7 Questions with Tom DAmico

Name: Tom DAmico

Current title: Director of Education

Current organisation: Ottawa Catholic School Board

Tom D’Amico is the Director of Education with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. He has over 30 years of experience in education and has had many roles including as a teacher, school administrator and as Superintendent of Human Resources and Superintendent of Learning Technologies and as the Associate Director of Education. An award-winning educator he has been recognized with the Prime Minister’s Award for teaching excellence and with Canada’s Outstanding Principal award. As a Superintendent he received the EXL award to recognize excellence among members of the superintendency. He has presented across Canada on the topics of educational technology and leadership in the 21st Century. Tom is the Canadian co-lead for New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL), a global partnership of over 1500 schools across 10 countries focused on practices to develop deep learning and the development of global competencies.

In addition to his educational qualifications, he holds an Osgoode certificate in education law; a workplace mental health leadership certificate, and an executive certificate in conflict management with a focus on alternative dispute resolution.

Tom is an off-ice official with the NHL and prior to his career in education was the general manager of Ottawa’s professional soccer team, The Ottawa Intrepid.

Tom is active in his parish, St. John the Evangelist, as a lector and a lay eucharistic minister.

Tom and his wife Michelle have two daughters, Laura and Christina, both graduates of the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

“I believe in the empowerment of youth and their ability to make our world a better place, especially through the use of social learning and technology in a connected global society”.

.

1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?

It has been challenging when parents look to remove their children from religious instruction to focus on "academics". We are so fortunate in Ontario Canada to have a publicly funded religious education system and some take that for granted, so I do see this as a challenge.

2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Things are different during the pandemic since I'm intentionally not visiting schools. The majority of the day is spent at the Board office taking part in multiple video conference calls. Usually arrive by 7:30 and leave between 5:30 or 6:00, and then end the day with 1-2 hours of clearing emails from the day.

3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

One significant lesson is to spend intentional time preparing for succession planning and building new leaders in order for the organization to grow and continually have an iterative process for new ideas and growth.

4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

I've been shaped by so many leadership books, taking small components from each to formulate my own leadership practices. A quick read is Pope Francis, "Lead with Humility" and one message of choosing pragmatism over ideology. This really resonates with the need to adapt to the situation in front of you and being open to world views that may differ from the view that you started with.

5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?

We are in a growth area of the province and for the last few years we have been adding over 100 new Catholic educators each year. We have no problem keeping staff that join our Board of over 2700 educators and close to 5000 employees. Our focus on Community is a key to ensure that everyone that joins the Board regardless of their position sees that they are an important component in the overall success of the Board with both a focus on academics and overall well being.

6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?

Actions speak louder than mottos or sayings on websites. If we proclaim that the dignity of each child is sacred to us, then we can't use scripture to marginalize those that we support.

7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a Christian school leader so far?

As a Christian leader in a Catholic School Board, I'm always moved by messages from students that often come many years after they have graduated and have chosen to come back to their faith later in their life. The lesson has been that we never know when a student will be ready and open to their faith, and the seeds we plant from K-12 may not come out for many years but we need to know that our work is so important even when we don't see the immediate outcome of infusing the gospel across all of our curriculum.