Ottawa Catholic Parents Achieve Commitment from Board to Pursue Partnerships that Respect Catholic Faith
(OTTAWA, June 11, 2013)
Ottawa Catholic ratepayers achieved a stronger policy statement that "Catholic and social and moral teaching" will direct partnerships in the Ottawa Catholic board at a meeting of the board June 11. PAFE President said "This evening parents gained a policy that will help to ensure that board partnerships respect fundamental teachings of the Church on social and moral issues. We could have wished for clearer vetting procedures to ease the administrative process for everyone and to better reduce the possibility of problematic partner choices slipping through, but this policy is a step in the right direction."
Archbishop Prendergast reportedly recommended the language about choosing partners who respect "Catholic and social moral teachings" in a meeting with the Director of Education. Staff also reported that principals have already been informed of the importance of choosing partners that don't contravene Catholic teaching.
A few dozen hardy ratepayers were in the gallery along with Catholic journalist and author Deborah Gyapong. Parent Gillian Keenan gave a phenomenal speech thanking the committee for the improvements the policies offered but requesting a proper vetting procedure for administrators. PAFE representative, Bruce Clark, pressed the same point, making the argument that such procedures have been used elsewhere to prevent churches and schools from hosting well-known critics of church beliefs. Prior to the board meeting PAFE had also provided the board with a report containing statements testifying to the ease with which such a procedure could be implemented. He also asked for a clearer statement that those who have spoken out on contentious topics in the past not be allowed to speak in the schools, even on neutral topics.
The field trips policy was mildly improved to say that "Field trips and excursions will be linked to the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations (CGE's) and the distinctive culture of Catholic curriculum."
Clark suggested amendments to the policies, but to the disbelief of onlookers, Trustees failed to engage them in any debate whatsoever. Questions from Trustees were directed mainly to staff about the resources they had drawn on in writing their policies. Trustee Butler asked whether there are existing vetting procedures for speakers. Staff said yes, but they don't contain any mention of fidelity to the faith. Trustee Butler asked Clark whether he didn't think that you could gain something valuable from hearing anyone speak. Clark spoke for the majority of the onlookers present when he disagreed in the case of children, saying that "some things are just morally evil. Is it wise to bring them into the schools?" He also spoke of the danger of appearing to lend moral support to politicians who have been openly hostile to church teachings.
Trustee Kealey asked if it were possible to approve the policies one at a time, which might have offered the opportunity to introduce amendments, but Chair Mark Mullan refused. In the end no Trustee proposed the amendments. The policies were quickly passed as a group by the unanimous vote of all ten Trustees: Ablett, Baizana, Butler, Coburn, Curry, Hurley, Kealey, MacEwan, Maloney-Cousineau, and Mullan.
If the amended wording had been adopted, the burden of vetting would have been placed where it should be, on school officials. Still, parents make a significant gain with these policies because if future incidents occur, parents can refer to the clear statement in the partnerships policy that Catholic social and moral teachings must be respected in the board's choice of partners.
Seeking Transparency and Accountability in the OCSB
(TORONTO, June 14, 2013)
Change is needed to create real transparency and accountability in the Ottawa Catholic board. The time and voice of the ratepayers isn't being given the respect it deserves. Here are some areas for improvement in transparency and accountability that became evident in the four-month partnerships policy process: