By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND – Paul Turner is soon to start a new page in his life story, that of a trustee on the Niagara Catholic District School Board.
The well-known Wellander and social justice activist/humanitarian was acclaimed to the seat in the October election. In 2016, he was named recipient of Niagara Region’s T. Roy Adams Humanitarian of the Year award.
Where there’s good to be done, you can count on Turner, a retired secondary school teacher who loves playing hockey with long-time friends and others twice a week (sometime more!) being there. That’s just the way he is. It is who he is.
I asked Turner if he would be interested in answering a few questions about his new responsibility. His response was exactly what I thought it would be: “I’m in.”
Q. Why did you want to become a school trustee?
A. I became a school trustee because my good friend Ted O’Leary (current Welland trustee, did not seek re-election) decided he has put in his time and so his position needed to be filled. Catholic education is a priority in my life.
Q. After 30+ years in the classroom, will it be a big transition before you feel at home in the boardroom?
A. I definitely will be on a learning curve. I am a person who likes to put my faith into action, but I will first have a listening ear, especially to those who are the most vulnerable.
Q. You are well known for your community activism, especially when it comes to poverty awareness and issues. Will you stay involved in these and other interests now that you have a four-year commitment to being a school trustee?
A. I will always remain committed to those who are marginalized, not only in our community, but nationally and globally. I hope to be involved with alternative learning when it comes to our school board. Those students struggling with the school system for various reasons.
Q. The board’s inaugural meeting is just days away (Dec. 4 ). Are you going into this experience with an open mind or have you set some personal goals that you are determined to accomplish? Can one even have “personal goals” and be a “team player”?
A. I am going into this experience with the students of our system as my main priority. I hope to have an open mind and be connected to a team that puts our students first. I do not believe there is a place for personal goals.
Q. In your opinion, what is Catholic education’s greatest strength?
A. Catholic education’s greatest strength is Jesus Christ as our example of living out our faith.
Q. In your opinion, what is Catholic education’s biggest challenge?
A. The biggest challenge is that we do not water down our faith when it comes to public education in our province.
Q. What will Paul Turner, new trustee, bring to the boardroom with him?
A. I will bring a person who is committed to my faith. I will bring my experience of teaching young people for 32 years. I will bring a passion and enthusiasm that puts our most vulnerable students at the top of the list.
(Q & A is a new feature on the blog. This is the second to appear.)