Spotlight – April 14



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.