As I wrap up my tenure as Superintendent of Leading and Learning before taking on a new portfolio in the fall, I am reflecting on the many initiatives and achievements my department has championed since I took on this role in January 2019. One of the many blessings of leading this portfolio was observing innovation from the grassroots blossom into life-giving initiatives that acknowledge and honour the dignity of every learner in our system. My very diverse portfolio includes Religious Education, Equity, Indigenous Education, our New Teacher Induction Program, Leadership, Professional Development and Research. I have found five things that act as the common thread throughout my diverse portfolio and bring me great pride in being a Superintendent of Education at the Ottawa Catholic School Board. They are best summarized through these five statements:
We Hear You
We have such an amazingly diverse school board, and we must continue to listen. In May of 2019, we adopted the OCSB UN Declaration for People of African Descent. Through this process, we listened to our black community, students and parents keeping the Latin motto in mind when making all decisions around equity; “Nothing about us, without us.” We hear you.
We See You
As a board, we made a sizeable financial commitment to purchasing books, learning tools, murals, and banners that reflect diversity. We also developed a Pride statement and are implementing a strategy to increase racialized staff in our system. The purpose of these intentional actions is so that our students can feel represented and see themselves in their schools and educators. We see you.
We Got You
I am so proud that we work collaboratively with our community to ensure our students have what they need to learn, grow and play. Our Breakfast program warms my heart. Knowing that students in need can start their day off with proper nutrition allows every student the necessities required to learn. The passion of our principals and staff to support our most vulnerable populations inspires me. With initiatives like the snowsuit fund or ensuring our students have essential school supplies during COVID-19, they go above and beyond. We Got You.
We Celebrate You
Working collaboratively with the Student Success Department to have all of our Grade 11 English courses taught through an Indigenous Lens has been an enormously proud moment for me. We will be able to honour our Indigenous culture by studying books that are written by Indigenous authors! “Own voices” need to be honoured. We are also stocking our shelves with books written by black authors who will share rich stories of their past and present. I am also so proud of the creation of our first-ever Black Educator Network, the first-ever system-wide Black History Month event, and for our first-ever upcoming Black Student Forum! We Celebrate You!
We are Walking Humbly
Championing equity is not easy work, but it has been the most rewarding work I have ever been involved with in my entire career. You must be comfortable with the uncomfortable. You must lean in and have challenging conversations. You must unlearn to learn. You must seek spiritual guidance. You must be humble and listen. This important work has momentum and impact because of the team of people I am blessed to work with daily. We can support, challenge and lean on each other while on this journey. To strengthen Catholic Education and honour the dignity of each person we serve, I also ask you to lean in, pray often, and engage in with an open heart in conversation. As we continue to grow, together, we will “…walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8)