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'I really do have a heart full of gratitude:' Loretta Notten reflects on her time as director of education with Catholic board

'I have been in the company of such amazing people during my time here'
lorretta notten wcdsb
Loretta Notten | From WCDSB website

After seven years as Director of Education with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, Loretta Notten will retire effective August 31.

“I really do have a heart full of gratitude. I have been in the company of such amazing people during my time here. Truly, I believe that people come here with the best interest of the students that they serve in their hearts,” Notten said.

“It’s with a great deal of humility and gratitude that I will be leaving the role.”

Notten began her career in Catholic education in 1987 as a teacher in the York Catholic District School Board.

Over 35 years, her various roles have included principal, program coordinator, and superintendent of Learning at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

In 2015, Notten became WCDSB's first female Director.

Notten has a number of significant achievements over the last seven years including the established practice of a three-year Pastoral Plan, the implementation of two multi-year strategic plans based on Catholic faith, and the growth of the WCDSB system by over 5,000 students with a number of new schools in development.

“We’ve accomplished a fair bit centred around what makes us distinct as a Catholic system and what’s best for students. That’s really been at the core of our decision making and in the actions that we have taken,” Notten said.  

“I’m really proud of the work we have done in the area of equity. We pride ourselves on being an inclusive board and we have really tried to take a critical lens. Certainly, there is a lot more work to do but I think we have made some good progress.”

Notten says she is also very proud that WCDSB was the first board to fly the pride flag.

“We continue to look at other system barriers that exist for our students and focus our energies on trying to identify those barriers and processes that work against all students succeeding. There is still a journey ahead, but a good foundation has been put in place,” Notten said.

As for challenges, Notten says the pandemic tops the list.

“I’m sure this is not a surprise to anyone. It certainly wasn’t something we were particularly prepared for. I’m so proud of how the system responded and every single staff person rose to the challenge, and it did need to be a full system response,” Notten said.

“We did our best efforts to meet the needs of the students. I really can’t commend people enough with how we tried to consider students and to put their needs and priorities first. That’s what motivated us in our decision making.”

Another recent challenge for Notten was when advocacy groups called on her to step down following an incident where police responded to a call regarding a four-year-old Black boy at John Sweeney Catholic Elementary School in February.

This resulted in a review ordered by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. Notten expressed offence at concerns of racism in the school board. She later apologized saying that WCDSB is committed to combatting anti-Black racism.

“Teaching is a vocation and I think teaching in Catholic education is a particular call and vocation. I’ve always been proud to call myself a Catholic educator. I would say that we pride ourselves on being distinct and our faith has to be integral in everything that we do, day in and day out,” Notten said.

“My faith has given me strength in those moments that are more difficult. I continually brought staff back to the strength that we draw on from our faith and in trusting that we make it through the toughest of challenges together.”

Notten says she hopes that as students graduate, that they continue to carry the values they learned in their Catholic education forward with them.

As for her retirement, Notten says she looks forward to a gentler pace.

“In every job in education, there are demands. It has been all-consuming. I look forward to drinking a coffee at the table rather than in the car,” Notten said.

“It’s the small pleasures that I will delight in.”