For a mall newspaper like The Interim, it is impossible to cover trustee elections adequately in view of the short campaign and the large number of candidates.
In the following story, The Interim reports on the Separate (Catholic) School Board candidates who favour more doctrinal content in religious education and the elimination of secularism in family life (sex education) programs.
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Family rights and the condition of religious teaching in Catholic schools are front and center for an unprecedented number of separate school board trustee candidates in Ontario’s municipal elections.
The province’s voters cast their ballots November 12 for hundreds of local representatives.
Separate school supporters will vote on the important issues of skyrocketing school budgets and climbing taxes, but troubling developments in sex and religious education have produced candidates who are willing to address these issues as well.
As a result of the condom controversy, for example, some sitting and first-time candidates for trustee have had to deal with the issue of Christian teaching on sexuality.
Durham Region Separate School Board
In the Durham (Oshawa) Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board (DSSB), trustee Susan Dulny, presented a motion first in June, then on September 16th, endorsing Archbishop Ambrozic’s public rejection of condoms. She is now campaigning for the job of Regional Counsillor and deserves support for her courageous stand.
Fourteen trustees also voted to circulate the condom-banning statement to school principals and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs).
But the motion met opposition from the two French section trustees. Gary Lauriault and Roger Brideau, and Mary Zecchino and Kevin Ashe. Mr. Ashe called Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic a “dinosaur” for the content of the statement.
Mr. Ashe still claims, falsely, that the Archbishop had ordered that the subject of condoms was never to be raised in class discussions.
Mr. Ashe told The Interim that “the Archdiocese has not approached the subject of sex-ed in a realistic fashion.” Mr. Ashe is seeking re-election.”
Mary Zecchino, also seeking re-election this month, voted against the motion. Despite this, she says, “I support all the religious teaching and family programs mandated by the Ontario bishops and this board.”
Among Mrs. Dulny’s supporters are return candidates Fred Jones, Paul Woodcroft and Tom Oldman, all of whom are known to be interested in strengthening responsible family life education.
In the trustee elections for the Metropolitan (Toronto) Separate School Board (MSSB), the largest school board in Canada, a group of new candidates are interested not just in the important issues of budgets and taxes but also in the issues of religious and moral education.
At press time, they included Michael Del Grande, father of 3 children and a chartered accountant; David Hogg, a director with the Federation of Catholic Parent-Teacher Associations of Ontario (FCPTAO), Bill Mullaly, a public service official; Peter Johnson, a retired high school principal; Peter Bissonnette, a university student; Fr. Stephen Somerville, the pastor of Bl. Edith Stein Church in Toronto and editor of Fragments; and Doreen Hare, a homemaker.
Owen O’Reilly, Michael Doyle and Harold W.J. Adams, all sitting trustees who are seeking re-election this month, have sparked debate on the issues of religious and moral education at MSSB meetings in the past.
Mr. Adams for example, told The Interim that he would gladly work to replace the controversial Fully Alive sex-ed program with something more in keeping with Christian teaching on sexual morality if Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic signaled his intention to do so.
On the issue of promoting sound religious education in Catholic schools, “board officials themselves have admitted that huge areas of Catholic knowledge are being neglected,” says Peter Johnson, a candidate running in Etobicoke. He is promising concerned voters to work toward putting in place some kind of objection testing of students’ religious knowledge.
Michael Del Grande, a candidate in Scarborough cites the Blishen Report as grounds enough for beefing up teaching in Catholic doctrine. (see “Ontario Separate School: a Report card,” by David Dooley, Insight, The Interim, August 1991)
He believes Fully Alive, the controversial program authorized by the Ontario Bishops (OCCB), should be scrapped in favour of the Faith and Life Series, a U.S. based family life program produced by Catholics United for the Faith.
He also believes that Catholic school boards must remain independent and not be merged with public boards. His concern is a well-founded one. Some separate school board candidates are actively campaigning for a united school board. This policy proposal was made over the past year by several NDP riding associations.
Scarborough candidate Doreen Hare on the issue of the Fully Alive program says, “This program has no place in our Catholic school,” adding that scores of parents are complaining to her about the unilateral implementation of Fully Alive.
Fr. Stephen Somerville is a first-time, mid-Toronto candidate. He wants Fully Alive revised to better reflect Vatican teaching on the proper place of sex education in the schools. “I will work to foster peaceful and penetrating criticism of the Fully Alive program, including the spiritual conversion that may be necessary for some to understand the deep Catholic objections…that are raised against group sex instruction. Fr. Somerville told The Interim.
Dufferin-Peel Separate School Board
Rev. Terrence D’Souza, an incumbent trustee in the Dufferin-Peel Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board (DPSSB), thinks the Fully Alive program “is acceptable.”
As for the issue of deficient teaching of religion in Catholic schools, Fr. D’Souza lays much of the blame on uninformed teachers and indifferent parents. He believes that a renewal of faith in the family is the key to revitalized religious education in the schools.
But a number of other candidates don’t agree. Among new DPSSB candidates who want a change in the schools themselves are Rhonda Wood and Deborah Gove, both running in Brampton.
Trustee Paul Tremblay, seeking re-election for a second term in the Simcoe County Roman Catholic Separate School Board (SCSSB), has spent the past three years fruitlessly attempting to upgrade the quality of training given to religion teachers.
On the issue of sex education, Mr. Tremblay is particularly outraged by the way parents concerns have been sidetracked by the Fully Alive propaganda emanating from his board and others.
Kitchener/Waterloo and Cambridge
The trustee contest has taken a surprising turn in the Waterloo Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board (WSSB). There, incumbents are facing a challenge from Accountable Action, a group of thirteen candidates who have pledged to support one another in a common concern over the state of religious and moral teaching and practice in the region’s Catholic schools.
“Because our philosophy and vision of the future of Catholic education are the same, it made more sense to run as a team than against each other,” said Pat Schiebel, an Accountable Action candidate in Kitchener. Mrs. Schiebel stressed that their united campaign will be “run on a positive not…not on derogatory remarks about the current system or board.”
“A hopeful sign to us in next year’s release by the Vatican of the Universal Catechism,” Accountable Action spokesman Gerry Campbell told The Interim. An Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Jerome’s College and a candidate himself in Kitchener, Ontario, Mr. Campbell and the other members of Accountable Action will strive to make the Catechism a yardstick for measuring the caliber of religious education.
Sex instruction of the “profane” type has no place in Catholic schools, he maintained, adding: “When you take away the supernatural, all you get is the unnatural.”
The six other Kitchener, Ontario candidates include Campbell’s son Alec, a 3rd year university student; Denise Dolff, a marriage and family counselor; Carole Reitzel, mother of 10, who sits on the board’s strategic planning committee; Jane Richard, a board member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Right to Life Committee; Pat Schiebel, a former teacher, and the pastor of St. Teresa’s Parish, Rev. Peter Watters.
Two Accountable Action candidates, Daniel Schmatz, 1 25-year veteran of the Waterloo Regional Police, and Rosemary Johnston, founder of the Cambridge Right to Life Association, will run for two of the four spots available in Cambridge, Ontario.
Accountable Action, will run a full slate of candidates in Waterloo, with Madeline Cheesman, a retired medical secretary; Dr. Ted Kryn, provincial director of the Federation of Catholic Parent-Teacher Associations of Ontario and John Rodina, a past director of the St. Jerome’s-St. Mary’s High School Education Foundation.
Heidi Wagner, a member of Concerned Parents for Catholic Education, is running for office in the four (rural) townships of the Kitchener-Waterloo region.
The unusual decision to mount slates of candidates for the Separate School Board Trustee positions in the three municipalities gradually evolved from a series of meetings of concerned parents and parishioners that began in early 1991.
School Boards in the Waterloo region have gone through a period of phenomenal growth and significant change in the last ten years. The Accountable Action candidates feel however, that certain serious problems have arisen, some financial, but some concerning the specifically Roman Catholic character of the Separate Schools.
Unique among separate school board candidates, the members of Accountable Action have produced a document setting out “Some First Principles of Catholic Education.”
On the issue of family life and sex education, the position paper from Accountable Action categorically concludes that “sex education programs have been colossal failures everywhere.”
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As The Interim went to press, a number of other candidates with a public record of supporting pro-life, pro-family concerns contacted our office. They are:
John Devlin, return candidate in the Huron-Perth Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
Terry Burrell, seeking election as Alderman in the town of Sarnia, Ontario; Brian Cathline, a known pro-lifer running for public school board trustee in Barrie; Marcy Edwards, a one-time FCP (Family Coalition Party) candidate, seeking office with the Kent County Roman Catholic Separate School Board in Wallaceburg, Ontario.
Carol Vanderburg, running for trustee in the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board; Frank Dalton, seeking re-election in the Ottawa-Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
Readers of The Interim should question their local candidates for trustee on the issues of religious and family life education. In the past a number of school board candidates, especially among ethnic groups, have viewed the office of school trustee as a springboard to higher political office. But today, more than ever, separate school boards need trustees with a keen interest in the Catholicity of the schools they represent.
Trustees should be grilled on this issue.