Catholic Education: Search for Truth - Formation in Faith
A report prepared by the Commission on Catholic Education Governance for the Catholic Section of the SSTA (Nov, 1994): 44 pages, $11
 
The Commission, Its Tasks and Activities In February, 1994, the Catholic Section of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association established the commission on Catholic Education Governance to examine the future of Catholic education in the light of proposals to restructure Saskatchewan public school systems. This report represents a significant challenge to the Catholic community to define governance and outline a vision of governance related to Catholic education in Saskatchewan.
Background Information
A Vision for Catholic Education
The Governance of Catholic Education in Saskatchewan
SSTA Task Force on Educational Governance
Restructuring Saskatchewan School Divisions
Summary and Conclusions
List of Recommendations
  Back to: Governance

The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.


1. The Commission, Its Tasks and Activities

In February, 1994, the Catholic Section (Saskatchewan School Trustees Association) established the Commission on Catholic Education Governance to examine the future of Catholic education in the light of proposals to restructure Saskatchewan public school systems.

In 1993, at its annual convention, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association (SSTA) approved the final report of its Task Force on Educational Governance. In part, the Report stated:

Separate boards of education . . . may wish to consider shared service arrangements or amalgamation with separate or public school divisions as a way of promoting greater efficiency and flexibility and thus ultimately better service to students. In keeping with the principle of self-determination, decisions which affect separate . . . boards of education should be made by those boards (p.1).

With the approval of the report, the need to investigate the future of Catholic education was self-evident.


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1.1 Terms of Reference

The executive of the Catholic Section (SSTA) outlined the terms of reference for the Commission as follows:

1.1.1 Purpose:

To address governance issues related to Catholic School Divisions.
1.1.2 Special Tasks
To develop a provincial mission statement for Catholic Education in Saskatchewan based on existing Catholic Board mission statements

To define governance and outline a vision of governance related to Catholic School Divisions in Saskatchewan

To present models of governance applicable to Catholic School Divisions

To review the SSTA governance document in light of Catholic School Divisions and prepare a response to the SSTA for their 1994 convention

To recommend how Catholic School Divisions can share resources with each other and with Public school systems.


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1.2 Commission on Catholic Education Governance

The members of the Commission on Catholic Education Governance were:

Phil Hammel, chairman Trustee St. Paul's RCSSD #20

Rev. Ron Beechinor Bishops' Representative

Lester Cey Trustee Wilkie RCSSD #85

Guy Chicoine Trustee Estevan RCSSD #27

Gail Ferster Secretary-Treasurer Spiritwood RCSSD #82

Brenda Kondra Trustee Yorkton RCSSD #86

Ken Loehndorf Director of Education North Battleford RCSSD #16

Craig Melvin Executive Director SSTA

John Nikolejsin Trustee Weyburn #84

Herve Langlois Researcher/Writer

The Commission was also assisted in its work by Mrs. Debbie Ward, president and Mr. Julian Paslawski, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Section (SSTA).


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1.3 Commission Activities

The Commission held six meetings beginning in April, 1994. At its first meeting, the Commission considered and approved a plan of action to govern its activities. As a first step, the Commission reviewed background information necessary to deal with the tasks assigned by the executive. Once the Commission had a good understanding of the issues, it considered available options before finalizing its report.

In April, the Commission circulated a questionnaire to all separate school divisions to ascertain the nature of administrative and sharing arrangements that exist among separate boards of education and between separate and public boards of education. Twenty-one of the twenty-two separate boards responded to the questionnaire. In addition, separate boards of education who had developed mission statements for their school divisions were asked to provide a copy to the Commission. Ten boards of education responded accordingly.

In June, the Commission held two invitational consultation meetings in Regina and Saskatoon. Each separate board of education was invited to send a minimum of two delegates to the meetings. Eighteen of the twenty-two separate boards were represented and sixty-two delegates were registered for the meetings. The consultation meetings sought opinions and suggestions on three major areas of investigation: the future of Catholic Education, criteria to be considered in considering the governance of Catholic education, and options for the restructuring of Catholic school divisions. At the meetings, the Commission presented a draft mission statement for the consideration of the participants.

The results of the consultation meetings were considered by the Commission at a meeting held on July 14th. At that time, the Commission agreed on general direction for its report and instructed the Researcher/ Writer to develop a proposed report for the Commission's consideration in September. Subsequent to this meeting, Phil Hammel, Commission chairman, Father Beechinor and Herve Langlois met with Bishop James Mahoney, in his capacity as the senior bishop in Saskatchewan, to appraise him of the Commission's activities. Bishop Mahoney agreed to assist the Commission with its work and invited the Chairman to attend a meeting of all Saskatchewan bishops in October.

The Commission's report was finalized on October 20th for presentation to the executive of the Catholic Section (SSTA).


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2. Background Information

2.1 A Brief Look at the Past

The legislation governing Catholic education and separate schools in Saskatchewan has its roots in the Ordinances of the North West Territories. According to Noonan, education was not "an immediate priority on the frontier" but, by the 1880s, "schools became an obvious place for language and religious concerns to become focused (p.3)."

The original 1875 North West Territories Act was "loosely based on the concept of a dual school system (p.3)" and "provided for schools, including separate schools, which were supported through local taxation (p.2)." At the time, most of the education in the North West Territories was in the hands of Catholic priests. The first school ordinance was passed in 1884 and set out "procedures for establishing school districts, guidelines for the teaching of religion, lists of recommended textbooks, roles of school trustees and duties of school inspectors (p.3)." The governing body of the day was a territorial Board of Education, comprised of Protestants and Catholics with the Protestants being in the majority.

The NWT Ordinance of 1886 represented a significant move away from the dual system that was a close approximation of the Quebec dual system. The Ordinance "stipulated that a separate school could only be organized by a minority in an existing public school district with boundaries of the two districts to be coterminous (p.4)." The right to establish separate schools was extended to both Protestants and Catholics. The context within which this provision was enacted is very important. Essentially, at the time, the western settlements reflected the "bi-cultural nature of the dominion." Hence, in those communities where the Catholics were the majority, the school was, for all intents and purposes, Catholic and the Catholic religion was taught. The same occurred in communities where Protestants were the majority. Where a significant religious minority group existed in a community, it could establish its "separate school". It did not follow that the religion of the majority could not be taught in schools -quite the contrary!

The Ordinance of 1901 reaffirmed the rights to establish separate schools and the right to teach religion during the last half hour of each school day. Noonan notes:

The right to teach religion during the last half-hour of the school day was an important point. Catholic schools in a district with a Roman Catholic majority took advantage of the law to provide religious training for their students (p.68). [emphasis added]

The Ordinance of 1901 became the basis for the amendments to the British North American Act which were included in the Saskatchewan Act of 1905.

The 1905 Act of Parliament that established the Province of Saskatchewan included the following provisions:

17 Section 93 of The British North America Act, 1867, shall apply to the said province, with the substitution for paragraph (1) of the said section 93, of the following paragraph:

1/Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to separate schools which any class of persons have at the date of the passing of this Act, under the terms of chapters 29 and 30 of the Ordinances of the North-west Territories, passed in the year of 1901, or with respect to religious instruction in any public or separate school as provided in the said ordinances.

2/In the appropriation by the Legislature or distribution by the Government of the province of any moneys for the support of schools organized and carried on in accordance with the said chapter 29 or any Act passed in amendment thereof, or in substitution therefor, there shall be no discrimination against schools of any class described in the said chapter 29.

3/Where the expression 'by law' is employed in paragraph 3 of the said section 93, it shall be held to mean the law as set out in the said chapters 29 and 30, and where the expression 'at the Union' is employed, in the said paragraph 3, it shall be held to mean at the date when this Act comes into force(source: Statutes of Canada, 4-5 Edward VII, c. 3, s. 17, (1905) as reported in Lupul).

The 1901 Northwest Territories Ordinances, Chapter 29, included the following provisions:

41 - The minority of the ratepayers in any district whether Protestant or Roman Catholic may establish a separate school therein; and in such case the ratepayers establishing such Protestant or Roman Catholic separate school shall be liable only to assessments of such rates as they impose upon themselves in respect thereof.

137 - No religious instruction except as hereinafter provided shall be permitted in the school of any district from the opening of such school until one-half hour previous to its closing in the afternoon after which time any such instruction permitted or decreed by the Board may be given.

Lupul states: "Thus, to ensure that Catholic public schools would have the same guarantee to religious instruction as Catholic separate schools, the government made the permissive religious half-hour inviolable in all provincial schools. This meant that the distinctive character of Catholic public schools would be preserved . . . (p.203)."

Since 1905, several significant pieces of legislation have been passed to modify the educational system in the province. They include the following:

- The 1907 Secondary School Act established high school boards but made no provision for separate high schools.

- In 1931, legislation was passed prohibiting the display of sectarian religious symbols in public schools.

- In 1944, The Larger School Units Act resulted in the amalgamation of thousands of rural school districts and, many village, town and separate school districts into larger school divisions. While these districts retained their identity within the larger school division, no provision was made to establish separate school districts within separate school divisions.

- In 1964, The School Act was amended to provide for separate high schools. Parents who were "residents in a city in which the public school division and a separate school division have been established" were given the choice to enrol their children in either a public or separate high school.

- In 1978, The Education Act consolidated most school legislation into one Act. Separate school districts became separate school divisions. The right to establish a separate school division within the boundaries of an existing or former public school district was retained as was the right to religious instruction in public schools.

This brief look at the past demonstrates that the rights to Catholic education and separate schools were won by individuals who were concerned with the school question both in terms of its immediate impact on residents and the protection of religious and minority rights over the long term. The decisions taken over 100 years ago influence what can be done today. The legislative changes since 1905 pertaining to school governance in general and separate schools in particular show that change is possible and can be both beneficial and detrimental to Catholic education. Without vigilant and concerted actions at any point in time, the protection gained can be lost forever.


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2.2 Existing School Legislation Governing Catholic Education and Separate Schools

2.2.1 Religious Instruction. As noted above, when the Act of Parliament amending Section 93 of The British North America Act, 1867 was passed, the intent was to guarantee the same rights to religious instruction in Catholic public schools as provided for in separate schools. That was done by incorporating references to the NWT Ordinances in the Act which included provision for religious instruction in the schools. The Education Act, 1978 retains a similar provision in Section 181(1):

Religious instruction as authorized by the board of trustees of a school district, or by the board of education of a division which is not divided into school districts, with respect to any of the schools in its jurisdiction, may be given in that district or division, as the case may be, for a period not exceeding two and one-half hours per week and, where the board of education passes a resolution pursuant to subsection 180(2), that instruction may be given in a language other than English.

When the Francophone "conseils scolaires" were established in 1993, similar provisions were made for religious instruction in those schools.

As will be discussed later, while the right remains, the Commission believes that, under current legislation, the exercise of the right is occurring in very few public schools.

2.2.2 Separate Schools. In this report, the Commission distinguishes between Catholic Education and Catholic separate schools. Since 1905, 47 Catholic separate school divisions(districts) have been established, with 22 divisions still in existence. Catholic education thrives in Catholic separate schools, where such schools continue to exist.

Section 20(2) of The Education Act, 1978 states:

The minister shall, by order published in the Gazette, establish a separate school division where a petition for its establishment has been submitted pursuant to subsection 22(3) and where there is a favourable vote of the electors thereon pursuant to that section.

The procedures for the establishment and operation of a separate school division are prescribed in The Education Act, 1978 and include the following requirements:

- At establishment, the boundaries of a proposed separate school division must be coterminous with the boundaries of a former or existing public school district or a public school division not divided into districts. [Section 22(1a)]

- A separate school division may only be established by a "minority of the electors in a school district, whether Protestant or Catholic." [Section 22(2)]

- Once a separate school division is established, the minority group "shall be liable only to assessments of such rates as they may impose upon themselves." [Section 22(2)]

- The process to establish a separate school division begins with a petition signed by "three electors of the religious faith". [Section 22(4)] The process ends with a vote of the electors of the religious faith to be held at a meeting convened for that purpose.[Sections 22-23]

- Once established, a separate division and the board thereof "shall possess and exercise the same rights and powers and be subject to the same liabilities and methods of government as is provided in this Act in respect of other school divisions." [Section 26(1)]

- Once a separate school division is established, "a property owner is to be assessed with respect to his property: (a) in the case of a member of the minority religious faith, as a supporter of the separate school division; (b) in any other case, as a supporter of the public school division." [Section 26(2)]

- The Minister may alter the boundaries of a school division in several circumstances including: a petition of electors with respect to land they own; requests from a board of education separately or jointly with another board; and where the minister deems it to be in the best interests of the division. The Minister may also change boundaries on the advice of the Educational Boundaries Commission but, in this case, changes to a separate school division boundary may only be made with the consent of the separate board of education involved. [Section 27]

- To qualify as an elector in an election held in a separate school division, the person shall be "of the religious faith of the minority that established the separate school division." [Section 23(2), The Local Government Elections Act]

The Commission notes that many of the procedures currently in place are identical to the NWT Ordinances and the educational legislation adopted at the formation of the province. As a result, non-city separate school division boundaries are restricted to former public school district boundaries, which bear no relationship to the attendance areas of either the public or separate schools today. The administrative procedures required to establish separate schools under these conditions are archaic and dysfunctional.

2.2.3 Separate High Schools. In 1964, The Secondary Education Act was amended to provide for the establishment of separate high school districts. Section 144.1 of The Education Act includes a reference to that amendment: "Parents or guardians who resided in cities in which both a separate high school district and a public high school district existed had the right to enrol their children in either the public high school system or the separate high school system.". Further, The Education Act states:

. . . notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, any person who is a resident of a city in which a public school division and a separate school division have been established may declare his intention to enrol one or more of his children who are eligible to register in Grade 9, 10, 11, or 12 in a school in either the public school division or the separate school division. [Section 144.1]

Any pupil declaring intent to attend a high school is required "to abide by all policies of the board of education of the school division in which that high school is situated, including any policies relating to religious instruction, religious activities and other programs conducted by the high school."(emphasis added) [Section 144.1(5)]

Where pupils declare their intent to attend a high school operated by the school division other than that in which their parents are electors, the receiving board of education may: enter into fee-for-service agreements with the other board; agree with the other board not to charge fees; or charge tuition fees in the amounts prescribed in the regulations, but in no case are such tuition fees to be charged to the pupil or to his parent or guardian.[Section 144.1(6)]

This right to choose is not extended by The Education Act to pupils at the elementary level.


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2.3 Collective Rights Versus Individual Rights

A review of the legislation governing religion in schools adopted with the formation of the province and several studies on the subject lead to the inescapable conclusion that Parliament intended that Catholic education would be available to Catholic pupils in Saskatchewan. In effect, Parliament recognized the collective rights of two classes of persons, Catholic and Protestant.

The historical information shows clearly that Parliament believed that the religious instruction in public schools would be provided in accordance with the religion of the majority of the population in the community. The Saskatchewan Act, 1905 included a provision to ensure that no provincial government would revoke the provision for religious instruction at some future date. This legislation was adopted in an era in which there was little acknowledged diversity in culture or religious belief.

On the other hand, Parliament was less certain that the right of religious minorities to religious instruction for their children would be respected and was explicit in adopting legislation to enable the creation and maintenance of "separate schools" based on either the Catholic or Protestant religion. Where a religious minority within a public school district elected to do so, it could establish separate schools to provide religious instruction in their faith. The public school would be offering religious instruction in the "majority" faith, should its board choose to so do.

A more recent example of collective rights is included in The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982 in which minority language educational rights are recognized. [Section 23] Under this legislation citizens of Canada "whose first language is that of the English or French linguistic minority population of the province in which they reside" have a right to receive instruction in "minority language educational facilities provided out of public funds" "where the number of those children so warrants." [Section 23] This provision led to the establishment of the Francophone school system in Saskatchewan.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982 also provides for individual rights to provide persons with equal protection and equal benefit of the law "without discrimination." [Section 15] Specifically, Section 15 prohibits discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Exceptions are made for persons who may be disadvantaged and laws are enacted to correct the disadvantaged position.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code has a similar provision. Section 16(1) states: No employer shall refuse to employ or continue to employ or otherwise discriminate against any person or class of persons with respect to employment, or any term or condition of employment, because of his or their race, creed, religion, colour, sex, sexual orientation, family status, marital status, disability, age, nationality, ancestry, place of origin or receipt of public assistance.

The Code contains a notable exemption as it relates to religious instruction in schools. Section 16(5) states: Nothing in this section deprives . . . a school, board of education, or conseil scolaire of the right to employ persons of a particular religion or religious creed where religious instruction forms or may form the whole or part of the instruction or training provided by the . . . school, board of education, or conseil scolaire pursuant to The Education Act.

Section 16(5) protects the ability of boards of education and independent schools to engage staff on the basis of religious faith where religious instruction forms part of the educational program. The Commission is aware that very few public boards of education specify a religious faith requirement when hiring teachers who are expected to provide religious instruction. While teachers engaged to teach religious instruction may teach other subjects as well, it is unlikely that a public board of education would, or could, employ teachers on the basis of religion to teach other than religion classes.

Prior to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, many rural boards of education specified religious faith preferences when advertising for teachers in certain communities. Today, such specifications are rare as is the provision of religious instruction in public schools. Although the 1905 Parliament was successful in protecting the right to offer religious instruction in public schools, for whatever reason, the exercise of the right today is infrequent. The Commission believes that religious instruction would be available in more communities if the predominantly Catholic communities were part of the Catholic education system.

Recent litigation in Ontario, albeit based on different legislation, has been explicit on the teaching of religion in public schools. Section 50 of the Ontario Education Act provided that : ". . .,a pupil shall be allowed to receive such religious instruction as his parent or guardian desires, or where the pupil is an adult, as he desires." This provision was successfully challenged in the Courts as offending The Charter of Rights and Freedoms ( See Corporation of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association v. Ontario Minister of Education).

The Commission is aware that several complaints have been filed with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission with respect to religious instruction in public schools. It would seem that collective rights established in 1905 are under attack because they conflict with individual rights established later.


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2.4 The Operations of Existing Separate School Divisions

As part of its work, the Commission requested information from separate school divisions with respect to its operations, tuition fee arrangements, and sharing arrangements with other school divisions.

2.4.1 Joint boards of education. The Education Act provides for boards of education to operate jointly a school through a joint board of education, to which participating boards appoint trustees. These joint boards of education are not elected directly by the public and have no taxing authority.

Four separate boards of education participate in joint boards of education to operate comprehensive high schools. Another separate board participates in the operation of a special education program.

2.4.2 District boards of trustees. The Education Act provides for district boards of trustees in rural settings to advise the school and the division board on matters referred to them and on religious and second language instruction.

In three rural school divisions, separate boards of education have been invited by the public division board of education to have representation on the district board of trustees that exists in the communities in which separate school divisions have been established. They have been given voting authority on those district boards. In each instance, the Catholic pupils attend the public high school in the community and the separate school division offers elementary school programs.

2.4.3 Non-resident pupils. The respondents were asked to advise if the separate school division provided services to pupils who were not residents of the division. These pupils included non-Catholics who resided within the boundaries of the separate division as well as Catholics and non-Catholics who resided outside the boundaries of the separate division.

Most operating boards reported that they had all three types of non-resident pupils in their divisions although fewer reported non-Catholics who did not reside within the boundaries of the school division.

With respect to the payment and collection of tuition fees, the types of arrangements varied widely. In most divisions, tuition fees were neither paid nor collected for pupils who resided within the boundaries of the separate school division or Catholics who resided outside the boundaries but attended the separate school; the pupils were simply counted in the enrolments and the recognized expenditures for the pupils collected from the provincial government. In a few cases, formal agreements existed among the boards of education for the transfer of funds for non-resident pupils. Separate boards of education tended to collect tuition fees from non-Catholics who resided outside the boundary of the separate school division. In a few cases, special arrangements were made for the purchase of services such as Home Economics, Industrial Arts and French Immersion. The variety of practices is an indication that the existing legislation pertaining to non-resident pupils and Catholic education does not meet the needs of many parents.

Within the context of proposed restructuring of public school divisions, the SSTA Task Force on Educational Governance recommended that provincial grant recognition should go to the school division in which the student lives when the student attends a school in a school division other than the one in which s/he lives. The Commission notes that implementation of this proposal could have far reaching implications for many separate boards of education and could place the very existence of some divisions at risk.

2.4.4 Purchase or Provision of Services. By and large, boards of education tended to provide their own services with very few separate boards providing services to other public or separate boards. The most frequent sharing of services pertained to the purchase of administrative or support services by the smaller separate boards from the local public board of education.

In rural areas, informal transportation arrangements were prevalent, in much the same way as the tuition fee arrangements. Very few formal agreements were evident.

The responses showed some sharing arrangements, primarily between public and separate boards of education in the same area. The most highly developed agreement is in Melville where four boards of education, including one separate board of education, share the same administration. In one small separate school setting, the public and separate boards operate [technically] two schools in one building under the same administration. For all intents and purposes, there is one school with defined responsibilities by agreement.

2.4.5 Discontinued Practices. Several practices were discontinued with the main reason seeming to be a concern that the needs of Catholic education were not being fully met under the arrangements. In particular, several respondents emphasized the need for the Director of Education to be of the Catholic faith.


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2.5 Separate School Division Boundaries

As noted above, a separate school division can only be established within the boundaries of a public school district, or where a school division is not divided into districts, within the boundaries of a public school division. In other words, at establishment, a separate school division must have boundaries coterminous with a public school district or division, past or present.

City separate school division boundaries ARE coterminous with public school division boundaries and generally reflect the boundaries of the municipality. As the public school division expands to annex contiguous lands, separate school division boundaries are adjusted accordingly.

Other separate school division boundaries ARE NOT coterminous with existing public school district boundaries. Generally, while public school district boundaries have been adjusted by public boards of education to reflect changing attendance areas, the separate school divisions have not changed from the original Ministerial Order of establishment. As a consequence, most rural separate school divisions provide services to Catholic pupils from surrounding areas outside the school division, but do not have access to the tax base. As well, parents in the surrounding areas whose children attend separate schools have no representation on the separate board of education.

These differing practices place the non-city separate school division at a very serious disadvantage, particularly because many of the pupils residing on farms in surrounding areas are of the Catholic faith. In particular, they raise questions about access, financial viability and appropriate parental representation in the governance structure of non-city separate school divisions.


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2.6 Enrolment and Census Data

According to the 1991 census data, 316,935 Saskatchewan residents reported themselves to be of the Catholic faith, equal to 32.5 percent of the total population. The data showed that 147,420, or 46.5 percent of the Catholic population, resided in Regina and Saskatoon. The number of Catholics who were reported as being under 15 years of age was 84,070, about 35.4 percent of the total population of this age group.

The question that arises from these data is: How does this compare to the enrolments in separate schools in the province? The comparisons are not precise because the enrolment data are based on September, 1993 and the census data on June, 1991. Nevertheless, the Commission knows of no specific reason to suggest significant changes in either of these numbers over the two year period.

Several reasons exist to support the expectation that enrolments in separate schools would be significantly lower than the number of Catholics of school age. First, separate schools only exist where the Catholics are a minority group and where the Catholic minority group has chosen to exercise its right to establish such schools. Second, separate high schools exist only in some cities as a result of the 1964 amendments to The School Act. Third, in many areas of the province, the Catholic population is very sparse and difficult to organize into a separate school division.

In 1993, twenty separate school divisions reported enrolments of 35,715 pupils, equal to 18.2 percent of the total enrolment in Saskatchewan's publicly supported schools. If all Catholic pupils were enroled in separate schools, the enrolment would be about 70,000 pupils. In other words, the Catholic separate schools provide services to about 50 percent of the Catholic pupils, if it is assumed that all pupils in separate schools are of the Catholic faith. In reality, the Commission believes the percentage of Catholic pupils served by separate schools is about 40-45 percent.

In 1993, the Regina and Saskatoon separate school divisions provided services to 24,534 pupils, equal to just over two-thirds of the total enrolment in separate school divisions. In total, these enrolments are quite close to what would be expected. However, in the rest of the province, separate school enrolments were 9,524 pupils, accounting for only 20 percent of the available Catholic pupil population.

The Commission notes significant changes in enrolment patterns over the last 15 years. During that period, enrolments in separate schools have increased by 24 percent. In Regina and Saskatoon, enrolments increased by 31.1 percent; in the other cities, enrolments increased by 15.5 percent; and in villages and towns, enrolments declined by 9.3 percent.

The Commission notes that, although only 22 separate school divisions exist in the province, seven different types of divisions exist, as shown in the table below. Less than one-third of the separate school divisions are "full service" school divisions.

Division TypeNumberDivision TypeNumberK-127K-62K-94K-31K-84Non-Operating2K-72Total22These data are cause for concern. If these trends continue, separate schools will become a city phenomenon. In 1993, rural separate school divisions accounted for only 4.6 percent of the total separate school enrolments. The rate of enrolment decline in separate schools was higher than the rate of decline for rural school divisions. In 1993, three of the eleven rural separate school divisions enroled more than 200 pupils; four enroled between 100 and 200 pupils; two enroled fewer than 35 pupils; and the other two did not operate a school.


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3. A Vision for Catholic Education

The theme of this Report is Catholic Education - Search for Truth, Formation in Faith. From time to time, particularly during difficult economic periods, the very existence of a separate school system is brought into question. Although the arguments are often financial, others will argue that there is no real difference between Catholic education and public education. The Commission acknowledges that public schools offer quality services to their pupils. The desire to strengthen Catholic Education and to make it available to more pupils of the Catholic faith is in no way a reflection on the services provided by public schools. Rather, it is a recognition that Saskatchewan Catholics have an inalienable right, enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, to provide an education that is God-centred and rooted in the Catholic tradition.

What does that mean? A recent brief to the Ontario Royal Commission on Learning by the Ontario Separate School Trustees Association (OSSTA) entitled "The Hope that Lives within Us" sheds considerable light on the question. In part, the brief states:

From a Catholic perspective, the purpose of education is not only the transmission of knowledge, but also the formation of the whole person which brings students to a personal integration of faith and life. Separate schools are responsible for imparting Christian doctrine in an organic and systematic way, in order to initiate students into the fullness of Christian life and to elicit in response a personal commitment to that way of life.

Catholic parents send their children to separate schools expecting them to receive academic instruction in Religious Education and to be exposed to a curriculum which is infused with Gospel values. They expect Catholic values to be espoused, modelled, expressed and taught by teachers. They expect their children to participate in the sacramental life of the Church carried out in the school, to receive career counselling and academic planning in the framework of vocation, and to enjoy an atmosphere in which values taught at home are supported (p.12).

Quoting from the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School, the brief adds:

A school is, therefore, a privileged place in which, through a living encounter with a cultural inheritance, integral formation occurs.... Its task is fundamentally a synthesis of culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian (p.13).

The OSSTA brief concludes:

Catholic education is receptive of every child of God conscientiously put forward by a family for education and formation in faith. The central purpose of the Catholic school is, in cooperation with families and other Church institutions, to invite human beings to participate in a knowledge of the world thoroughly embedded in a Christian vision, to share the values drawn from a tradition descended from Christ, and to be prepared to put those values and that knowledge to work in the world for the common good.

Catholic education opens the individual to a view of knowledge and life which goes beyond the self and the immediate, to the community, the universal and the divine. Its purpose is to promote the reign of God on earth(p.14).

The Commission concurs with those observations and offers the proposed mission statement as its own vision for Catholic Education in Saskatchewan. The vision is based on the belief that Catholics in general and Catholic parents in particular have an inalienable right to provide an education that is God centred and rooted in the Catholic tradition. This right is enshrined in the Canadian constitution and the Catholic community has a responsibility to exercise it now and in the future. Catholic education must be available in all parts of the province, not only in those communities in which the Catholics are the minority.

Catholic schools are centres of learning that are founded on a common faith in Jesus Christ and committed to the growth and development of the whole child. Catholic schools are dedicated to academic excellence; recognize the special dignity of all people; encourage children to develop their individual gifts and talents; and seek to promote Gospel values. In recognition of their place in society, these centres of learning express a genuine ecumenical spirit and are dedicated to social justice.

To be effective, Catholic schools require the full cooperation of the home, the Church and the community. Catholic schools are different!

Recommendation No.1 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) approve the proposed mission statement for Catholic Education as presented on page 17.


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A Mission Statement for Catholic Education

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:6)

CATHOLIC EDUCATION . . . SEARCH FOR TRUTH, FORMATION IN FAITH

Catholic education exists in the province of Saskatchewan by virtue of the inalienable right of Catholics to provide an education that is God-centred and rooted in the Catholic tradition. That right is enshrined in the Canadian constitution and the Catholic community recognizes its responsibility to exercise this right.

We, the Catholic Trustees of the Province of Saskatchewan, acting as the elected representatives of parents and the total Catholic community, commit ourselves to creating and sustaining schools that are:

- Centres of Learning founded on a common faith in Jesus Christ as understood within the Catholic tradition, in accord with the Second Vatican Council and the teaching authority of the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan

- Centres of Learning that are committed to the growth and development of the whole child

- Centres of Learning that are dedicated to academic excellence and to the achievement of the provincial goals of education as determined by the Province of Saskatchewan

- Centres of Learning which strive to recognize the special dignity of all people as daughters and sons of God

- Centres of Learning which seek to encourage children to develop their individual gifts and talents in an atmosphere that is characterized by both freedom and the moral responsibility that is found in the teaching of the Catholic Church

- Centres of Learning which seek to promote Gospel values in a nurturing environment of Faith, Hope and Love

- Centres of Learning which express a genuine christian ecumenical spirit

- Centres of Learning which are dedicated to social justice and which promote responsibility to the needs of all people

We, the Catholic School Trustees of the Province of Saskatchewan, pledge to create and sustain these schools in full cooperation with the home, the Church and the community. We will strive to bring together the wisdom of age and the imagination of youth to allow for the development of responsible citizens and committed Catholics.


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4. The Governance of Catholic Education in Saskatchewan

4.1 Introduction

The Commission is taking the position that its proposals and recommendations must be viewed on a long term basis in the full knowledge that attitudes towards a public service such as education change over time. The basic rules for the governance of Saskatchewan education as it relates to Catholic education and separate schools were set more than 100 years ago. The existence of Catholic education today, at least in separate schools, results, in part, from the foresight of religious and governmental leaders of the day. Catholic trustees of the 1990s must ensure that changes to the governance of education in Saskatchewan will protect and enhance the opportunities for Catholic education in the future.

The Commission is concerned that, without changes to legislation governing Catholic education and separate schools, Catholic education will become an urban phenomenon. The enrolment data for non-city separate schools show that it will be difficult to sustain such schools particularly if the public school divisions are restructured to provide improved support services and economies of scale. The Commission believes that, to protect the long term interests of Saskatchewan Catholics, it is important to take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves when the restructuring of public school divisions is undertaken. Failure to do so could sow the seeds for the eventual demise of publicly-supported Catholic education in Saskatchewan.


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4.2 Criteria for the Evaluation of Catholic Education Governance Models(See Appendix B for detail)

The Commission reviewed several documents and sought advice from separate school trustees and administrators before deciding upon the criteria upon which to evaluate possible governance models for Catholic education. The Commission concluded that the following are the most important criteria to guide decisions on the very important governance issues:

- The right of a Catholic child to receive a Catholic education must be recognized.

- The best interests of the pupils must be promoted and the quality of education enhanced.

- The restructuring of the Catholic school divisions must be based on the needs of the Catholic community.

- Proposed changes in boundaries must be educationally sound and financially viable.

- Catholic communities which, by virtue of being predominantly Catholic are unable to establish a separate school division, should be able to join the Catholic education community if they so choose.

- Revisions to the governance of education must not prejudicially affect the rights of religious minorities to establish separate schools.

- The boundaries of a separate or Catholic school district or division should be determined by the residences of Catholics served by the Catholic school.

The Commission wishes to emphasize that, in their quest to enhance opportunities for access to Catholic education, Catholic trustees must be sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the broader community. It will be important for Catholic trustees to explain carefully the purpose and intent of their proposals in order to build community support.


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4.3 Governance Models - Some Options

The school governance structure in Saskatchewan is the result of political compromises that were forged during the late 1800s and the very early 1900s. When the Saskatchewan Act was passed in 1905, it included provisions for the protection of minority religious rights that had been established under the ordinances of the North West Territories.

The intent of that legislation was to provide for religious education in all schools, be they public or separate, if the district boards passed resolutions to that effect. The system of separate schools, Catholic and Protestant, was established to permit religious minorities in communities to set up their own schools to provide both regular and religious instruction. It must be emphasized that the system adopted in 1905 was not a dual system. It was a unitary Christian system with provision for public and separate schools. There could not be Catholic public schools or Protestant public schools as such but religion - Catholic or Protestant - could be taught in public schools and public boards of education could discriminate on the basis of religion in their hiring practices, among other things.

In 1905, the system was established to recognize collective rights of the religious groups in communities. Those rights continue to be recognized through the separate schools. For example, boards of education in separate school divisions can discriminate on the basis of religion in the hiring of staff and can require adherence to religious principles by staff in their personal conduct. Separate boards of education can also display religious emblems in schools and create an ambiance that reflects the religious teachings.

As noted above, The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code does not deprive a public board of education of "the right to employ persons of a particular religion or religious creed where religious instruction forms or may form the whole or part of the instruction . . ."[Section 16(5)]. However, in practice, public boards of education rarely advertise on that basis. Further, public schools are not permitted to display religious emblems or go beyond the teaching of religion within the specified times in The Education Act.

This evolution from collective to individual rights has created an interesting anomaly. Where Catholics are a minority in a public school district, they retain the right to establish a separate school division, offer religious instruction, engage teachers of the Catholic faith, display religious emblems, and require conduct that is consistent with Catholic principles. However, in those school districts where Catholics are the majority, the board can engage teachers to provide religious instruction, but all of the other aspects of Catholic education are not permitted. How many children of the Catholic faith can have access to Catholic education in 1994? For all intents and purposes, only those who reside in communities in which the Catholic community is in a minority position. It is not now as it was intended in 1905.

In the last few years, the provincial government has adopted several measures which recognize certain educational programs as part of the provincial educational system. The provincial government has developed extensive regulations to govern Independent schools. Last year, new regulations and funding for Home-Based education were adopted. Very recently, the Francophone school governance structure was put in place on the basis of parental rights and with attendance areas based on the residences of the Francophone community. Under Federal jurisdiction, the building of band schools on Indian Reserves has replaced many arrangements in which children from the Reserves attended public schools in the province. In effect, the Indian community has established its own educational system.

With all of these changes in mind, the Commission considered the following question:

What clientele should have access to Catholic education? Is it the clientele currently defined in the legislation, i.e. Catholic pupils who are in a religious minority position? Or, is the potential clientele all pupils of Catholic faith, whether or not they are in a minority position, i.e. pupils of the Catholic faith who live in communities which are predominantly Catholic, as well as those who live in communities in which they are part of a Catholic religious minority? In other words, should a governance model provide the opportunity for Catholic communities to become part of the Catholic education system, if they chose to so do?

The options presented below include models that would permit the inclusion of majority Catholic communities in the Catholic education system. In those models, the governance areas are identified as Catholic districts or Catholic divisions as compared to separate school divisions. The report provides a brief description of each model and some of the arguments that were considered both in support and opposition to the specific model.


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4.4 STATUS QUO

4.4.1 Description. Catholic separate school divisions are established within the boundaries of an existing, or former, public school district or public school division which is not divided into school districts where the Catholics are the religious minority. Where such divisions are established, the board assumes the duties and responsibilities outlined in The Education Act.

Except for city separate divisions annexing contiguous lands, the boundaries of the separate school division do not change as the boundaries of public school districts expand. Consequently, if the public districts are restructured, the separate school divisions have no relationship to the attendance areas of the public schools, as is now the case in many situations.

Separate boards of education enter into service agreements primarily with their public board of education neighbors. In some cases, there are formal agreements and, in others, informal arrangements that exist on an ongoing basis. Separate boards are more inclined to enter into agreements with public boards than with other separate boards, except for matters pertaining to religious instruction.

4.4.2 Considerations. The status quo provides an element of comfort for those involved. The system provides for local decision making for separate schools at the community level. As well, accountability is locally based. This model recognizes the constitutional protection afforded to religious minorities for the establishment of separate schools. The requirements to establish a separate school division are relatively simple.

On the other hand, several concerns have been identified. This model limits the rights of the Catholic child to have access to a Catholic education. Although the legislation requires

that separate school division boundaries be coterminous with public school boundaries upon establishment, non-city separate school division boundaries do not change with larger public school districts, resulting in several issues relating to taxes, access to schools, and representation on boards of education. With declining enrolments in rural areas, the small separate school division could disappear. No new separate school divisions have been established since 1961 while several have been disestablished. Religious education in public schools in Catholic communities is virtually extinct. With the likely restructuring of public school divisions, separate school divisions may become non-competitive financially as well as in program opportunities. The myriad of informal arrangements that do not conform closely to the intent of the legislation are strong indicators that the current legislation needs to be revamped.

4.4.3 Conclusion. On balance, the Commission has concluded that the status quo presents considerable risk to Catholic education in most Saskatchewan communities, excluding the larger cities. The absence of new separate school divisions for more than three decades; the diminution of opportunities to receive religious instruction in public schools; and the anticipated decline in enrolments in non-city areas over the next two decades are serious cause for concern.


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4.5 SEPARATE SCHOOL DISTRICTS WITHIN SEPARATE SCHOOL DIVISIONS

4.5.1 Description. In 1944, when The Larger School Units Act was passed, the authority to manage and administer schools was placed in the hands of unit [now division] boards in non-city areas where larger school units were formed. The former school districts were retained in an advisory capacity to division boards. However, in 1944, no provision was made for the establishment of separate school districts within separate school divisions. The choices for separate school districts were to continue operating as they had or to amalgamate with the larger school unit of the area, in which case they ceased to exist as autonomous separate school districts.

Under this option, separate school districts would be established within separate school divisions in much the same way as public school districts exist within public school divisions in non-city areas. This option would still require the establishment of a separate school district by the religious minority within the boundaries of a public school district but the operational authority, including taxation, would rest with the division board. Election to the division board would be by the electors in each of the districts and the representation on the division board would be based, at least to some degree, on the population of the participating districts. The respective duties of each board would have to be defined. The separate school districts would not necessarily be contiguous to each other.

4.5.2 Considerations. This model could result in reduced administrative costs. With larger enrolments in each school division, it would be easier to engage Catholic specialist and administrative staff. This model would retain some elements of local decision making within the larger school division and provide the opportunity to establish more separate schools throughout the province. The constitutional minority rights would be respected. This model might be more acceptable to the broader community than one that incorporates majority Catholic communities in the Catholic education system. It may facilitate the amalgamation of smaller boards of education with a larger centre to enhance the support services. The size of school division could more closely parallel the size of public school divisions.

The model would result in larger administrative units with the attendant issues pertaining to distances and communications. Establishment would still be on the basis of a public school district and the issue of predominantly Catholic communities would not be addressed. Separate school district boundaries would not necessarily include all Catholic families in the area. The smaller communities would rather deal with a local public school board than a distant Catholic board. Depending on the division of responsibility between the two levels of governance, some local autonomy would be lost. Legislative changes would be required to implement this model.

4.5.3 Conclusion. This model offers some opportunities to improve the nature of administrative and support services in smaller separate school divisions. If the average size of school division paralleled the recommendations in the SSTA Task Force Report, there would be four to six separate school divisions in the province. This approach would improve the sense of community among separate schools. However, this model does not address the issue of access to Catholic education for pupils who reside in predominantly Catholic communities or in areas just outside the boundaries of the separate school district. Given the projected enrolment declines, the opportunities for additional separate schools will be very limited. Some benefits would accrue from the implementation of this model but the opportunities for expansion and access to Catholic education would continue to be limited.


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4.6 CATHOLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS WITHIN LARGER CATHOLIC SCHOOL DIVISIONS

4.6.1 Definition. The term Catholic is used to distinguish this model from the separate school districts in Model 4.5. The Catholic districts would include the separate districts as defined currently and communities which are predominantly Catholic and choose to participate in the Catholic school system. The requirement to be a religious minority to gain access to Catholic education would be eliminated. Similarly, the boundaries of the Catholic school district would be determined by the Catholic population, and not by the public school district boundaries. In effect, this model parallels the Francophone model, with two significant exceptions: Catholic electors, not only parents, would participate in the governance structure, and the right to levy property taxes would be retained.

This model has two main variations: If the model paralleled the Saskatchewan Francophone approach, the operational authority, including taxation, would remain with each Catholic school district and the Catholic school division would provide support services such as administration, special education, consultants, etc.; the division board would be comprised of representatives appointed by the district boards; and the district boards would be elected by Catholic electors. The second variation would be to place the operational authority at the division level and retain district boards as advisory, as is the case in Model B. Both boards would be elected by the electors directly, with the division board being elected on a subdivision basis. It would be possible to have the division board comprised of district board representatives.

4.6.2 Considerations. The primary benefit of this model would be the recognition that Catholic education would be available to Catholic pupils where sufficient numbers warranted. The boundaries of a Catholic district would be determined by the Catholic population and not by the boundaries of a public school district. The issue of coterminous boundaries would be irrelevant. Under this approach, the opportunity for additional Catholic schools is enhanced. With larger enrolments in Catholic divisions, the cost effectiveness of providing support services is improved as are the opportunities to employ Catholic personnel. This model does not compromise the right to establish separate schools and more closely approximates the original intent of making Catholic education available to all Catholic pupils. The Catholic school system would be very similar to the public school system.

This model would require significant amendments to current legislation, which would likely meet with stiff resistance from others. If Catholic communities chose to access the Catholic school system, the impact on the public school system would be significant. With the larger school divisions, the potential for the loss of some local autonomy would exist. The issue of providing services to non-Catholics in communities that are predominantly Catholic would need to be addressed. The full implications of this model, from a practical, legal and constitutional perspective, would need to be addressed before implementation.

4.6.3 Conclusion. The Commission has concluded that this model offers the best opportunity to meet the goals enunciated in the mission statement for Catholic education. The model would provide access to Catholic education for the vast majority of Catholic pupils in the province. Properly structured, Catholic school divisions would have sufficient numbers to ensure the long term viability of Catholic schools in all parts of the province. The Commission notes that this model is not without its own risks and would likely be resisted by others, particularly in areas where enrolments are declining and the competition for pupils is evident. The intent of this model would be to protect the existing rights with respect separate schools while restoring the opportunities for Catholic education for Catholic pupils in all communities. This model was also preferred strongly by the participants at the consultation meetings.


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4.7 STATUS QUO WITH SERVICE AGREEMENTS WITH OTHER SEPARATE BOARDS

4.7.1 Description. This model assumes that existing legislation would remain intact but separate boards of education would enter into service agreements with other separate boards of education, rather than with public boards of education. Each school division would retain its identity but, presumably, the larger separate boards would assist the smaller boards through fee-for-service agreements.

4.7.2 Considerations. The results of the questionnaire circulated to separate boards of education showed that there were very few examples of sharing of services among separate boards of education. Where sharing arrangements existed, they were primarily between the separate and local public school division. Even there, with the possible exception of transportation and administrative arrangements, sharing arrangements were the exception rather than the rule.

Responses from several smaller boards indicated that it was important for them to have access to a Catholic Director of Education who would represent, without equivocation, the interests of the separate board. In several instances, boards reported they had discontinued sharing arrangements in favour of employing their own part-time director of education.

4.7.3 Conclusion. The Commission believes this option would offer a stronger sense of community among the separate boards of education if service agreements were developed. However, the Commission notes that, with the exception of a few agreements pertaining to religious education programs, separate boards are more likely to enter into agreements with the public school division in the area. At the consultation meetings, several delegates indicated it was more convenient to enter into agreements with the local public board that with another distant separate board. The Commission also notes that this model does not address the issue of Catholic education for Catholic pupils and, also, does not resolve the issues pertaining to tuition fees and coterminous boundaries.


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4.8 Summary

The Commission has identified four major governance options for consideration. Three different models are intended to deal, in varying degrees, with the limitations on Catholic communities to provide Catholic education to their children. Other options exist, ranging from one provincial Catholic board of education to oversee the operations of all Catholic schools in the province to a board of education for each Catholic school in the province. There are variations of the main themes presented above.

The data in the table below provide a summary of the Commission's observations in relation to the most important criteria for the evaluation of governance options.

The most comprehensive change is embodied in Model 4.6 because this approach extends access to Catholic education to pupils residing in communities that are predominantly Catholic. This model also proposes to establish Catholic schools based on the needs of Catholic families rather than on the basis of irrelevant public school district boundaries. It also addresses anomalies such as the Humboldt Separate School Division which have developed as a result of changes in demographics. This model also protects the right to establish separate schools. Finally, this approach provides the opportunity for Catholic communities to join the Catholic education system; it is not intended that such communities be forced to be part of the Catholic system. The Commission believes the goal of providing the opportunity for predominantly Catholic communities to become part of the Catholic education system is attainable within the context of a major restructuring of the governance of education in Saskatchewan. It is noted that the Francophone community attained this objective even though their numbers are small compared to the number of Catholics in the province. Having said that, the Commission recognizes the importance of working with the public boards of education to develop a sound appreciation of the aspirations of the Catholic community and to develop approaches that will enhance the opportunities for children, be they Catholic or non-Catholic.

A less ambitious option would be to establish a governance structure to allow non-contiguous separate school districts within separate school divisions, as envisaged by Model 4.5. A key component of this option is to develop simple mechanisms whereby separate school district boundaries in non-city areas would expand as the public school district boundaries expand. Adoption of these changes would improve opportunities to provide support services to smaller Catholic schools in rural areas and eliminate some issues related to non-resident fees. This is a partial solution and does not address the issue of access to Catholic education by pupils in majority Catholic communities.

The least ambitious of the change models advanced - and the most easily attained - is the promotion of more sharing arrangements among existing separate school divisions. This model would provide some opportunity to develop a closer sense of community among Catholic school divisions but fails to address any of the major issues identified.

Recommendation No.2 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) seek to obtain changes in The Education Act to include the following principles:

- The Catholics residing in communities that are predominantly Catholic be given the opportunity to become part of the Catholic education system, should they so choose

- The establishment of Catholic school districts within Catholic school divisions

- The boundaries of Catholic school districts and divisions may be determined on the basis of the residences of Catholic families or on the basis of public school district boundaries, whichever is most suitable in each circumstance

provided that changes to The Education Act will not prejudicially affect the rights to establish separate schools as provided for in the Canadian constitution.

The Commission believes that all models should be considered by the Catholic Section (SSTA) executive but, after lengthy debate, the Commission, with one abstention, resolved to support Recommendation No. 2.

During the course of this study, many ad hoc arrangements were identified. The Commission believes that the many informal arrangements result from a governance structure that has become obsolete by not taking into account the changing attendance areas. The Commission is concerned that, over time, the system will become so convoluted as to bring into question the very existence of Catholic education in Saskatchewan. We cannot let that happen!

Recommendation No. 3 - That the executive of the Catholic Section (SSTA) meet with the Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan to advise them of these proposals and to solicit their active support.

The Commission believes that the proposals outlined in the recommendations can be implemented only with the active support of the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan. It is essential that the Catholic Section (SSTA) meet with the bishops to seeks their assistance.

Finally, the Commission believes that the Catholic Section (SSTA) cannot be mere observers of the processes now in progress to address the governance issues in Saskatchewan education. Once this report has been considered, the Catholic Section (SSTA) should ensure that the SSTA and others have a good understanding of the proposals being put forward by the Catholic trustees.

Recommendation No. 4 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) consult with the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association in order to ensure good understanding of the proposals being put forward by the Catholic Section (SSTA) and to develop approaches that will eliminate potential misunderstandings with respect to Catholic education.

The Commission recognizes that these proposals constitute a bold step to restore access to Catholic education to Catholic communities. Nevertheless, bold action is required if Catholic education is to remain viable outside of the larger cities. The Commission is aware that the nature of the administrative arrangements available to Catholic boards of education determines in large measure their long term existence. Our responsibility is to ensure that future Catholic generations have access to viable Catholic schools.


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5. SSTA Task Force on Educational Governance

At their 1993 annual convention, the SSTA delegates approved the major recommendations of a Task Force on Educational Governance to restructure school divisions in Saskatchewan. Although the Task Force report primarily addressed the restructuring of public school divisions, the implications for Catholic education and separate schools cannot be ignored.

The report's vision statement included the following concepts:

- All children, regardless of age, gender, ethnic or cultural background, and socioeconomic status are provided with appropriate educational opportunity and equality of educational benefit.

- The school is involved with community programs that ensure all children and their families receive necessary social, health and justice services.

- Each school level governance body serves as an effective liaison between the community and the larger school division and achieves the expectations outlined in legislation.

- Boards of education are autonomous full service educational organizations.

- Division boundaries vary according to population density, local trading patterns and geography but are of sufficient size to secure a suitable financial base and minimal administrative costs, . . .

- Decisions regarding appropriate inputs, student outcomes and system operation are based on a commitment to ensuring a high quality education for all children. Distance education and other types of technology are used to enrich, enhance and supplement face-to-face instruction.

The report also identified the following principles used to provide a framework for the Task Force recommendations:

- Decisions would be based on the best interests of students

- A commitment to appropriate educational opportunity and equality of educational benefit for all children

- Recognition that change should come from the bottom up

- Meaningful involvement of parents and community in education

- The existence of school-level governance structures to provide for local decision making

- A preference for autonomous, elected boards of education with taxing powers.

The report's major recommendations included the following:

#1 - There be approximately 35 public school divisions in Saskatchewan, each with a minimum enrolment of between 2,500 and 5,000 students, in most cases.

#3 - All public school divisions in Saskatchewan be full service divisions with the capacity to offer K-12 programming and the special services required by the student population.

#5 - In both rural and urban school divisions, elected school-level governance bodies be established for each school to provide for local control and local decision making.

#6 - Existing public school divisions in and near urban areas be restructured to reflect contemporary work, trading and school attendance patterns.

#7 - When a student attends a school in a school division other than the one in which s/he lives, provincial grant recognition should go to the school division in which the student lives.

#8 - Wards be established for election purposes in all of the school divisions in Saskatchewan operating more than one school.

#9 - Boards of education, while retaining their single-purpose nature, provide leadership to facilitate co-operation with community organizations in order to make the school the centre of a learning community and to ensure that children and families receive necessary social, health and justice services.

The Commission notes that recommendations #5, #7, #8, and #9 were intended to apply to separate school divisions as well.

In support of these, the report also included three implementation recommendations.


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5.1 Commission Responses to SSTA Task Force Report Recommendations

As part of its mandate, the Commission was asked "to review the SSTA governance document in the light of Catholic School Divisions and prepare a response to the SSTA for their 1994 convention." The Commission is offering the following commentary on some major SSTA recommendations in the light of the proposals identified above.

5.1.1 School Level Governance bodies

SSTA Task Force Recommendation - In both rural and urban school divisions, elected school-level governance bodies be established for each school to provide for local control and local decision making.

Commission Response - It is proposed that the Catholic Section (SSTA) support this recommendation. There is considerable research evidence to indicate that parental involvement improves student outcomes and the effectiveness of schools. The school-level governance body should be advisory to the division board and the school administration.

Recommendation No. 5 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) support the establishment of "elected school level governance bodies" for each school.

5.1.2 Non-Resident Pupils and Tuition Fees

SSTA Task Force Recommendation - When a student attends a school in a school division other than the one in which s/he lives, provincial grant recognition should go to the school division in which the student lives.

Commission Response - The research conducted by the Commission shows that most separate boards of education provide services to pupils who are not resident within the school division. In most cases, the boards of education involved do not collect tuition fees on behalf of these pupils. If the SSTA recommendation were approved, boards of education would need to develop administrative arrangements to determine the residence of pupils in order to apply for grants or bill the neighbouring board of education for tuition fees. In cities, that is no small task.

If the restructuring of school divisions is undertaken as proposed in the SSTA Task Force Report and this report, most of the issues pertaining to the collection of tuition fees from non-resident pupils will be resolved.

Recommendation No. 6 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) ask the SSTA to re-evaluate the proposal that provincial grant recognition should go to the school division in which the student lives, rather than where the student attends schools in the light of future changes in school governance.

5.1.3 Ward System

SSTA Task Force Recommendation - Wards be established for election purposes in all of the school divisions in which Saskatchewan operating more than one school.

Commission Response - Acceptance of this recommendation would result in wards being established even in small cities in which more than one school operates. The Commission recognizes the advisability of establishing wards in school divisions that encompass several municipalities. However, there is no evidence that a ward system in school divisions within one municipality will contribute to improved decision making and better educational opportunities.

In larger cities, the distribution of Catholic families is not distributed evenly throughout the city. To protect the principle of representation by population, it is likely that larger cities would require three types of ward boundaries: municipal; public school; and separate school.

The Commission also rejects the argument that only one electoral system should be available for all school divisions.

Craig Melvin did not concur with Recommendation No. 7.

Recommendation No. 7 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) support the view that wards be established for election purposes in all of the school divisions in Saskatchewan operating schools in more than one municipality.

5.1.4 Social, Health and Justice Services

Recommendation No. 8 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) support school-linked integrated services to ensure that children and families receive the necessary social, health and justice services.

SSTA Task Force Recommendation - Boards of education, while retaining their single-purpose nature, provide leadership to facilitate co-operation with community organizations in order to make the school the centre of a learning community and to ensure that children and families receive necessary social, health and justice services.

Commission Response - The Commission endorses this recommendation in keeping with the proposed mission statement that schools be "centres of learning that are committed to the growth and development of the whole child."


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5.2 Conclusion

The Commission believes it will be important for the Catholic Section (SSTA) to monitor developments with respect to the restructuring of public school divisions. There is no doubt that changes in public school divisions will impact on separate school divisions and, perhaps, create opportunities to further strengthen Catholic education in Saskatchewan.

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6. Restructuring Saskatchewan School Divisions

In April, 1994, the Honourable Pat Atkinson, Minister of Education, Training and Employment announced the government's intention to proceed with a pilot project approach to school division amalgamation. Under the criteria established for pilot projects, "the term amalgamation refers to cases in which at least one existing school division is legally disestablished and becomes part of a neighbouring school division or at least two neighbouring school divisions disestablish and form a new school division (Letter to Board of Education chairpersons from the Minister)."

Under this definition, existing separate boards of education are not eligible to participate in the pilot projects unless they chose to amalgamate with the local public school division. The criteria require that the amalgamating school divisions be "neighbours" which is interpreted to mean contiguous or coterminous boundaries. Consequently, it would seem that the Minister or her officials did not contemplate the possible amalgamation of separate school divisions with each other.

The Minister established an Amalgamation Pilot Project Advisory Committee comprised of representatives of the SSTA, STF, LEADS, SASBO and Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment. The Catholic Section (SSTA) executive sought representation on this committee but were denied. This Committee determined criteria for pilot projects and continues to advise the Minister on the selection of project sites.

If the major recommendations of this report are accepted by the Catholic trustees, it will be important to establish a process to present the recommendations to the Minister for consideration and eventual implementation. Since the issues are complex, it is proposed that the Catholic Section (SSTA) consider asking the Minister of Education, Training and Employment to establish a separate task force to deal with the issues of Catholic education. Representation on this task force should include representation from the Catholic Section (SSTA), the Department of Education, Training and Employment and the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan.

Recommendation No. 9 - That the Catholic Section (SSTA) request that the Minister of Education, Training and Employment establish a task force with representation from the Catholic Section (SSTA), Saskatchewan Education, and the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan to consider the implementation of the proposals for the governance of Catholic education as approved by the Catholic trustees.


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7. Summary and Conclusions

Catholic education exists in Saskatchewan by virtue of the inalienable right of Catholics to provide an education that is God-centred and rooted in the Catholic tradition. This review of Catholic education governance in Saskatchewan leads to the conclusion that, unless significant changes are made, Catholic schools may well become an urban phenomenon. The Commission wishes to emphasize that, where governance structures are appropriate, separate schools thrive and offer excellent services to its students. However, the archaic and limiting structures that apply to non-city boards are stifling the opportunities for Catholics to participate in the Catholic education system.

The Commission believes that, with the implementation of the proposals contained in this report, more Catholic communities will participate in the Catholic school system. We believe the changes must be considered now within the context of the restructuring of the public school system. The changes being proposed will impact on the broader community and it will be important for the Catholic Section (SSTA) executive to reassure others that Catholic trustees are willing to work with them to find solutions that are equitable to all.

The Commission members wish to express their appreciation to the Catholic Section (SSTA) executive for the invitation to participate in this task. The work was challenging and rewarding. The Catholic education community is full of hope and optimism but challenged in its quest to provide services to more Catholic pupils. It is hoped the Commission's findings will be of assistance to the promotion and development of Catholic education in this province.

The Commission recognizes that this report deals with the governance of Catholic education within a conceptual framework and does not deal with the many details that would need to be addressed if the principles included in this report are approved. The report is a guide to action.

Finally, the Commission wishes to extend its appreciation to the many trustees, administrators, and clergy who assisted with the development of the report. Our appreciation is also extended to the Regina and Saskatoon Catholic boards of education who so graciously made their board rooms available for the Commission meetings.

Respectfully submitted,

Commission on Catholic Education Governance

November, 1994


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