There is no question of the significance of the influence that Joan Carr, who served as Superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools for 14 years, had on the face of education in Alberta.
Certainly, she was a passionate advocate for Catholic education and fostered a culture of excellence in learning that was grounded in the love of Jesus, but the innovation that was her hallmark is not limited to improving the quality of education for students in Catholic schools. That creativity set the benchmark for service to all students.
Joan understood that the greatest success could be found by empowering families alongside their children. The school is the central focus of our education system, but meeting people where they are at invites engagement.
Under her leadership, education in Edmonton and often in Alberta saw many firsts. For example, the Early Learning Mobile Unit, better known as the EMU, is a mobile early learning family program that offers a cozy and unique environment inside a 39-foot motorhome where parents and children can interact with Early Learning Facilitators and engage in “learn through play” experiences. It travels throughout the city to recreation centres and public libraries so that families have easy access.
Her advocacy for providing wraparound services for families resulted in Joan championing the establishment of diverse centres to meet their needs. One World…One Centre welcomes families who are newcomers to Canada and ensures that their transition into a new world is smooth. Sacred Heart Centre serves Indigenous families and the Genesis Centre serves families with pre-school and kindergarten-aged children with educational, recreational, and cultural programs.
The key to innovations such as these, as well as to the accolades and honours that Joan received can be found in her personal mission statement, which is rooted in Micah 6:8 … to act justly, to love faithfully, and to walk humbly with our God.
Joan never lost sight of the fact that children and Jesus should be at the centre of decision making. She placed great value in collaboration and understanding all perspectives in the decision-making process. Horizontal leadership was her style, and Joan’s goal was to empower her senior leadership team, principals, and ultimately all staff to serve the Catholic educational community.
Remaining connected to over 5,000 staff and 44,000 students that she served was always important to Joan. Those who e-mailed her got a personal response. When students sent cards or notes, they got one back. Staff who needed “just two minutes” got those minutes, and often a few more. Every opportunity that Joan had to interact with students or visit schools was embraced, and this brought her great joy and energy.
At the foundation of the person of Joan Carr was a deep faith and love of our God. Edmonton Catholic Schools will most certainly grieve her loss, but the Catholic community which she belonged to and served in so many ways has lost a sister, friend, and champion. We can all take great comfort in knowing that she lived her life sharing in the vision of our risen Lord Jesus Christ and working to build the Kingdom of God.
-Susan Makale is executive director of the superintendent’s office with the Edmonton Catholic School Division. She is a former teacher and principal.