Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 23, 1999
Ripley believes in Catholic schools
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Dale Ripley didn't become an educator because it was a life-long dream and his passion for teaching children was an internal flame lit from day one.
He didn't get into it for those poetic reasons.
"I think God blindsided me on that one, " said the new superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools. "As a kid, I think I was either going to become a priest, a teacher or a doctor."
He chose the education route for no particular reason except that it could be a stepping stone to another career choice. But during his third year of university, while a student teacher, he caught the bug and knew that this was a keeper.
"If you had asked me my second year what I was going to do, it could have gone either way," said Ripley, 50. "But my third year, I knew this was what I wanted to do."
The Calgary native, who has spent the past 35 years in Edmonton, is the former principal of St. Edmund's School. As superintendent, he replaces Terry Fortin who is now writing a report on native education for the provincial government.
Ripley began his career in Edmonton as a teacher at St. Edmund and served in various capacities as a teacher and administrator in Catholic schools throughout the city. He earned his doctorate from the University of Alberta and was superintendent of the Evergreen Catholic Separate Regional Division, serving Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, in 1996.
His wife Louise, also an educator, is principal of St. Lucy Elementary School.
More than a week into the job and Ripley is brainstorming ideas for what can be done to ensure a place "where kids come first."
At the top of Ripley's priority list, and his biggest challenge as head of a school division serving 35,000 students, is the need to publicize the importance of Catholic schools.
"We see in other parts of the country, they're losing their (Catholic) schools," Ripley said. "If we don't articulate what's so important about our education, we may lose it."
What will be lost is the distinctiveness of what defines and differentiates the Catholic schools from its public counterparts. What will be lost is the melding of Christianity into every crevice of the school and in every lesson of the textbooks.
"We do all of these things that the other schools do . . . plus," Ripley said. "It's that plus that we do that makes us who we are."
His objectives also include support for teachers, grooming potential successors for leadership roles, and accountability in areas such as leadership, finances and student achievement.
But with the job of being the man at the top, comes the sacrifice of almost nil student interaction.
"I think that is the simple biggest piece of reluctance that I had," Ripley said. "I like kids and I like teaching. I miss those things.
"As a teacher it's great to get those letters from students 20 years ago who said you made a difference in their lives. I will definitely miss that."