If you walk into the board office of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, or into any of its schools, you’ll inevitably run into a blue elephant.
Though they’re small and unassuming, those elephants are at the root of big changes in terms of how the school board is meeting mental health issues head on. The elephant, displayed in schools and board offices, signifies that the CDSBEO cares about the wellness of others, and the board is a safe place to talk about mental health, without fear of being looked upon differently, building a board-wide culture of empathy and support.
For embracing the Elephant in the Room campaign, and a host other reasons, the CDSBEO received two national awards for mental health initiatives and leadership in June. The board was chosen as the 2014 recipient of the Jordan James Pickell Mental Health Achievement recognition Award, given by the Mood Disorder Society of Canada annually. Director of Education, Bill Gartland, also received the Marg Starzynski Mental Health Leadership Award for leadership in community mental health awareness.
The Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association and the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan recently teamed up to host a unique joint conference which delved into fostering relationships while providing faith-based education and healthcare.
The conference, entitled On Holy Ground: Where Catholic Health and Education Serve, was held from Oct. 24 to 26 in Saskatoon, Sask. It was the second such conference for both groups, an exceptional event which sees the two organizations coming together for education, sharing ideas, and also serving as the annual general meeting for the two organizations.
Ken Loehndorf, executive director of SCSBA, said the conference unifies the groups. “It brings together people in our province who provide Catholic education and healthcare; we support each other,” he said.
“Everyone there has the opportunity to grow in their faith, while learning, understanding the challenges, and recognizing common ground.”
Mike St. Amand recently took over CCSTA’s president position, conveying his trademark approachability mixed with his passion for advocacy of Catholic education.
St. Amand was elected president at CCSTA’s annual general meeting in June. He comes to the role fresh from a term as vice president of the national association. St. Amand brings a wealth of experience to the CCSTA table. In addition to being vice chairman of his local board in Prince Albert, and his years as a director on the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association, St. Amand has also held seats on the executive of the provincial association as vice president, president, and past president.
“I always try to learn from the other people around the table as we all have many gifts and talents to share,” he said. “I also try to speak with many of the trustees from across Canada and understand their concerns and issues. I would consider myself very approachable and willing to listen and help where I am able.”
St. Amand said he believes advocacy is still the most important part of his role as president. “The first thing we need to do as Catholic trustees is stand together and talk about the many good things we are accomplishing,” he said. “This, along with open lines of communications sharing ideas across the country, will only make us stronger.”