December 2020 Newsletter

Throughout the centuries, the Catholic church has been at the forefront of responding to pandemics. From 1576 when St. Charles Borromeo built alters on top of hills at crossroads to residents could participate in the Eucharist from their windows; to 1656 when Pope Alexander VII ran the network of hospitals in Rome in order to isolate infected people for recovery.  We Catholics have always faced pandemics with courage and faith; and I see no difference today in how our Halton Catholic School Community has responded to COVID-19.

For example: distance learning, which was barely functional in March, is becoming more streamlined and efficient by the day. Staff, students and (yes even) board members who were technophobes less than half a year ago are meeting, problem solving and learning on-line with an appetite. Simple hand-washing and infection control in schools, which was barely enforced at one time, has been embraced with a cooperation amongst students and teachers that is more than impressive. 

Our focus, from the board, is to support the highest level of learning without compromising the health and safety of our staff and students.  This will be clearly demonstrated as we trustees deal with the new funding formulas that are a direct result the COVID-19 financial initiatives from the Ministry of Education.

Another main concern at the board level is to make sure the great initiatives that were started pre-COVID-19, continue. The recent debates and motions passed around French Immersion expansion show this clearly. The expansion of French Immersion at the Grade One level in all of Halton’s municipalities was met with great success this past September, despite all the challenges. The Board of Trustees has recently passed a motion to consider continuing this expansion requesting timelines and dates for the necessary boundary reviews that would have to be in place first. Another example of business as usual is the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) initiative that was started last fall has seen the development of S.T.E.M. steering committee now meets on a regular basis. The committee has a focus on promoting S.T.E.M. at the extracurricular level. 

As well, the tough slugging and often mundane debates over by-laws, anti-bullying, code of conduct and the revision of policy has not been hampered. We will continue to govern the board with integrity and best interest of you, our ratepayers, despite the current situation.

In this Holy and Blessed season, I hope and pray that the Christ child will be the center of you home and bless you with every gift that he has to offer.

God Bless You All,

Tim O’Brien
Catholic School Trustee for Burlington

Amanda BartucciDecember 2020 Newsletter
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April 2020 Newsletter

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens

In the midst of one of most devasting times of Canadian (and possibly world) history, Halton Catholic could have easily folded and given into fear, panic and despair. But, that is not what I’m seeing.

The immediate response of working collaboratively and in a timely manner, between groups inside and outside of the Board has been amazing. The Information Technology (IT) Services Department has worked with all the difficulties of social distancing to refurbish our IT infrastructure into something streamlined and effective in a very short period of time. Parents, teachers and staff once technophobes, are turning into online warriors – and I am getting some good interior decorating ideas from seeing the inside of so many people’s houses! I’m seeing people getting past the physical distancing barrier and engaging in deep and rich conversations, giving not only educational support, but hope. I’m seeing parents more engaged than ever with their child’s learning. But, what impresses me the most, is that I see people putting aside personal differences and opinions to come together and work for the greatest cause: to deliver the highest quality of education despite the pandemic.

Distance Learning will happen. It can be done at any point in the day. It does not always require online access. And ideally, it can be done with minimal adult support. Assessment will occur; but in such a way that allows us to assess effectively a student’s work from a distance. There will be a thousand and one technical glitches; but we will deal with every one. 

Also, I want to make this clear to all our ratepayers. The long term and day-to-day business of the Board is still being done. The budget will be passed and hopefully balanced. The French Immersion expansion of two classes per municipality in Burlington, Oakville and Milton, and by one class in Halton Hills will take place. Our Board by-laws will continue to be reviewed. The beginning and completion of school construction will take place in so far as the provincial government will allow. Our Board meetings will continue; though they will be virtual, we continue to invite you to view us live-streamed on our Board website. We have not stopped pursuing the long range goals of Halton Catholic because there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and we will be ready for it.

The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is the same as the word ‘opportunity’. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who has, is and always will be with us, we will come through this, and turn this crisis into an opportunity. But, it will only come if each of us continues to do his or her part. I look forward in continuing to represent you as Catholic School Trustee for Burlington.

Tim O’Brien

Amanda BartucciApril 2020 Newsletter
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October 2019 Newsletter

A lot has been happening around the Board table in the last several months.  

The survey for gifted parents that went out last April indicated that students were relatively satisfied with the results of the placement for secondary gifted students. Presently, elementary gifted students are placed in a Special Education classroom with partial integration in the rest of the school. Our secondary gifted students are placed in a regular classroom with the choice of indirect support, resource assistance, or withdrawal assistance. 

Last June, the Board asked for a staff report on the possibility of clustered classes for the gifted. These are classes where gifted students are put together with likeminded high achieving peers. The report was presented to the Board in September and recommended that the Board not pursue a Secondary gifted class.  As per the Trustees motion the report was forwarded to the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) on September 30th meeting, where the option was discussed further.  

This school year got off to a great start with several school Masses. I had the privilege of attending both the Mass at the Catholic Education Centre and the  Mass at Corpus Christi Catholic Secondary School. The devotion of our staff and students is a great testament to our dedication to Catholic education – putting the Eucharist first and foremost in our lives and in our studies. I am looking forward to attending more school events throughout the year. 

Our Board also hosted the first Halton Deanery meeting of the year at the Catholic Education Centre. I had the opportunity to speak firsthand to our Priests and Parish staff. The focus of the meeting was how to engage more of our parishioners so that their voice can be heard at the board table. Remember, Trustees are accountable to all stakeholders, including those who no longer have children in the system, but have been Catholic supporters for many years. Their wisdom is valued as we train our students to be holy Catholic learners. So, please respond to any feedback requests from the Board that you might see in your Parish bulletin. 

On October 5thHCDSB Trustees attended a workshop on governance. Our role as Trustees is governance over the board; but what this actually means can become a little blurred sometimes when discussing items at the board table. The golden rule set out by the ministry document indicates that:  good governance means that trustees have their noses in and fingers out’”  which is to say that the role of the Trustee is not in the details of operations and individual cases, but in overall Board performance.  We gained further expertise in our role at this workshop. 

We have several important policies that we will be reviewing this fall.  Among the more noteworthy are the School Uniform Dress Code and Progressive Discipline.  Remember that all Board meetings and Policy meetings are open to the public. Your presence is so valued.   

Thank you again for your continuing supportWishing you many blessings this Thanksgivingspent in the company of family and friends. 

Tim O’Brien
Burlington Trustee
HCDSB 

Amanda BartucciOctober 2019 Newsletter
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April 2019 Newsletter

These first four months as trustee have gone by so fast.  There are so many great things going on in Halton Catholic that it is a full-time job keeping up.  To begin, I had the honour of judging one of the regional speech contests at St. Timothy’s Elementary.  The caliber of speeches done with so much passion clearly demonstrates that we are forming tomorrow’s leaders.

The two S.T.E.A.M demonstrations I attended at Notre Dame and St. Anne’s were just a delight.  The buy-in from students at all levels and abilities clearly shows how our schools are allowing our students to embrace technology and form the future as opposed to being afraid of it.

I attended a parent council meeting at St. Anne’s this past winter.  To see parents engaged with such passion and dedication to their school was refreshing.  Though, I went there to teach them a few things about the board, I really feel they taught me a few things.  I look forward to answering the invite to St. Mark’s parent council in May.

I have the privilege of also working with the staff of St. John the Baptist to help produce their annual talent show, held in the church hall.  Seeing these children working so hard on developing their God-given talents resonates so well with our belief in connecting parish with school.   I hope some of you get a chance to come out on May 4 at St. John the Baptist Church to see these students perform.

At the board table, myself, along with Trustee Karabela, have written the first draft for a policy on Optional French programming.  I feel passionate about working toward making French Immersion accessible to everyone.  I believe this policy is a start; and look forward to your stakeholder input when the policy is put before you, the ratepayer.

The work of the children Holy week has been simply inspirational.  The students from St. John the Baptist took over the entire liturgy at the church on Tues. night.  At Holy Rosary the older students were feeding the younger through the salad bar, Food for Thought Program.   The stations of the cross at St. Patrick’s and St. Timothy were done with such passion, they left one tearful.  Our schools are certainly putting Faith into Action.

On the provincial scene, I have been most privileged to have my name put forward by the board to run for OCSTA Director, Region 11.  OCSTA is the organization of all Catholic trustees in the province that work with the ministry directly to bring about effective changes for education in the province.  I will be running against 3 other long-standing veterans.  However, I feel, Halton needs a voice provincially.  I will keep you posted on the voting which takes place Apr. 26 at our AGM.

On behalf of myself and the board, I would like to wish you all a Happy and Blessed Easter as you take time with friends and family to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.

Tim O’Brien
Halton Catholic Trustee, Burlington

Amanda BartucciApril 2019 Newsletter
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