Embracing relationships and collective responsibility, sustaining safe and welcoming schools

As a Catholic school district, we understand the importance of creating a sense of belonging for all members of our community – students, staff, parents, and community partners.

Students are most successful when they feel they belong, when they feel safe, and when they are fully engaged in authentic and relevant learning experiences.

We know that student achievement improves when parents play an active role in their children’s education.

Staff engage with students, with parents, and with each other in a nurturing and caring environment to enhance learning and improve student achievement.

Our Catholic schools are integral to our local communities. Our schools belong, and our students achieve when they benefit from active engagement with community partners, local business, and public institutions.

Our Goals Under the Priority of Belonging:

  1. Schools and workplaces are safe and welcoming for all, cultivating a positive sense of belonging and well-being.
  2. Relationships with all educational partners are nurtured and supported.
  3. Students are service-minded global citizens, engaged and empowered to be leaders in their communities.

The Strategic Plan Monitoring Survey indicated that 79% of HCDSB stakeholders agreed that HCDSB schools promote student safety, and 79% of staff respondents agreed that HCDSB workplaces promote staff safety.


The Strategic Plan Monitoring Survey revealed that 68% of HCDSB stakeholders agreed that the HCDSB nurtures and supports relationships with external partners.


The Strategic Plan Monitoring Survey revealed that 76% of HCDSB stakeholders felt that HCDSB students are taught to think of others and are given opportunities to get involved and be leaders in the school and/or community.

Staff Appreciation Day

On May 7, 2021, HCDSB celebrated Staff Appreciation Day – a day we recognize all of our staff for the amazing work they do in ensuring success for our students.

In a typical school year, we would call out to our staff to participate in a fun and engaging video to highlight their incredible efforts.

Despite the challenges, we thanked all of our #HCDSBheroes virtually for going above and beyond to support our students and families, especially during the period of remote learning.

Pride Month at HCDSB

In June 2021, our HCDSB schools raised awareness around Pride Month and nurtured our call to build safe and inclusive learning environments where every student and every member of the community is welcomedvalued, and respected

In June, and each day of every month, our Catholic schools are committed to nurturing safe, welcoming and inclusive schools where all students can feel a true sense of belonging.  

Read my Pride Month message here.

How We Celebrated

Rainbow Day 

We launched Pride Month at HCDSB with a system-wide Rainbow Day on Tuesday, June 1st – a day to love and celebrate one another, just as God loves and celebrates each one of us because we are all wonderfully made. 

Pride Awareness Day 

Pride Awareness Day

On Monday, June 14th, we held Pride Awareness Day– a day to reaffirm our commitment to honour the dignity and worth of each member of our community by nurturing safe, welcoming and inclusive schools.

There were a number of learning activities and events planned across our district throughout the month of June.

Info Session – Building Positive Spaces

On Wednesday, June 23rd, we co-hosted an information session for parents, students and staff, presented by the Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) Positive Space Network. The presentation focused on how we can build positive spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ members of our community. 

Pride Month Visuals

We created visuals that were displayed across our schools, board offices and in our classrooms to celebrate, and nurture a sense of belonging, where every student and every member of the community feels welcomed, valued, and respected.

Please see some of our Pride Month visuals below.

Human Rights & Equity Training

The Ontario Human Rights Code: Your Rights and Responsibilities During Unprecedented Times

On September 26, 2020, Njeri Damali Sojourner-Campbell, a Lawyer from Hicks Morley facilitated a training session on “The Ontario Human Rights Code: Your Rights and Responsibilities During Unprecedented Times” for Trustees.

During this session, she focused on The Ontario Human Rights Code, Education Act and Municipal Law with reference to the role of school board Trustees. A high level overview of Constitutional provisions for Catholic School Boards was one of the areas for review. She concluded by addressing the interconnectedness of equity issues in education and human rights obligations for boards and Trustees.

HCDSB Staff Training Sessions on Equity and Inclusion

Over 60 HCDSB staff capacity-building sessions were facilitated on equity and inclusion to a combined total of over 9,600 participants.

The sessions were built on a shared understanding of the following key concepts, including: human rights and accommodations, Culturally Responsive Relevant Pedagogy, equity and inclusion frameworks, building equity literacy, anti-racism, de-streaming, faith and equity, equity as leadership competency, supporting 2SLGBTQ+ students, Islamophobia, whiteness, Indigenous cultural safety, and Indigenous pedagogy.

Understanding of Sessions

Percentage of respondents who agreed that because of the training…


Helped them understand the different histories, experiences, and issues of diverse groups of staff and students.


Increased their understanding of how systemic inequities and barriers lead to disparities in student outcomes.


Increased their understanding of how equity and human rights connect to student achievement.


They better understand how equity and human rights connect to student achievement.


They better understand the rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, in reference to their school/work community.


They better understand how to respond to issues of racism/Anti-Black racism in their school/work community.


They feel better equipped to accompany and support LGBTQ+ students within Catholic education.


Helped them understand the different histories, experiences, and issues of diverse groups of staff and students.


Increased their understanding of how systemic inequities and barriers lead to disparities in student outcomes.


Increased their understanding of how equity and human rights connect to student achievement.


They better understand how equity and human rights connect to student achievement.


They better understand the rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, in reference to their school/work community.


They better understand how to respond to issues of racism/Anti-Black racism in their school/work community.They better understand how to respond to issues of racism/Anti-Black racism in their school/work community.


They have a deeper awareness about the impact of systemic oppression on racialized people, society and racialized students in educational institutions.


They feel better equipped to accompany and support LGBTQ+ students within Catholic education.

Racism & Discrimination: Responding with Faith, Hope & Love

At HCDSB, we are committed to creating safe, inclusive and welcoming learning environments that support student achievement and well-being in our Catholic schools.

Human Rights and Equity are guiding values that are consistent with Catholic Social Teachings; reaffirming the dignity of every individual, which aligns with the Ontario Human Rights Code that safeguards students and staff from discrimination. 

Our commitment to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours necessary to identify and eliminate discriminatory systemic barriers is embedded in HCDSB’s Equity and Inclusive Education Policy.

In February 2021, the resource titled Racism & Discrimination: Responding with Faith, Hope & Love was developed to outline HCDSB’s commitment and response in addressing incidents of racism and discrimination across our school district.

The resource explains discrimination in detail, along with examples, as well as guided steps in responding to harmful language and behaviour.

St. Ignatius of Loyola Equity & Inclusion Speaker Series

From January through June, 2021, St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary School hosted a series of virtual speakers to spark the dialogue and increase understanding about equity and inclusion.

Keynote speakers engaged students in learning, unlearning and reflection, and covered topics such as racism, systemic barriers and colonization. Students also had the opportunity to join the conversation during the Q&A portion of each session.

A big thank you goes to St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary school for encouraging conversation, allyship and action to help maintain safe, inclusive and accepting environments in our schools!

Special Education Assistive Technology Showcase Evening

On Wednesday, May 26, 2021, HCDSB hosted a virtual information evening about the benefits of Special Education Assistive Technology in our schools. 

The information evening was open to all parents, students, and staff, and featured a showcase with students and an opportunity to learn more about assistive technology devices and its impact on education.

Keynote speaker Carrie Anton, gold medal Paralympian in Goalball, also spoke to her experience in being one of Canada’s leading experts in assistive technology and accessibility. 

Watch the Special Education Assistive Technology Showcase Evening on the Board’s YouTube channel.

Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) Speaker Series

In May 2021, the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) at HCDSB hosted a speaker series to discuss inclusivity and diversity, and how to better support children with additional needs.

SEAC’s mandate is to make recommendations to HCDSB in matters affecting the establishment and development of Special Education programs and services for students with exceptional needs.

The Committee is comprised of members nominated by local community associations and that are approved by the HCDSB. Parents that serve on SEAC come from local associations that promote the interests and well-being of students with exceptional needs and abilities.

For the health and safety of our HCDSB community, all sessions were offered virtually, and were recorded live and made available on the Board’s YouTube channel.

Emotional Well-Being of Children with Additional Needs

Thursday, May 6th, 2021 at 7:00 – 8:30 PM
Dr. Louise Porter, PhD, MA(Hons), MGiftedEd, DipEd, BA, BIntStudsChild Psychologist

Many children with physical disabilities or chronic illness endure repeated hospitalizations, medical procedures, and experience with pain, all of which lead to grief and cause repeated absences from school and disruptions to both learning and friendships. Many with particular disabilities such as mild autism (which used to be called Asperger syndrome) experience debilitating anxiety; while gifted learners often feel isolated socially and neglected educationally. As a result of their differences, many of these children experience low self-esteem. In this session, Dr. Porter will discuss these and other issues and how parents and others can support the emotional wellbeing of learners with additional needs.

Can’t Read, Can’t Write, Here’s My Book

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 at 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Michael Jacques, Author

Can’t Read, Can’t Write, Here’s My Book is told through the eyes of Michael Jacques, a compassionate and determined young adult with autism and an intellectual disability. His book—which is written by using an iPad’s speech-to-text function—is a down-to-earth collection of compelling life stories and discoveries that teach us how to embrace and celebrate our differences. Michael, who never surrenders to the idea of “can’t,” speaks about topics such as learning, inclusion, advocating, independence, and the power of perseverance. His insights and views on the world are equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring. Through his witty and positive voice, Michael offers a glimpse on what it’s like to be him. 

Celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPwD)

The Halton Catholic District School Board celebrated International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPwD) on December 3, 2020 and throughout the week (November 30 – December 4, 2020).

Over the week, HCDSB schools participated in a variety of learning activities to raise awareness, and support the rights and significant contributions of persons with disabilities.

Spreading the Word Through #HCDSBDiverseAbility

Staff and students covered topics such as:

  • Viewing disabilities (both visible and invisible) through a different lens
  • Promoting meaningful acceptance and inclusion in our schools (i.e., building friendships and fostering independence)
  • Celebrating intellectual disabilities
  • Mental health related to disabilities
  • Removing systemic barriers

HCDSB Ability Allies

Staff celebrated disabilities, and shared how they promote acceptance and inclusion in our schools and across our Board.

Click here​ to see a variety of videos from our HCDSB Ability Allies.

Project SEARCH

In 2021, we launched Project SEARCHa new school-to-work internship program for eligible Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) students!

This unique program is available to students with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are planning to graduate and are looking to acquire the workplace and functional skills that will prepare them for employment in the local community. 

In partnership with Community Living (North Halton), Halton Healthcare, CUPE Local 815, and HCDSB, this program offers an immersive workplace experience at the host site, Milton District Hospital. 

On April 22, 2021, we invited parents to a live virtual information session to learn more about the program.

Watch the virtual information session on YouTube here.

Celebrating Autism Awareness at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School

Students and staff from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School created an Autism Awareness Puzzle Display to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, which took place on April 2, 2021.

Mr. Ponte, Life Skills Teacher at Notre Dame, wanted to find a way to bring autism awareness to the forefront of the school. He decided that he wanted to create a custom puzzle art piece, a symbol for Autism Awareness to be displayed in the school.

“I wanted the puzzle to show that every individual here at Notre Dame is a part of the fabric of the school, and having different puzzle pieces locked together shows both individuals, and how they fit in as part of the school community,” said Mr. Ponte.  

Mr. Ponte reached out to Construction Teacher, Mr. Nason to bring his vision to life, and the puzzle display was designed by Grade 12 student, Theo Simon. With assistance from Mr. Bozzelli, Theo used his design skills to draw 6 interlocking puzzle pieces on the Inventor computer software before cutting the puzzle pieces using a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine. 

Students were then asked to hand paint the blank puzzle pieces with pictures and designs that were meaningful to them. 

Of the 112 puzzle pieces painted, the centre puzzle piece was left blank. Mr. Nason described the unfinished puzzle piece as “a message that the work is unfinished, and that there is a space for everyone here at Notre Dame.” 

The puzzle has special meaning for Theo, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Theo’s talents and gifts for computer design have contributed to many initiatives at Notre Dame, including the Electric Car project, and now the Autism Awareness Puzzle Display.

Thank you to the entire Notre Dame community for their commitment to inclusivity and belonging! Watch the unveiling of the Puzzle Piece Display below:

Fostering Mental Health & Well-Being: Parent Information Sessions

From March to June 2021, our Mental Health leadership team at HCDSB hosted a series of parent information sessions to help families adjust to the new norms faced during a global pandemic and how to cope with the mental health and well-being of their children in times of uncertainty and change.

Topics of the sessions included: mental health and well-being, anxiety, fostering hope and resiliency, managing ADHD, family wellness, and supporting healthy sleeping habits for children and youth.

All sessions were recorded live and offered virtually on the Board’s YouTube channel.

Thank you to members of our Special Education Services department for leading these parent information sessions and for helping HCDSB families navigate through these challenging times.

View a full list of virtual sessions below that were available online for families and members of our HCDSB community:

Mental Health & Well-Being During COVID- 19

Presented by: Jacqueline Davis, MSW, RSW and Patricia Webber-Callaghan, MSW, RS

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected individuals, families and children in many different ways. For some, it has had an effect on mental health and well-being; for others, it has increased feelings of loss and isolation; or it may have interrupted routines and forced families to make changes that they may have felt unprepared for.

Student Mental Health & Anxiety

Presented by: Sarah Buist, MSW, RSW and Rhonda Crawford, MSW, RSW

This session discusses anxiety as a common emotion for school-aged children. The session discusses how anxiety can manifest itself at school and at home, and how early indicators of anxiety can be opportunities to teach coping strategies in children.

Parenting During The Pandemic: Fostering Hope, Resilience & Positive Mental Health & Well-Being

Presented by: Rhonda Crawford, MSW, RSW and Patricia Webber-Callaghan, MSW, RSW

The following session reflects on the impact of COVID-19 on children and how we can foster grit and perseverance in times of uncertainty and change. The online session infuses a message of hope that our children can bounce back when faced with adversity.

Families Matter – Raising a Resilient Child

Presented by: Rosanna Bird, ICYC and Paola Giordani-Murray, ICY

This workshop discusses resiliency and how parents can nurture resiliency in their children. All families have challenges and strengths, and when parents focus on strengths and building assets, children can thrive.

ADHD & Sleep – Management of ADHD as a Team of Parents, Students, Medical Professionals & School

This presentation addresses what we can do as a community to help children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The session also addresses current scientific evidence regarding sleep management for children and adolescents, particularly those who have ADHD.

Family Wellness & Positive Mental Health during COVID-19

Presented by: Sarah Buist, MSW, RSW and Jacqueline Davis, MSW, RSW

This family wellness session continues the conversation about the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of families.

Dialogue about the uniqueness of parenting during this past year is shared, as well as strategies about how to balance the reality of our new norm. Resources, helpful tips, and real life examples are shared and discussed.

Mental Health & Secondary Students

Presented by: Michael Assiamah, RSW, Fola Brown RSW, Crystal Dasilva, CYC, and Adriana Rerecich, Chaplaincy Leader

This session provides parents and guardians with information about mental health and wellness for their teenagers, as well as strategies to support their well-being.

Resources are also shared for parents and guardians should they have concerns for their child’s mental health and well-being.

Promoting Healthy Sleep Habits for Children & Youth

Presented by: Christine Kluczynski, Mental Health and Addiction Nurse, Home and Community Care Support Services and Vi Ensoy-Landicho, Mental Health and Addiction Nurse, Home and Community Care Support Services

This session focuses on providing parents and caregivers with knowledge and practical strategies towards promoting healthy sleep habits and routines for their children. The lack of structure and predictable routine arising from the pandemic may further exacerbate sleep disturbances. Irregular sleep patterns and insufficient sleep have negative implications on behaviour, motivation, emotions, memory, and learning.

Indigenous Art Virtual Paint Nights

In partnership with Grandmother’s Voice, the HCDSB Indigenous Education Team hosted several virtual paint nights to learn more about Indigenous art throughout the 2020-2021 school year.

The sessions were open to all in the HCDSB community, and were lead by Indigenous artist, Moses Lunham.

In each session, Moses provided step-by-step instructions on how to create a painting at home. No prior artistic experience was necessary to get involved.

Thank you to our Indigenous Education Team, Grandmother’s Voice and Moses Lunham for organizing and leading the paint nights, and thank you for providing fun and educational opportunities for our community while at home!

See some beautiful artwork created by our HCDSB community below.

Corpus Christi Student Wins Indigenous Spirit Award

Christian Vieira, a Grade 10 student at Corpus Christi Catholic Secondary School, won the Indigenous Spirit Award for Youth at the Indigenous Spiritual Fund Virtual Launch on February 11, 2021.   

The Indigenous Spiritual Award was created by Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST), Canada’s largest Indigenous non-profit organization. NCFST strives to provide a life of quality, well-being, healing, and self-determination for children and families in the Toronto urban Indigenous community.  

The Indigenous Spirit Award was established to honour children and youth who have shown Indigenous spirit in their efforts to break down barriers and to achieve their full potential.

Christian was honoured for his dedication to schoolwork and his kindness towards others. He has moderate hearing loss and mobility challenges, but persevered both academically and physically, succeeding in school and achieving his black belt in martial arts.

Christian was awarded $2000 to go towards a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), and $500 towards a store of his choice.  

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School Featured on CNN!

On March 5, 2021, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School was featured on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper!

Paula Newton, Anchor and Correspondent with CNN, visited St. Francis of Assisi School to highlight the successes and contributions of schools in Canada during the pandemic.

After school was dismissed, Principal Mark Witter, and Kindergarten teacher, Andrea O’Donnell, walked Paula through the hallways and classrooms to show her the measures in place to ensure a safe and healthy school year for all students and staff.

Hand-washing stations, physical distancing signage and arrow floor decals were displayed in the school. The tour also included walking Paula through a typical school day, and how our staff and students use their personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Students keep their masks on, they follow the instruction of their teachers, they wash their hands,” said Principal Witter. “It’s been a really enjoyable and heartwarming thing to see that the students themselves have committed to the public health measures as well.”

After a 5-week shift to remote learning implemented by the Ministry of Education following the Christmas break, Andrea was thrilled to be back with her students in February.

“I was really happy when we were allowed to come back. Just to see their faces again, it just brings so much more joy to be with them.”

HCDSB Parent Pat Grisoni Wins OAPCE Honorary Lifetime Award

On May 15, 2021, HCDSB parent Pat Grisoni received the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE) Honorary Lifetime Membership Award for her contributions to Catholic education.

The OAPCE Honorary Lifetime Membership Award is given to a recipient who has contributed to the enhancement of Catholic education through their profession, volunteerism and passion in support of OAPCE. 

For the past seven years, Pat has dedicated her time to volunteering for a wide range of programs at HCDSB. Nicknamed ‘Auntie Pat’ at Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School in Milton, she has volunteered in positions including Community Builder, Yearbook Editor-in-Chief, head coach of both cross country and track and field teams, as well as Event Planner and Co-Director in school productions at St. Peter Catholic Elementary School.

She has represented her school communities as School Council Chair, and at many OAPCE conventions and seminars where she has consistently brought knowledge and positivity to group sessions. 

Pat has also been an active member of Holy Rosary Parish for over 30 years. 

Congratulations, Pat, on this incredible achievement, and thank you for your dedication to Catholic education! View the full list of OAPCE Award Winners online.

Former HCDSB Teacher Jean Major Inducted into Canada’s Field Hockey Hall of Fame

In January 2021, Jean Major, a former teacher with HCDSB, was inducted into Canada’s Field Hockey Hall of Fame.

Jean holds an impressive career in field hockey, where she was a member of Canada’s national team from 1977-1984, with two of those years serving the team as co-captain. 

She represented Canada in three World Cup tournaments, and competed in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In the 1983 World Cup tournament in Malaysia, she was named to the World 11 all-star team, and also helped lead Team Canada to a silver medal victory.

After her time playing field hockey professionally, Jean joined HCDSB, where she worked at St. Ignatius of LoyolaBishop Reding and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary Schools.

Jean is well known for not only her time in the classroom, but her involvement in secondary athletics, clubs and programs. Jean coached field hockey, badminton, dragon boat, soccer, track & field and basketball. She was also involved in Team Unbreakable, the Breakfast Program, Dominican Republic Mission Trips and Girls Night In.

The 2020-2021 Director’s Annual Report Sections

Continue browsing the Director’s Report by clicking any of the “View” buttons below.


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Foundational Elements

foundational elements

About the Director’s Annual Report

The Director’s Annual Report provides a snapshot of some of the great things happening across our school district. The real story of accomplishment, however, is captured daily within the walls of our schools and workplaces through the many individual successes that are celebrated by students, staff, and members of our Catholic learning communities.

Multi-Year Strategic Plan

To view our complete Stratetic Plan, please click here

View our Strategic Plan Monitoring Reports
Year 1 | Year 2 | Year 3 | Year 4 | Year 5