Catholic Schools Across Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent Celebrate National Bus Driver Appreciation Day

This week, students at St. Matthew Catholic School in Sarnia joined thousands throughout the school district and across Canada to say a special 'thank you' to the men and women who get them to school and back home again safely every day. 

October 18, 2017 was National Bus Driver Appreciation Day.

Students at St. Matthew presented their bus drivers with thank you cards, including specially made art work and Tim Horton's gift cards as a token of their appreciation.

"This annual national observance is a great opportunity for each of us to recognize the important work of our school bus drivers and operators," says Kent Orr, General Manager of CLASS, the consortium which oversees school bus transportation in Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent.  "We appreciate the work of these dedicated professionals who keep our children safe on the ride to and from school every day."

CLASS (Chatham-Kent Lambton Administrative School Services) provides transportation to more than 17,000 students of the St. Clair Catholic and Lambton Kent District School boards across the district.

In the photo above, a Grade 3 student at St. Matthew Catholic School presents a thank you card and gift certificate to her bus driver, Donna, of Hull Bus Lines.

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St. John Fisher Students Join Thousands of Others Across Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent in Great Big Crunch

Students at St. John Fisher Catholic School in Forest joined thousands of others across the district to participate in the Great Big Crunch for 2017.

"Our Student Wellness Team is determined more than ever this year to provide our students with activities that allow us to put into action our Catholic virtues, as well as healthy choices to strengthen our minds, bodies and faith," says Luana Sfalcin, Principal of St. John Fisher Catholic School.

"The team eagerly organized our school event this year and, as they distributed the apples, spoke to students in each classroom about why our school was taking part in the Great Big Crunch," says Mrs. Sfalcin.

The Great Big Crunch is a fun annual event that highlights the importance of eating healthy foods during the school day.  It's financially supported by the Ontario Student Nutrition Programs of Lambton County and Chatham-Kent; and also by the Healthy Kids Community Challenge in Sarnia-Lambton.

About 30 thousand apples were consumed in schools all across the district as part of the Great Big Crunch this year, making it one of the most successful events ever.

In the photo above, students at St. John Fisher take a giant bite out of their fresh Ontario apples as part of the 2017 Great Big Crunch.

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St. Clair Catholic and Lambton Kent District School Boards to Share $25,000 from Noelle's Gift

The Noelle’s Gift foundation will donate a total of $25,000 to the St. Clair Catholic and Lambton Kent district school boards to support students and families in need for the 2017-2018 school year.

“The Noelle’s Gift charity does so much to help children who are in need, not only in our schools, but right across the communities of Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent,” says Dan Parr, Director of Education for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.  “We are grateful each year for the generous donation from Noelle’s Gift, and for the fitting way in which it honours the life of Noelle Paquette,” says Mr. Parr.

“We appreciate the generous contributions of the family of Noelle Paquette and Noelle’s Gift to support our students and families in need,” says Jim Costello, Director of Education for the Lambton Kent District School Board.  “This donation will enhance supports for students and promote student success and wellbeing.”

The $25,000 donation from the Noelle’s Gift charitable fund is shared among the two school boards to support students and their families who are in need.  The money is used to purchase eyeglasses, clothing, food, medicine and medical equipment – anything that is needed to help children and families in crisis.  The funds are dispersed independently through the two school boards.  Principals make application whenever a child is in need.  Requests are processed quickly, to get help to families as soon as possible.

The Noelle’s Gift charitable fund was established in memory of Noelle Paquette, a former Kindergarten teacher with St. Clair Catholic, who passed away in January 2013.

In the photo above are (L-R) Jim Costello, Director of Education, Lambton Kent District School Board; Sue Serratore and Lynn Paquette, Noelle's Gift; and Dan Parr, Director of Education, St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

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Georges P. Vanier and Four Other Catholic Elementary Schools Partner with Farm Credit Canada for Drive Away Hunger Campaign

Students and staff at Georges P. Vanier Catholic School joined four other Catholic elementary schools in Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton to help Farm Credit Canada Drive Away Hunger.

"Our Drive Away Hunger campaign was a real success again this year, thanks to the many organizations who participated, including the  St. Clair Catholic school communities who join us each year," says Tracy Bolton of Farm Credit Canada.

"Through this campaign, our students learned what it means to serve others," says Americo Todino, Principal of Georges P. Vanier Catholic School.  "They have answered Pope Francis' challenge to 'find room in our hearts for those around us who lack shelter, food and clothing.'"

In addition to Georges P. Vanier, other participating schools were St. Ursula, Monsignor Uyen and Our Lady of Fatima in Chatham-Kent; and St. Philip in Sarnia-Lambton.

In total, the five Catholic schools collected 6,780 pounds of food, which was donated to the Chatham Outreach for Hunger and Oil Springs food banks.

Farm Credit Canada is Canada's leading agriculture lender, with a mission that includes being socially and environmentally responsible.

In the photos (top left) Angela Vyn (left) and Kurt Makey pose with student helpers at George P. Vanier Catholic School; and (above right) students at Georges P. Vanier help load a pickup with the 3,283 pounds of food they collected for the annual FCC Drive Away Hunger Campaign.

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TSN Broadcaster Brings 'Sick Not Weak' Mental Health Message to Students at St. Patrick's Catholic High School

Michael Landsberg is a well-known sportscaster on the TSN Network.  He is also a man with a message - that people who suffer from mental illness are "sick not weak."

"This is one of the most important things I've ever done," says Mr. Landsberg.  "Sharing this message with students - talking about mental health - it is very rewarding."

Mr. Landsberg suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and depression.  He is the founder of the "Sick Not Weak" initiative, which raises awareness about the importance of being open about mental illness to help reduce the stigma around the illness and to encourage people to reach out for help when they need it.

In addition to his visit to St. Patrick's, Mr. Landsberg also spoke to students at another Sarnia high school, at Lambton College and was the keynote speaker at the fifth annual Bluewater Health Foundation fundraising gala.

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Monsignor Uyen Catholic School Celebrates Canada 150 with a Time Capsule, Poutine and Beaver Tails

Staff and students celebrated Canada's 150th birthday year with all things Canadian - including poutine and beaver tails!

"We also collected artifacts for a time capsule, so that students in the future will know what was important to us in 2017," says Juli Faubert, Principal of Monsignor Uyen Catholic School.

Last June, the IODE Chapter in Chatham donated $150 to Monsignor Uyen, to be used in celebration of Canada's sesquicentennial birthday year.  The funds were used to have a wooden time capsule built.  The artifacts placed inside included a school year book, a Uyen Tiger Cats t-shirt and several newspapers.  In addition, each classroom contributed essays predicting what they thought life would be like in 2067, when the time capsule is scheduled to be opened.

"It was a fun school-wide exercise that helped our students to reflect on our past and look to our future as Canadians," says Mrs. Faubert.

The school's Meet the Teacher night was a birthday celebration, at which students dressed in red and white and enjoyed treats that are quintessentially Canadian.  A Uyen "family photo" was also taken and included in the time capsule.

In the photo above, Principal Juli Faubert (left) joins students to display the time capsule for B.J. Makowetski of the Chatham Chapter IODE. 

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System-Wide Mass Celebrates the Beginning of Another School Year and Welcomes New Employees

A system-wide Mass was celebrated on Friday, September 15, 2017 at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Wallaceburg.  Each year, the Mass is a back-to-school tradition at St. Clair Catholic, as the school communities gather to give thanks to God for His gift of Catholic education.  It is also an opportunity to welcome new employees hired throughout the past year and pray God's blessing upon them in their important work.

Father Chris Gillespie, Pastor of the Holy Redeemer Parish Cluster in Wallaceburg, was the celebrant.  Dorothy Debakker and the Lifeteen Music Ministry provided the beautiful and lively praise music for the Mass.

"I always look forward to this beautiful Mass, which celebrates who we are as a Catholic school system," says Dan Parr, Director of Education.  "I know that it is also meaningful for our new employees, as they are blessed and commissioned in their work as members of the St. Clair Catholic family."

Pictured above are (L-R) John Van Heck, Chair of the Board; Dan Parr, Director of Education; Krista Fisher, Educational Assistant at St. Matthew Catholic School, Sarnia; Deb Crawford, Superintendent of Education; and Scott Boomsma, Educational Assistant at St. Joseph Catholic School, Chatham.

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Deb Crawford Named New Director of Education, Effective January 1, 2018

The Board of Trustees for St. Clair Catholic has announced that Superintendent of Education Deb Crawford has been appointed to the position of Director of Education, effective January 1, 2018.  Mrs. Crawford will fill the vacancy left by Dan Parr, who retires at the end of December.

“I know that for many people, both inside and outside the organization, Deb’s appointment will come as no surprise,” says John Van Heck, Chair of the Board.  “She is eminently qualified and uniquely positioned to carry forward each of the Board’s many priorities, related both to the on-going success of our students and our many capital investments – including the construction of two new Catholic elementary schools in Chatham.”

Deb came to St. Clair Catholic in 2001 from the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, where she had taught since 1983.  She began serving in Catholic leadership in 2004, when she was appointed Vice Principal of Ursuline College.  In 2007, she was named Principal of St. Christopher Catholic Secondary School and since 2008 she has served as Superintendent of Education, leading a full range of elementary and secondary curriculum departments and initiatives, including Mental Health, 21st Century Learning, Student Success, Equity and Inclusion, FNMI, Alternative Education and Special Education.  She also helped lead the development of the Community Violent Threat Risk Assessment Protocol with local police services, community partners and our coterminous school boards.  In 2010-2011, Deb led the Accommodation Review of St. Michael Catholic School, Turnerville; and most recently, she brought the public review of the seven Chatham Catholic elementary schools to a successful conclusion.

Deb is also greatly respected in her community and across the province.  In June, she was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Erie-St. Clair Local Health Integration Network and she has been a member of the United Way Chatham-Kent Board of Directors since 2002.  She has also served as Vice President, President and now Past President of the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association since 2016.    She has been a member of the Chatham Catholic Family of Parishes since she and her husband Bob arrived in Chatham with their family in 2001.

“Deb’s breadth and depth of experience made for a simple and obvious choice for the Board of Trustees,” says Dan Parr, Director of Education.  “She already enjoys the full support of her colleagues on Executive Council and our staff across the system; and will be able to assume her new duties in January without a lengthy transition.”

“I am so pleased to have been given the tremendous honour of leading this outstanding Catholic school board,” says Mrs. Crawford.  “We are blessed with a talented, caring and compassionate staff; and with students, families and parish partners, who value the gift of Catholic education.  I look forward to this new role, as I continue to serve Catholic education in our communities.”

In the coming weeks, senior administration will begin the process of selecting a new Superintendent of Education to fill the position created by Mrs. Crawford's promotion.

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