Director of education intends to retire from Catholic board

St. Clair Catholic District School Board Director of Education Deb Crawford. (Photo courtesy of the SCCDSB).

A career in education that has spanned 38 years will soon come to an end as the Director of Education for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board gets ready to enjoy retirement.

Director of Education Deb Crawford has announced plans to retire on September 30.

Crawford said although the decision to retire was not made lightly, she believes now is the right time to do so. She said despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, the school board is in “great shape” for her to step away.

“We have a very strong leadership team, we have very capable principals and vice principals, and managers, and a fantastically dedicated education staff and support staff right across our board,” she said. “So we’re very well positioned.”

However, Crawford said she will greatly miss her colleagues, as well as the students and staff.

“I think after 38 years, it’s time to spend some time with my family and hopefully do some of the things that I haven’t had time to do,” she said.

Although she is not entirely sure what exactly she will do during her retirement, Crawford said she hopes to pick up a hobby.

“I don’t think I’ve had leisure time before,” she laughed.

Crawford started her career as a Catholic teacher in 1983 with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board.

She joined the St. Clair Catholic District School Board in 2001. A few years later, she became the vice principal at Ursuline College, and then in 2007, she became principal of the former St. Christopher Catholic Secondary School in Sarnia. A year later, in 2008, Crawford was named superintendent of education and eventually she earned the title of director of education in January 2017.

“I feel very blessed and grateful for the years I have had in education,” said Crawford. “I am so grateful to all of the people I have worked with over the years. The people in Catholic education in our community are so dedicated and they always keep the children at the centre of everything they do. I am so humbled that I was able to work in a leadership position.”

In addition to her roles within the local Catholic school board, Crawford also held several regional and provincial positions, a couple of which included president of the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association and director for the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network.

The education sector has been through a whirlwind of changes over the past year due to circumstances caused by the pandemic. However, Crawford said a lesson she will take away is the importance of collaborating with others.

“Given a really serious challenge, if everyone works together, if everyone cooperates, and everyone does their absolute best… you’re able to move forward, you’re able to rise above it,” she said. “Our teachers, our education workers, and support staff have [kept moving] forward despite so many challenges. They still have brought hope and a positive environment — a very secure learning environment for our kids.”

Crawford said she hopes staff and students are able to take the next week to relax and enjoy their time off during the spring break.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank [Crawford] for her inspired leadership through some of the Board’s most difficult days,” said Chair of the Board John Van Heck. “Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, [Crawford] has kept St. Clair Catholic moving forward, completing major projects and focusing on student success and excellence in Catholic education. We are indebted to her and grateful for her service.”

The Board of Trustees is now in the process of appointing the next director of education.

-With files from Colin Gowdy