Spotlight – March 2015


Niagara Catholic Announces 2015 Award of Distinction Recipients

Joseph Noonan, a Principal in the Lincoln County Roman Catholic Separate School Board and Trustee on the Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, and Anna Racine, Chair of Niagara Catholic’s Special Education Advisory Committee and a parent volunteer who has given countless hours of her time to Catholic education in Niagara, have been selected as the 2015 recipients of the Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction.

Mr. Noonan began his career in Catholic education in the 1950s, and spent the next 44 years committed to expanding Catholic education in Niagara. In those early years, Mr. Noonan went door-to-door in Welland to convince Catholic ratepayers to direct their taxes to Catholic schools which were in need of financial support. He was steadfast in his belief that Catholic schools should receive equitable resources in order to advance the quality and scope of Catholic education in Niagara.

As a teacher, Mr. Noonan demanded high standards of his students, while instilling in them a belief in their abilities through hard work and commitment to their faith. As an administrator, his intensity and commitment to students were strong examples to his staffs. As a trustee, Mr. Noonan was a frequent visitor in schools, speaking with students and staff so that he could better understand the issues he needed to bring to the Board table. He was unequivocally advanced in his ideas about the value of providing students with innovative ways to enrich students and teachers in Catholic schools, for justice in decision-making and was equally at ease with everyone from students to government officials.

Mr. Noonan passed away in November, 2007, at the age of 81.

Ms. Racine joined the Catholic School Council (CSC) at St. Thomas More Catholic Elementary School in Niagara Falls when her son (who is now in university), was in Senior Kindergarten. She served as Chair and Vice-Chair on the CSC at St. Thomas More and at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary Schools. She now serves Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Michael Catholic High School as their liaison with the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), the parish and the community.

Ms. Racine often began her day at St. Thomas More and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, organizing hot lunches, drinks and supplies for events during the day and often worked well into the evening, organizing and working at pasta dinners, fundraisers, literacy nights and other events. She is also an avid member of the St. Thomas More Church congregation, serving as leader of the children’s liturgy, Vacation Bible School, Communion breakfasts, Confirmation dinners and many more events throughout the year. She has also been active on the Niagara Catholic Parent Involvement Committee for more than a decade.

Niagara Catholic Board Chair Father Paul MacNeil credited both Ms. Racine and Mr. Noonan for their long-standing contributions to Catholic education in Niagara.

“Individuals like Ms. Racine and Mr. Noonan enrich our school communities in so many ways, whether it is as an educator, a trustee or as a parent advocate,” said Chair MacNeil. “We are so profoundly grateful for the legacy Mr. Noonan left behind after four-and-a-half decades in Catholic education, and we are equally grateful for the many ways in which Ms. Racine continues to share her time and energy and gifts and talents for the betterment of our Niagara Catholic schools. On behalf of the Niagara Catholic District School Board, I am pleased to offer congratulations and thanks to Ms. Racine and to Mr. Noonan’s family.”

In his announcement, Niagara Catholic Director of Education John Crocco noted that while their contributions to Catholic education were very different, both Ms. Racine and Mr. Noonan were outstanding examples of servant leadership and worthy recipients of this year’s Award of Distinction.

 “It is truly an honour to recognize both Anna Racine and the late Joseph Noonan with the Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction for their exemplary contributions to Catholic education in Niagara,” said Mr. Crocco. “Mr. Noonan was an early and very passionate advocate for the expansion of Catholic education in Niagara, and Ms. Racine has been a tireless supporter of Catholic education in not only the schools her children attended, but all of Niagara Catholic. It is through the commitment and passion of Ms. Racine and Mr. Noonan that we have contributed to the foundation and current excellence of Catholic education in Niagara. On behalf of our students, staff, families and alumni, we are proud of both Joseph Noonan and Anna Racine as 2015 Award of Distinction recipients.”

Ms. Racine and the family of Mr. Noonan will accept the Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction at the 12th Annual Bishop’s Gala, which will take place at Club Roma on April 10, 2015.

Spotlight On – The Ontario Early Years Centre Niagara Falls

During the March 24Board Meeting, Donna Dalgleish, Co-ordinator of the Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) in Niagara Falls, spoke to Trustees, sharing the wonderful relationship the OEYC has with Niagara Catholic.


The Ontario Early Years Centre at Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School is a place where parents and children from birth to age 6 can play and learn together.

The OEYC in Niagara Falls has had a relationship with Niagara Catholic since 2002, and Niagara Catholic is the only school board in Ontario to operate an Early Years Centre. All OEYC programs are designed for families and children from birth through age 6. Families and caregivers of our youngest residents come together to play, learn and experience interactive activities. The main site is located at Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School, with satellite sites at Father Hennepin, Sacred Heart and St. Patrick Catholic Elementary Schools and the MacBain Community Centre. There is also a mobile site located at Cardinal Newman Catholic Elementary School.

In the past 13 years, 27,500 children have utilized the Ontario Early Years Centres in Niagara Falls, along with 25,500 adults from 8,000 local families. Families who come to the OEYC often return, with a total of 338,000 repeat visitors since opening – 148,000 parents and 190,000 children.

The OEYC offers a number of programs including Baby Picasso (infants become budding artists by exploring their senses), Infant Massage (parents learn how to massage/soothe their baby) and Love My Baby, a connection program made in partnership with Niagara Region Public Health. There are also programs for toddlers, including PALS (Parents as Literacy Supporters, an interactive literacy program for parents and preschoolers), artist visits, an outdoor classroom, and an intergenerational program which brings together the children with senior citizens living at the Meadows of Dorchester. The Centre also offers parent workshops which focus on positive parenting strategies, nutrition, toilet training and sleep strategies.

Brock University Niagara Principal’s Entrance Award Announced

During the March 24 Board Meeting, representatives from Brock University’s Student and Financial Aid Office shared information with Trustees and Senior Staff about the school’s new Niagara Principal’s Entrance Award.

Principals from each secondary school in Niagara are permitted to select two students for the $2,500 entrance scholarship. Students will be selected based on academic performance and co-curricular activities and community involvement. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a work-study program in their second year at Brock.

The Brock University Niagara Principal’s Entrance Award was created to provide a catalyst for local students to pursue their post-secondary education in Niagara, develop leadership potential in our community and prepare the next generation of Niagara’s leaders.

Mental Health and Addictions Strategy


Niagara Catholic is committed to providing mental health support to students – and staff – in need. Our Mental Health and Addiction Strategy addresses ways to assist students, and Niagara Catholic is also proud to support The Elephant in the Room, anti-stigma campaign, which addresses the importance of de-stigmatizing mental illness.

Niagara Catholic’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy reflects the mission, vision and values of the Board. As a response to mental health and addiction issues in school communities, the Strategy is designed to support positive mental health for students and staff by fostering a positive sense of spiritual and emotional well-being in each individual.

The Strategy includes short, medium and long-term goals for implementation in elementary and secondary schools, as well as activities, programs and training sessions to support students in the three stages of mental health and addictions initiatives: promotion, prevention and intervention.

During the March 24 Board Meeting, the Niagara Catholic Mental Health and Addictions Strategy was presented to Trustees, for their information.

Read the complete Mental Health and Addiction Strategy in the March 24 Board Meeting Agenda.



Technological Skills Competition


Niagara Catholic’s 12th Annual Technological Skills Competition took place at the Scotiabank Convention Centre on Tuesday, March 10. The event brought together more than 300 students from all eight Catholic high schools, competing in a variety of different categories, including video production and photography, automotive technology, homebuilding, hairstyling and electrical wiring. View the results from the competition here. Photos from the event are available here.



Meet Them in St. Louis


The Denis Morris Catholic High School “High Voltage” Robotics Team has earned a berth in the FIRST Robotics World Championships, which will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, in April.

The team was ranked second out of 47 teams at the Greater Toronto East Regional Competition, was picked to be part of the Number One Alliance and held a world-record high score at the time. When the eliminations were completed, the High Voltage team came away with a regional win – a team first – and were awarded the Creativity Award for robot design.

The team then travelled to the New York Tech Valley Regional in Troy, NY, March 19-21, and repeated their Number 2 ranking and Number 1 Alliance in the elimination round. The Alliance team sailed through the Quarterfinal round, but their partnering team’s robot had mechanical issues in the Semifinal round, making it a three-on-two competition. The result was a heartbreaking one-point loss which kept them out of the finals.

The High Voltage Team will travel to Windsor April 2-4 for the Windsor-Essex Great Lakes Regional Competition before the World Championships in St. Louis April 22-25.


Old Niagara/Young Lenses

When Catherine Gandola was asked by Assumption Catholic Elementary School teacher Laura Martineau if her Grade 12 photography students at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School would participate in a contest for a heritage event taking place in Niagara this spring, she sent them around the region in search of beautiful old buildings to photograph.

The result is Old Niagara/Young Lenses: Architectural Photography, an exhibit that will be displayed at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre March 12-April 12. 2015.

Read the media release about the event here, and thank you to The Standard for the coverage of the gallery opening on March 12. Thanks, too, to Cogeco for this great story.


It was March Madness of a different sort this month at Niagara Catholic, as several Niagara Catholic high school students participated in OFSAA team and individual sporting events .

Denis Morris Catholic High School hosted the AAA/AAAA OFSAA hockey tournament, which took place in St. Catharines and Port Colborne March 9-12. As hosts, they had a berth in the tournament, and were joined by the Notre Dame College School Boys Hockey Team. Read The Standard’s coverage of the tournament here and here.

Still with hockey, the Saint Michael Mustangs finished in the final four in the OFSAA A/AA Boys Hockey tournament in Pembroke before the March Break.

Sarah Coburn, a Grade 11 student at Denis Morris Catholic High School won a Bronze medal in the 44 kg weight class at the OFSAA Wrestling event in Windsor.

The Saint Francis Phoenix Boys Basketball Team brought home gold from the OFSAA AA Tournament in Ottawa, and several Niagara Catholic swimmers performed well at the OFSAA swimming championships in Etobicoke. Read the roundup story here.

Future Engineers Compete at Niagara College

On March 7, 20 students from Niagara Catholic high schools participated in the first Professional Engineers of Ontario’s (PEO) Engineering and Design Competition. The event, which was held at the Rankin Technology Centre at Niagara College, provided students interested in a pursuing a career in engineering with the opportunity to try their hand at an engineering challenge designed for students.

Organized by the PEO Niagara Chapter, the competition is part of a series of activities taking place worldwide to mark the National Engineering Month. Working in groups, the students will design and build a small-scale horizontal wind turbine. Professors in Niagara College’s Renewable Energies Technician program have designed and built a wind tunnel that will be used for testing the wind turbines.

“This is an exciting opportunity for students to experience a day in the life of an engineer,” said Lindsay Mooradian, E.I.T., event coordinator for PEO Niagara Chapter. “They are given an engineering problem that is very relevant to current events and are challenged to come up with an innovative solution that demonstrates engineering principles and technology understanding.”

Thank you to Sun Media for their coverage of this event.

Saint Michael Catholic High SchoolCerminara Student Wins NRPS Music Not Mischief

Congratulations to Nicole Cerminara from Saint Michael Catholic High School in Niagara Falls, winner of the Niagara Regional Police Service’s Music Not Mischief guitar competition, which took place March 24 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls.

Nicole was one of 19 young guitarists from secondary schools across Niagara to take part in the event, the first of its kind in Niagara.

Event organizer Niagara Regional Police Sgt. Chris Stewart said the atmosphere was electric, with students and parents coming together for the evening-long jam session.

Watch Cogeco’s coverage of the event, and read articles from Niagara This Week, Bullet Media, The News in Port Colborne and Erie Media.