Angela Gauthier has spent her entire life inside the Toronto Catholic education system. Register file photo by Evan Boudreau

Toronto Catholic's Angela Gauthier retiring after 40 years in education

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  • May 25, 2017

After spending 40 years as an employee of Toronto’s Catholic school board, Angela Gauthier is retiring, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be heading to school when classes resume in September.

“I am going to be walking my granddaughter to her local Catholic school,” said Gauthier, who began her career in 1977 with the then Metropolitan Separate School Board.

“I’ll always be involved in Catholic education in some way shape or form. (But for now) I would like to just be a full-time grandparent.”

It should come as a welcome change of pace from her last five years when, as director of education, she has had to do a budget “juggling act” to deal with a $23.5-million deficit.

“That was truly the most difficult thing,” she said. “For the first couple of years (as director of education) ... my every day focus was on the budget.”

The deficit was blamed on a miscalculation used in both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 budgets, which caught everyone, Gauthier included, by surprise.

“That rocked us to the core. It was something that we were not expecting,” she said. “When I started here (as director of education) in ‘13-’14 we had had a rapid succession of leaders for different reasons, legitimate reasons, and I looked forward to creating a period of stability for the board.

“My first year was full of hope and we had amazing plans to ... move forward on our multi-year strategic plan and then a lot of that had to be parked because of the financial crisis.”

Forced to defer many of her original plans, Gauthier then had the task of establishing a sense of financial stability.

“The stability did come as part of my tenure and not just thanks to me alone,” she said, giving credit to her senior staff. “What kept it doable, even though very difficult, was the energy and the commitment that I had in my senior staff and the face-to-face communication that we committed to our of the system. I have never seen a group of people at all levels of this organization come together to make things right.”

Gauthier and her team developed a four-year plan to rebalance the books in 2018.

“I am proud to say that with a very difficult situation we are coming out of it now early,” said Gauthier. “We’re retiring our deficit one year early.”

On May 18 Toronto Catholic’s board of trustees were formally presented with this news accompanied by a financial report detailing the efforts and impacts of the debt-reduction plan.

But the expedited success is the result of “implementing some very difficult decisions and reductions,” which have left a lasting impact on staff morale.

“Certainly staff morale has suffered because of it (and) we need to come out of that,” admitted Gauthier.

That task will go to the next director, who is expected to be hired this summer.

Gauthier said a key element to her career has been a strong faith life.

“That has been the rock that has steadied us,” she said.

“You have to be a faith-filled person to take on the role of Catholic leader. Without it I don’t care how many stars you can put after your name, you are not successful if you cannot live the faith, communicate the faith and nurture it.”

Gauthier’s roots with the board go back well before she was even an employee, having attended Catholic schools in Toronto as an elementary and high school student.

“I have so many good feelings about this board that I can’t even being to put them in a nutshell. ” said Gauthier. “I have loved each and every phase in my experience as a teacher, consultant, as a principal and all the way up through the ranks.”

And while each school year generated treasured memories, those created while serving as principal of a French-language school are among Gauthier’s favourite.

“Before the French first-language schools had their own board I had the privilege of working with that minority group,” she said. “That was really exciting to see the struggles to sustain your language and your culture and I think that carries over into everything else. It has just been a blessing, a blessing of a life and career as a Catholic educator.”

With her career as grandmother well under way and a second grandchild just a months old, Gauthier says she is ready to step back.

“For the first few months (of retirement) I’d like to totally refocus and drop off the grid,” she said. “I would like to be able to dedicate more time to family. (And) I’m leaving the board in a good position and that there are a lot of wonderful people to continue the work.”

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