Niagara Catholic District School Board

Welcome to April! It’s so hard to believe that there are only three months left in this incredibly busy 2014-2015 school year. As we move further into Spring, we are all looking forward to better – and warmer – days ahead. Don’t miss a thing this month! Check out our April events below:

April 2 is Holy Thursday and also John Paul II Day in Canada. We mark this very important day in the Christian calendar in a variety of ways, including re-enactments of The Stations of the Cross. Please check your child’s school calendar or newsletter for times and locations and join us.


All Niagara Catholic schools and sites will be closed on Friday, April 3 and Monday, April 6, in observance of the Good Friday and Easter Monday holidays. We hope your family enjoys the blessings of the Easter season.



The 12th Annual Bishop’s Gala will take place at Club Roma on Friday, April 10. This is a signature event in our system, when we recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to Catholic education in Niagara and in Ontario with the Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction. This year’s recipients are Anna Racine and the late Joseph Noonan. The Bishop’s Gala is also raises funds for the Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education, which provides scholarships for graduating students.



On Monday, April 13, Niagara Catholic will celebrate the many volunteers who enrich and enhance the lives of our students during our annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast. Thank you to the many parents, grandparents and community volunteers who bring their time and talents into our schools throughout the year.


Niagara Catholic’s Elementary Chess Tournament will take place April 14, 15 and 16 at St. Denis Catholic Elementary School. If you have a student competing on one of these days and are able to attend, please feel free to drop by St. Denis to watch the students in action.


Niagara Catholic will once again mark Earth Week with our Electronics Recycling Event at the Catholic Education Centre. Please feel free to drop off your unwanted electronics at 427 Rice Road in Welland from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. from Monday, April 20 through Friday, April 27. The proceeds from this year’s event will once again go to our Helping Hands Fund to support families in need.


Niagara Catholic’s annual Heritage Fair will take place at Brock University’s Pond Inlet on Wednesday, April 22. This event celebrates the people and events in Canada’s history that have made our country the great nation it is today. Niagara Catholic has once again declared April 22 United Way Day across the system. On this day, our schools will raise funds for our local United Way organizations and will learn more about how they support the member agencies in the community.


Niagara Catholic’s annual Grade 7 Faith Festival will take place on Tuesday, April 28 and Wednesday, April 29 at St. Alfred Catholic Church in St. Catharines. Once again Father Tony Ricard will bring his dynamic message about faith and making good choices to students. Father Tony will also hold a 90-minute presentation at Saint Michael Catholic High School in Niagara Falls on April 29, titled The Path from Slavery to Salvation. This presentation will explore the musical heritage and faith journey that brought freedom to the South. This event is free and open to the public and we guarantee that it will life your spirit!


While our Grade 7s celebrate their faith on April 28 and 29, secondary school students will participate in the Inspiring Thinkers Conference at Brock University. This two-day session will focus on literacy and numeracy. The April 28 event will focus on writing, and includes a number of very exciting guest speakers and workshops for students to enjoy. On April 29, it’s all about math, and our advanced mathematics students will participate in a number of workshops and presentations by some of the most brilliant math minds in Canada and beyond.


We conclude April with the Niagara Catholic Festival of the Arts, which will take place on April 30 at Notre Dame College School. Be sure to check your child’s school calendar for specific information about this event, which once again showcases the many unique talents of our students.









The mission of the Diocese of St. Catharines is founded in the mission of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus states that He came down from heaven, "not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." (Jn6:38) Jesus' mission is doing the will of his Father. This is the will of the Father, "that all who see the Son and believe in him will have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day". (Jn 6:40)

The Diocese of St. Catharines' mission is rooted in doing the Father's will by proclaiming His son to the world so that all can know, love and serve Him. This mission is lived out on a daily basis in our parishes, schools and Catholic institutions. We find clergy, religious and laity committed to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ by witnessing to His truth, justice, love and mercy. St. Catharines Diocese is where faith lives.



The Ontario Ministry of Education has released the graduation rate for all publicly funded high schools in Ontario. This is the first time the Ministry has released this information.

Director of Education John Crocco is pleased to announce that 89 per cent of all secondary school students in the Class of 2014 completed their requirements for an Ontario Secondary School Graduation Diploma (OSSGD) within four years of entering high school; 12 per cent higher than the provincial average. Ninety two per cent of Niagara Catholic students completed their OSSGD requirements within five years of beginning high school, eight per cent higher than the provincial average.

Niagara Catholic’s figures also exceed the Ministry of Education’s goal of an 85 per cent five-year graduation rate, and fulfill a strategy laid out in the Board’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan to exceed the Provincial target rate. It is second-highest ranked English language school board in Ontario.

“The graduation rate of students is a key indicator of student success completing an Ontario Secondary School Diploma,” said Mr. Crocco. “We believe our graduation rate is a clear indication to our Board’s commitment to student success. We provide a range of pathways, programs, options and supports for all students, including Specialist High Skills Major, Dual Credit/Connecting College programs and a number of innovative strategies designed to increase student engagement and programs to enhance student experiences. While we are very proud of the success of our students, who are nurtured by our dedicated and talented staff, we will continue to strive to exceed our own excellent standard to ensure our students graduate from high school fully prepared for the next stage of their lives, whether it is apprenticeship, college, university or the world of work.”

 This information was shared with Trustees during the April 14 Committee of the Whole Meeting. You can read the complete report here.


The tentative 2015-2016 school year calendar has been recommended to the Board for approval.

If approved by the Ministry of Education, the new academic year will begin on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 and the last day of school will be Wednesday June 29, 2016.

Elementary Professional Activity Days will take place on October 9 and November 13, 2015, and January 15, June 10 and June 30, 2016. Secondary Professional Activity Days will also take place on October 9 and November 13, 2015, with 2016 dates of February 5, June 29 and June 30.

Secondary first semester exams will take place from January 29 through February 4, 2016 and second semester exams will be held June 22-28, 2016.

All Niagara Catholic schools and sites will be closed for the two-week Christmas break, December 21, 2015-January 1, 2016, and the March Break will take place March 14-18, 2016.

A finalized school year calendar will be posted on the Board website and on school websites when it is approved.


As we conclude our first three-year faith formation focus, Growing in Wisdom to Worship and Witness, Niagara Catholic has announced the theological theme which will guide us through 2018; One Family in Christ: Know Him, Love Him, Serve Him.

The Three-Year Theological Theme Committee, comprised of staff from different areas of the Board and the Diocese, chose the theme, believing it was important to focus on the aspect of family, as it incorporates Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel which includes a beautiful articulation of the gospel message of inclusivity, justice and mercy; it is the recurring conversational theme of the Church with the Synod of Bishops and the upcoming Meeting of Families and it allows us, as a Board, to consider how we might better help students feel accepted within the community.

You can read the complete report online.


Beginning in January, Senior Administrative Council began monthly meetings to begin preparations of the System Priorities and Annual Board Budget 2015-2016.

The System Priorities and balanced Annual Budget will be in alignment with the Board’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan, Mission, Vision and Values, the two Niagara Catholic Strategic Directions and the four current goals determined by the Ministry of Education.

In addition to two guiding principles of the System Priorities are: A commitment to providing Catholic educational excellence through approved programs and services for all services, and a commitment to achieving the Board’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan and Annual System Priorities through balanced and sustainable annual budgets.

The 2015-2016 System Priorities are available in the April 14 Committee of the Whole agenda.


More than 350 supporters of Catholic education attended the 12th Annual Bishop’s Gala at Club Roma on April 10, celebrating two pillars of the system that serves 24,000 students in Niagara today.

Anna Racine, a tireless parent volunteer who has donated countless hours of her time on the Catholic School Councils at her children’s elementary and secondary schools, as well as the Niagara Catholic Parent Involvement Committee (NCPIC) and the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), and the late Joseph Noonan, who served Catholic education for nearly 45 years as a teacher, administrator and a trustee, were the 2015 recipients of the Niagara Catholic Education Awards of Distinction.

Several members of Mr. Noonan’s family attended the celebration, including his widow Claire, who delivered a heartfelt – and often hilarious – speech about her husband’s life-long commitment to Catholic education.

Mrs. Claire Noonan receives the Niagara Catholic Award of Distinction on behalf of her late husband Joseph at the 12th Annual Bishop’s Gala. With Mrs. Noonan, from left, are Vice-Chair Dino Sicoli, Bishop Bergie, Board Chair Father Paul MacNeil and Director of Education John Crocco.

She recounted a story told by the late Alexander Kuska, who first hired Mr. Noonan as a teacher, at her husband’s retirement party:

“This young, cocky Irishman comes into my office and says, ‘I’m Joseph Noonan, I’m Irish, and I’m Catholic, and I won’t come for a cent less than $900,’” Mrs. Noonan recalled Mr. Kuska saying. “(He) replied, ‘My name is Alex Kuska, I’m Polish, and I’m Catholic. Sit down.’ Then Alex said, ‘I didn’t tell you then Joe, but we had already decided to pay you $1,000 for the year.”

She also spoke of her family’s gratitude at having Mr. Noonan recognized for what he always saw as his birthright as a fourth-generation Catholic educator:

“Joe’s life was one of unwavering faith, love and dedication for his family and students, and was living proof of God’s blessings,” said Mrs. Noonan. “Our family thanks for this great honour to Joe.”

Ms. Racine had family and friends on hand to share her special evening with her, and like Mrs. Noonan, she expressed her gratitude for the honour, but also for having had the honour of serving students for so many years.

Anna Racine is presented with her Award of Distinction. From left are Vice-Chair Dino Sicoli, Ms. Racine, Bishop Bergie, Director of Education John Crocco, and Board Chair, Fr. Paul MacNeil.

“It is moments like these that remind me that Jesus came to serve, and not to be served,” she said. “I am so grateful for all of the words of congratulations that I have received, but rest assured, this award is not about me at all.  Rather, it is because of so many others.  And it is not, about thanking me, for all I have done, but for thanking all of you, for what you have done for me.”

“It is moments like these that remind me that Jesus came to serve, and not to be served,” she said. “I am so grateful for all of the words of congratulations that I have received, but rest assured, this award is not about me at all.  Rather, it is because of so many others.  And it is not, about thanking me, for all I have done, but for thanking all of you, for what you have done for me.”

“It is moments like these that remind me that Jesus came to serve, and not to be served,” she said. “I am so grateful for all of the words of congratulations that I have received, but rest assured, this award is not about me at all.  Rather, it is because of so many others.  And it is not, about thanking me, for all I have done, but for thanking all of you, for what you have done for me.”

Read the full comments from Mrs. NoonanMs. RacineChair Fr. Paul MacNeil and Peter Ferren, President of the Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education.

The Niagara Catholic Bishop’s Gala is a signature event in the school year calendar. It is a fundraiser for the Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education.



Celebrations 196

Volunteers from Monsignor Clancy Catholic Elementary School at the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast.


The men and women who volunteer in Niagara Catholic schools play a key role in the education of our students. Each one brings an unique set of skills and experiences to our schools and adds to the rich fabric of our school communities. Whether it is volunteering as a coach, as a Catholic School Council member, a reading buddy or organizing other events and activities at the school, our volunteers brings a different part of the school day to life.

Each year during Volunteer Week in Canada, Niagara Catholic recognizes these volunteers for their service to our schools. This year’s event took place at the Holiday Inn Convention Centre in St. Catharines, and recognized 250 volunteers.





Niagara Catholic Board Chair Father Paul MacNeil is proud to announce that Director of Education John Crocco was the recipient of the OCSOA CASSA-EXL Award 2015, presented by the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association (OCSOA) and the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA).

Director Crocco is presented with his OCSOA CASSA-EXL Award by OCSOA President Loretta Notten.

Mr. Crocco received his award during the annual OCSOA Conference, which took place in Toronto April 15-17, 2015.

“Director Crocco is a tireless advocate for Catholic education, not only in Niagara, but throughout Ontario,” said Father MacNeil. “He is a dynamic and innovative leader, and on behalf of the Board and the entire Niagara Catholic family, I congratulate him on this very well-deserved honour.”

Mr. Crocco was selected for this very prestigious provincial award for the many ways he strives to promote Catholic education in Niagara and throughout Ontario, and also for the many innovative programs he has championed and supported throughout his years as a teacher, administrator, Superintendent of Education and as Director. Among the initiatives featured at the OCSOA Annual Banquet by Niagara Catholic Superintendent of Education Yolanda Baldasaro, who introduced Director Crocco, were:

  • Accompanying students on social justice trips to Dominica and Grenada and his annual participation in the Niagara Catholic Pilgrimage
  • Creating the Niagara Catholic International Co-operative Experience, through which students spend three months in a developing nation and receive seven high school credits
  • Fostering partnerships with schools in Europe, Central and South America, China and South Korea, which have resulted in students visiting and studying in Niagara Catholic schools, along with Niagara Catholic teachers working in China as part of a Niagara Catholic program
  • Engaging the Board and all partners in Catholic education in the design of its Vision 2020 Strategic Plan
  • Supporting Niagara Catholic’s outstanding record of participation in the Ontario EcoSchools Program, as the first school board in the province to have 100 per cent of schools certified
  • Engaging innovative programs and services such as the Elementary Chaplaincy Leaders, the Pope Francis Centre, mental health and addiction supports, classrooms in a working hotel, industrial mall and Niagara Parks Commission, French Immersion, High-Performance Academic Support, Elementary and Secondary Student Senates and celebrations of student and staff accomplishments
  • Nurturing community relationships with organizations such as the Business Education Council, Niagara Regional Police Service, Niagara Children’s Safety Village, Early Years Niagara and Niagara Regional Public Health
  • Membership on a number of provincial boards and organizations which benefit students, including the OFSAA Board of Directors, the Board of Directors of Curriculum Services Canada, Co-Chair of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health and an executive member of the Council of Directors of Education

Mr. Crocco was honoured and humbled in accepting the award, which he accepted on behalf of the Niagara Catholic staff, administrators and Board, as well as his Senior Administrative team who nominated him. He acknowledged his family members for their ongoing support.

“They represent all of our families for providing us with the love, support, time, encouragement and the stability in our lives for our vocational mission,” Mr. Crocco said. He also extended appreciation and recognition to the OCSOA executive, and acknowledged his “platinum team” of Senior Administrative Council members at Niagara Catholic who live by OCSOA’s motto, “Call to Lead, Call to Serve.”

“These are the true recipients of this award,” Mr. Crocco continued. “They are a platinum medal team of leadership, knowledge, talent and friendship and represent the very best in Catholic educational leadership in Ontario. Our students are best served by all of us who are engaged in what we continue to accomplish together; for the students we know and the faces and names of students we may never know, but count on us every day to be and do our very best in Catholic education as the feet, voices and hands of Jesus.”

More than 400 colleagues and dignitaries were in attendance at the banquet, including the Minister of Education, Bishop Bergie, and Kathy Burtnik, President of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association and Niagara Catholic Trustee. As a recipient of the Award, Mr. Crocco will represent OCSOA at the annual Canadian Association of School Administrators Conference.




The Niagara Catholic District School Board, through the charisms of faith, social justice, support and leadership, nurtures an enriching Catholic learning community for all to reach their full potential and become living witnesses of Christ.