre gave her closing remarks and thanked all in attendance, including staff, students and parents from St. Gabriel and architects and contractors who were present. After the ceremony, attendees were invited back to St. Gabriel Elementary for a tour and reception.

Four reasons to consider Indigenous self-identification

While I’ve learned a lot over the years, there is still much I’m continuing to learn about treaties, the Indian Act, and the Sixties Scoop, and in turn helping support our educators discover these important pieces of history and the impacts that they still carry today. It brings me great pride to say that we’ve increased the number of the Indigenous Studies courses from 18 classes when I first started five years ago to 29 classes today at every one of our high schools.

Our board works hard to bring change in Indigenous Education for all of our students, so that we walk down the path to Reconciliation together. In the midst of our board’s Indigenous Awareness month, it seems like a good time to reflect on the important topic of self-Identification which can have such a positive impact on our Indigenous students’ education.

An honour we can all share

On Tuesday evening, the Ottawa Catholic School Board was honoured at the annual Ottawa Philanthropy Awards ceremony with the Outstanding Philanthropic Group award for our longstanding partnership with the Shepherds of Good Hope. I am proud of our school board’s continued generosity and service to our community through our special partnership with the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Thomas D’Amico, Associate Director of Education, and Joanne MacEwan, Vice-Chair of our Board, were present at the celebration to accept this award on our behalf. The countless acts of mercy, kindness and generosity our staff and students have contributed to the Shepherds of Good Hope also provide people with the invaluable gifts of respect and dignity.

As a faith-filled OCSB family, we work together every day to share in this caring community we’ve created together. Thank you to every staff member and student whose contributions have touched the lives of our neighbours with love and kindness.