When it comes to the Ontario EcoSchools program, Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic schools are full in.
For the past three years, 100 percent of HWCDSB schools have achieved Ontario EcoSchools certification for their efforts to conserve energy, create green space, and minimize waste.
While system-wide eco celebrations have honoured the work of school teams and eco reps, one group has gone largely unsung: the school custodians, assistant custodians and cleaners, without whose buy-in the program would not succeed.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have,” said Roman Caruk, a retired computer resource teacher, and founder and still active member of the board’s SERE (Social and Ecological Responsibility in Education) committee.
A new “Stewardship of Creation” Award – established by the HWCDSB in partnership with Ontario EcoSchools – will ensure that their contributions are not only noted, but celebrated, he indicated.
“The SERE Committee has long been aware of the pivotal role custodians and cleaners play in supporting the Stewardship of Creation in our schools and board buildings,” said Caruk at a P.D. Day for custodial staff at St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School on March 16th.
“After years of talking about recognizing exemplary members of our custodial staffs, we are proud to recognize, for the first time, those members of the custodial staffs who are role models for environmental leadership within their educational communities.”
Welcoming Caruk and Superintendent of Education Morris Hucal to the afternoon P.D. Day session, Area Manager Linda Tattrie expressed her appreciation, on behalf of Plant staff, for the awards.
“When we first heard about the awards program, we were very thrilled.”
A number of individuals were nominated for the first-time award by their schools.
“We’re recognizing just a few of you, but you’re all winners,” said Superintendent of Education Morris Hucal, a longtime environmental advocate. Speaking to the Ontario EcoSchools program that has been successfully implemented in all HWCDSB schools, he added “it’s taking place because of all of you.”
In addition to its educational and stewardship components, the program has also resulted in energy savings for the board.
“It started as a new initiative, but at the end of the day, there has to be someone at the end of it,” said Hucal. “I really thank you for playing such a big role. If we didn’t have your buy-in, this wouldn’t happen.”
“Thank you for consistently ensuring Stewardship of Creation.”
The first individual recognized as an exemplary Steward of Creation was Greg Davis from Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School. As part of his commitment to waste management, Davis installed a recycling centre in the cafeteria and regularly monitors it to ensure its proper use. He has also set up waste audits and weighs the school’s waste, which helps with the EcoSchools certification application. In other activities, he helps the Eco Club maintain the school community garden, especially during the summer when the students are away.
Mark Desormeaux from Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Elementary School was the second recipient of the award. Desormeaux has worked with the school’s Eco Club for eight years and has cheerfully helped to create a flowerbed and vegetable garden. Moreover, he has run contests for students dealing with nature and awards prizes to the winners. “Mark is a true environmentalist who leads by example,” wrote his nominator.
Miroslaw Jadelski from Cathedral was nominated by his school for collaborating with the Eco Team on energy conservation initiatives and helping to maintain the greenhouse. Jadelski has also helped with the school’s stainless steel water bottle drive, which encourages students to use refillable water bottles at the hydration station. He is an integral part of the Eco Team’s yearly school ground clean up, attest Cathedral staff.
Patrick Kelly from St. Margaret Mary plays an active role in the school’s environmental program. His voice can be heard over the P.A. beckoning the Eco Reps down to the office on recycling day. In other projects, he has set up the school book swap, established proper recycling for Pancake Tuesdays, and is active in maintaining the school garden and different greening projects. A role model for energy conservation, Kelly rides his bike to school every day, weather permitting.
For Terisinha Paiva, it's waste not, want not. The exuberant custodian has made a cottage industry out of Kool-Aid Jammers at St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic Elementary School. She’s also been known to sew aprons for the JK/K painting centre, as well as shopping bags, lunch bags and curtains for classroom windows for use during lockdown. Paiva is an important member of the school community, helping with eco initiatives such as Wear Yellow Day, Waste Free Lunch Challenges and numerous greening projects at the school.
The final award recipient was Gaetano Spadafora from St. Martin of Tours Catholic Elementary School. Spadafora has been practising the three R’s long before they became popular, and was even profiled by the local media for his recycling skills. Spadafora has established a great rapport with students, and is more than happy to share his extensive knowledge with them.
While the six were applauded for their distinguished contributions to the Ontario EcoSchools program and board environmental initiatives, others were given a well-deserved shout out for their work. Honourable mentions went to Pio Ieluzzi from Immaculate Conception, Ed Kearse from Our Lady of Peace, Rob Martorelli from St. Joachim, Mark Restivo from Immaculate Conception, Mario Spadafora from Canadian Martyrs, and Fergie Warren from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
The awards celebration is hoped to become an annual event.