Shannon Marcus, principal at Durham Christian High School, is looking to retain her private schools seat on the Ontario College of Teachers Council and is running in the March 5th to April 9th election. Teachers working in a registered private school in Ontario, who are in good standing at the College, are eligible to vote for the private school seat.
Qualified voters will receive instructions from the College on how to electronically cast their vote.
Ms. Marcus decided to run in the 2015 election after Edifide colleagues asked if she was willing. From the approximately 270 votes cast for the seat she earned 200. Christian school teachers came together and were aware of the vote.
“When we decide we want to do something and we mobilize then we can do it,” Ms. Marcus says.
Continuity on Council is important, and with a steep learning curve having two terms is needed to fully understand the work. Now that she’s got her “Council legs” under her, Ms. Marcus is looking to contribute more and continue to be the voice of private schools.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she says. “I always love the opportunity to get out of the little world we live in at our own schools and see the big picture of education and educators in the province.”
The Ontario College of Teachers works in the public interest to license, govern and regulate the province’s teaching profession. Educators in publicly funded schools must have their certificate and be in good standing at the College. The College establishes ethical and practice standards for teaching professionals and accredits teacher education programs, ongoing education (Additional Qualification) programs and resolves disciplinary issues.
Many independent Christian schools also require their teachers to be certified by the College. Angela De Palma, Ontario College of Teachers Chair of Council, says with certified teachers working in private schools the private schools position on Council contributes to how Council governs in the public interest.
“Research shows that diversity among board members is considered a strength. The broader the background and experience Council members bring to the board table, the more potential there is for informed and balanced discussion,” Ms. De Palma says.
The Council is comprised of 37 members—23 elected by their peers and 14 members of the public appointed by the provincial government—who govern the College and take part in 14 Council committees. Members of Council are elected for three-year terms and participate in four, two-day annual meetings. “Council develops and approves policies that regulate the teaching profession in Ontario,” states the College’s website.
Regardless of the school, all students have rights and should have a “safe, wonderful education,” says Ms. Marcus. The College works to monitor the profession sets standards. While she personally thinks Christian schools should exceed standards there is a need to at least be part of the College’s work as they monitor the profession.
“From a caring for children perspective we really need to sit at this table because we care about our children that we educate,” she says.
The start of Ms. Marcus’ term on Council coincided with her move from teaching to becoming a principal. As she was learning about how to lead a board she was also participating on a board, which was helping her to learn about governance.
As a member of seventh Council Ms. Marcus served on the Standards of Practice and Education committee, chaired the Finance Committee and sits on the Executive.
“It’s been rich for me personally,” she says. The regular interactions with people who share the same passion for good administration, new ways of teaching, education and children have been a highlight. “The people who work at the College and who sit on Council with me are all extremely dedicated to seeing our youth flourish in some way.”
Ms. Marcus has been able to demonstrate and share with the College how professional independent schools are, showing them the standards Christian schools have and how they follow the College and Ministry of Education. As part of the broader community of Ontario educators, the visibility of Christian schools is important, she says.
Through being on Council Ms. Marcus has opportunities to highlight Christian schools. She hosted Michael Salvatori, CEO and Registrar of the College, and Ms. De Palma, Chair of Council at Durham Christian High School and Knox Christian School, where Paul Marcus (Ms. Marcus’ brother) is principal. She also hosted Joe Jamieson, the Deputy Registrar, who spoke at her school’s chapel.
“We only can have those opportunities if we are at the table, if we are present and if we want to be taken seriously, then we have to be serious. We have to show up. This is the sphere, this is the place,” she says.
Ray Hendriks, the Executive Director of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), appreciates Ms. Marcus’ commitment to be a professional private school voice at the College.
“We have benefitted from her willingness to share about relevant actions and in the business of the College. I believe that through Shannon we are more engaged in this area than in previous years,” he says.
“It’s been evident in my conversations with Shannon that she has a strong commitment to ensuring a professional private school voice at the Ontario College of Teachers,” Mr. Hendriks says, adding she has immersed herself in the work.
Ms. De Palma says, “College members are encouraged to recognize the value in helping decide which 23 elected members contribute to the self-regulation of their profession. The College website has devoted an area to the election that contains candidate bios, a Voter’s Forum and candidate blogs. Teachers are strong role models for their students and can model civic action by accessing their electronic ballot and voting.”
“We need to see the good work currently happening continue for another term,” Mr. Hendriks says. “Honour your responsibility as a member, and vote.”
The College is visiting six Ontario locations this month to share about the role of Council members, provide an opportunity to meet College representatives and learn about the voting process. Information on the You Decide 2018 election, Council, and candidates including Ms. Marcus can be found at oct.ca.