EDMONTON – On Nov. 19, the Education Act was passed in the Alberta legislature. The new act shows that Catholic education remains an important priority in Alberta.
Before the act was passed, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association (ACSTA) and many Catholic school districts, including Edmonton Catholic, addressed any concerns through advocacy and communication to ensure the importance of Catholic education was heard by the provincial government. Our stakeholders – parents, students and others - also played a role in getting the message out.
Our vision at the Edmonton Catholic School District is this: "Our students will learn together, work together and pray together in answering the call to a faith-filled life of service." We fulfill this vision in many ways.
First, we bring opportunities for board and staff to grow in faith. Our faith formation activities begin with a district-wide opening Mass held at the Winspear Centre. During the year, our staff are invited to participate in Faith Development Day in February as well as participate in an afternoon of faith formation activities in May.
Our certificated staff is involved in learning more about intentional permeation within our curriculum through an afternoon of professional development.
Our professional development opportunities also tie together our faith and 21st-century learning and this year every school in our district will have teachers participating in workshops with Lee Crockett who is internationally known for his work on 21st century fluencies and understanding the need for balance in our increasingly digital lives.
There are many faith development opportunities in the district including courses and programs at Newman Theological College and St. Joseph College.
We also offer our parents the opportunity to learn and become engaged with Catholic education in a 21st century learning context. The board is hosting a series titled Parents Engaged in Christ-Centred Learning. Topics include emerging technologies, 21st century fluencies, future directions in educations and the need every day to find humour, joy and a sense of what is sacred.
As well, the board has approved the formation of the Edmonton Catholic Schools Foundation whose goals include enhancing Catholic identity, creating a community of service on behalf of children and families in need, and fostering communications and building relationships with community members who can be advocates for Catholic education.
This foundation will be an arm reaching out and engaging stakeholders as champions for Catholic schools.
Our focus is on 21st century learning and educating students for a world not yet realized. Our mission is "to provide a Catholic education that inspires students to learn and that prepares them to live fully and serve God in one another."
We have religion classes which include a pilot course on world religions from a Catholic perspective at the high school level. Schools work with their parishes for sacramental preparation. We also have a district chaplain who works full time with students and staff. Some schools opt for residency programs, led by our religious education consultants who provide faith development for students and teachers.
All curriculum is taught through the lens of the Catholic faith. Our schools are heavily involved with social justice opportunities that enhance learning and teach students to give back to their community locally, nationally and internationally.
So far in the 2012-13 school year, students in numerous schools have been involved in 77 social justice projects. At a recent public board meeting the board endorsed a memorandum of understanding with the Stollery Children's Foundation supporting the Students as Agents of Change program with the purpose of teaching students what giving is, what philanthropy is and that philanthropy requires action to be effective.
The Edmonton Catholic School District is also working with the organization Free the Children which empowers our students to become agents of change in the world.
In support of this initiative, 1,265 staff members and students from 51 schools in our district travelled to Calgary to attend We Day Alberta in October. We Day is an educational event and a movement of young people leading local and global change. It is tied to the year-long We Act program, which offers curricular resources, campaigns and materials to help turn the day's inspiration into action.
Catholic education is both a gift and a lived and living legacy. Edmonton Catholic Schools, the ACSTA and other Catholic boards in the province will continue advocating the importance of Catholic education now and in the future.
(Cindy Olsen is a trustee of Edmonton Catholic Schools.)