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Ontario CEC’s 65th Anniversary

Ontario 65th

Canadians Have Served in Key Roles During the 100 Years of CEC International

As The Ontario Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) celebrates 65 years this year and CEC International is recognized in 2022 for its 100th year of supporting the field of special education, it is important to recognize the contribution and leadership role of Canadians.  The Canadian Council for Exceptional Children has also played a significant organizational role since 1958.

In 1922 at the founding meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children at Columbia University, Imogene Palen, a Teacher of Lip-reading at the Toronto Board of Education, was one of twelve people present and was an encouraging influence with Ontario educators to support the development of CEC.  Educators from Ontario attended meetings, professional sessions and provided leadership that helped in the early formation and ongoing leadership of the new and developing CEC organization in North America.

Annual CEC International conventions and symposia became popular professional development opportunities when they were held in various states and provincial provinces.  Fifty Canadian educators attended the first annual convention in 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Special educators joined different CEC Divisions and became very active in such groups as the CEC Pioneers Division and the Council for Administrators of Special Education Division.  Over the years, the Annual CEC Conventions have been held in key Canadian cities and have attracted a large registration from North America and across the globe.  CEC members from Canada have attended the CEC World Congress when held.

Over the years a number of Canadian educators have served as Presidents of Provincial CEC Federations, The Canadian Council for Exceptional Children and as Governor-at-Large for Canada on the International CEC Executive.   Canadian CEC leaders have been elected as President of the International CEC organization.  Canadians have been recognized for exemplary service and leadership through CEC International’s and Division’s award processes.  In April, 2000 the Canadian CEC Delegate Assembly passed a resolution at its meeting in Vancouver, Canada that “honoured and recognized past CEC leaders for their accomplishments and contributions to The Council for Exceptional Children, the special education profession and the education of individuals with exceptionalities, their families and service providers.”

For a number of years The Canadian Council had a part-time Executive Director who liaised with the CEC International Executive Director at headquarters in Reston, Virginia.  As the result of a decision by the CEC Executive Committee to require Canadian CEC members to pay annual dues in US currency, a Puzzle Committee was established in 1987 to negotiate a change in the status of the Canadian office to approve a full-time Executive Director who also attended the Executive Committee meetings at the Virginia headquarters.  An agreement was reached on both matters with the support and encouragement of both Executive Committee members and the CEC Executive Director and headquarters staff.  The bond between the CEC members of Canada and the USA were strengthened further.  A Canadian was soon elected once more to the position of CEC President and the next Annual CEC convention was hosted by Ontario and Canada CEC at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto.

Over the years, CEC members and Administrators in Ontario and Canada have been actively involved in influencing policy development for the education and support services for exceptional children and youth.  Ontario CASE and the Ontario Federation were integral partners with the Special Education Branch, Government of Ontario, in the development of “Bill 82 – Responsibility Legislation for the Provision of Special Education” and with the provision of a new funding model. Publication of the Special Education in Canada Journal, “We Are Not Alike”, “Harmonizing Differences'' and support for the “Yes I Can” awards recognition program for differently abled young people have been hallmarks of CEC leadership.

For many educators in Canada CEC has provided some “mountain top” experiences and life-long memories.  Canadians have been proud to be part of this large international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for special individuals.  This active network of professionals organized in state and provincial federations, local chapters, divisions and subdivisions has provided forums to build a close working relationship with peers and provide a variety of professional benefits.  The members of The Council for Exceptional Children have been advocates with legislators for exceptional children and youth and their families and service providers.  There is much to celebrate and present members and leaders stand proudly on the shoulders of those who have gone before and who have left a legacy.

Happy Anniversary Ontario, Canada and International CEC.  Together and “entre amis” we are strong!!!

Earl G. Campbell

Past Ontario Federation President, OCASE President, Canada CEC President and Governor-at-Large, Canada


The Ontario Council of Administrators of Special Education (OCASE) is an official division of the Council of Exceptional Children and CASE International. OCASE membership includes Directors, Superintendents, Principals and Coordinators/Consultants of Special Education. OCASE holds two symposia each year on current special education directions and issues. It is also an opportunity for members to interact with staff from the Special Education Branch of the Ministry of Education.


OCASE has worked collaboratively with the Ministry on special education initiatives and projects since 1976. That year the newly appointed Branch Director, Dr. Gordon Bergman, stated that he wished “to especially enhance the Ministry's relations with parent groups and provincial organizations that are concerned with special education, including the Council of Administrators of Special Education”. In 1990 OCASE was invited to have a seat at the table of the Ministry of Educations Special Education Advisory Council. Members also participated in a variety of Ministry research projects.


Our earliest meeting minutes date back to 1982. That year the Past President was Maureen Clench from the Frontenac County Board of Education, the President was Fred Reynolds of the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, and Secretary Treasurer was Mairi Warnock from the Ottawa RCSS Board. Our current OCASE Executive is President Karen McCarthy (Halton Catholic DSB), President Elect Laurie Moore (Provincial and Demonstration Schools Branch of the Ministry of Education) and Secretary Treasurer Dan Mattka (Retired Grand Erie DSB). Over the years OCASE has recognized many individuals with the OCASE Outstanding Administrator in Special Education Award. We applaud those educators and others who have given their time and expertise on the Executive to support their colleagues in making a difference for the students with special education needs.


Congratulations to the International Council of Exceptional Children on their 100th anniversary and Ontario CEC on their 65th. OCASE is pleased to be part of this year's celebration,  and looks forward to many more years of collaborative partnership, committed to improving special  education programs and services for the students in Ontario.

Ontario CEC-PD supports OCEC's programs and activities. Any person who has been a member of CEC for a period of at least fifteen (15) years, or has served as an officer of a CEC Division or state/provincial unit, or is a Past President of CEC shall qualify for membership.   All members of the Pioneers Sub Division must hold concurrent membership in CEC.


The Pioneers Sub Division was founded in 1996 and the first official meeting was held at the provincial conference on November 8, 1996. Enid Baird chaired the meeting.


Over the years, the Pioneers initiated a number of initiatives in direct service as well as supporting events at the CEC Ontario annual conference. A few are highlighted below:

  • “Secrets of Our Success” was produced. This little booklet provided tips for teachers who were working with students with special needs. This booklet served as a fundraiser for many years.
  • “Pioneer Spirit” (Newsletter) was published several times a year. It highlighted Ontario special education information; featured CEC members’ contribution to the field and to the organization as well as contact information for all CEC services.
  • The Pioneers acknowledged exemplary leaders in Special Education through the Lifetime Achievement Award which was presented at the conference Showcase event. Leaders recognized include the following:
    • 2001  Bob Martin
    • 2002  Wayne Tomkins
    • 2003  Hellen Bogie
    • 2004  Claranne McFarling
    • 2005  Jackie Bajus
    • 2006  Lynn Ziraldo
    • 2008  Enid Baird
    • 2009  Bruce Mason
    • 2011  Cheryl Zinszer
    • 2012  Diane Vandenbossche
    • 2013  Cindy Perras
  • YES I CAN AWARDS. The Pioneers took responsibility for the entire process of this very special event. From sending out invitations to CEC Chapters for nominations, to screening the candidate information, to sending out the invitations for the luncheon, to recognizing each recipient at the luncheon, to presenting the certificates, etc. This was the highlight of the conference.
  • Pioneers continue to have a display at the annual conference and provide support at the CEC Awards presentation and luncheon.

Memories of the Ontario Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders

by Don Dworet and Pauline Thornton


(This division is now known as the Division of Emotional and Behavioral Health – DEBH)


OCCBD started around 1979-80. It was started by Shelley Gray and Jean Cutbill, and Don Dworet became involved shortly after. The subdivision was recognized by Ontario CEC and International CEC and its special interest Division CCBD in the early 1980's. The Ontario subdivision of CCBD found its initial impetus in the sharing of information amongst university professors in special education faculties in both Canada and the United States. The United States’ universities often had Special Education faculties devoted specifically to Emotionally Disturbed children…hence they authored most of the research in the field.


Initially the OCCBD executive was mainly comprised of university faculty and Special Education administrators at the Board level who were in the position to influence practice back in their own Boards. Face to face meetings four times a year meant that there was heavy over-representation from the GTA and southern Ontario. Over time, the executive of the Council shifted to include more grassroots level teaching and consulting staff and began to meet on Saturdays. Teleconferencing enabled our northern counterparts to become active executive members.


One of the highlights of OCCBD was a provincial meeting, held at and financially supported by the Ontario Ministry of Education, which brought together a representative of every board to discuss how each board was educating students with behavioral exceptionalities.  This meeting  was chaired by John Mastrionni and Don Dworet. A summary of this day was prepared with recommendations. 


Ontario is a large diverse province. OCCBD tried hard to partner with Boards to provide professional development opportunities for practitioners and had an annual presence at all provincial CEC conferences as well as those hosted by the international CCBD. OCCBD also sponsored a discussion on educating students with behavioural disorders at almost every Ontario CEC conference since the 1990's. It was called “Hot Topics''.


In the early 1990's the executive of OCCBD met with the NDP Minister of Education to advocate for students with behavior disorders. OCCBD paired with our Ministry to do province wide surveying of attitudes and practices. Those formed the basis of two province-wide forums of Behaviour practitioners. OCCBD was a critical part of the organizing committee of Canada wide CCBD conferences (St. Catharines and Vancouver) involving participants and presenters from every province.    


OCCBD executive has consistently made their top priority the retrieving, sharing, and exchanging information from across the entire province. Methodology and beliefs about students whose academic achievement was impeded by their behaviour (for whatever reason) was initially extremely varied across the province in the 1980s and 1990’s. Boards had little solid evidence on which to base their decisions as to whether ‘segregation or integration’ models of service delivery worked best with students with Behavioural challenges. 


While CCBD journals and the Beyond Behavior practitioner magazine were part of CCBD membership, there was a need to address Canadian and Ontario-specific issues about student behaviour. OCCBD produced and disseminated regular newsletters for our provincial membership to address these matters.  


The executive tried to maintain contact with the ministry and the behaviour representative on the Ministers Advisory Council on Special Education, to advocate for Students with behavioural exceptionalities. For many years we had Ministry of Education representatives as part of our executive meetings.


In 1990 the International Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders approved the Canadian Member at Large position to sit on the International executive committee. Don Dworet held this position as did John Mastrionni, Peter Hamilton, and others.


All the above and others were committed to improving the education of students with behavioural exceptionalities. A category of student that we believed were terribly underserved. Over the years, all members tried to do what they could for this population. 


A tension between the theory and practice has always existed in the field of Behavioural Disorders. Both CCBC and OCCBD have attempted over the years to define more clearly which students fall into this broad category and to address the inadvertent stigmatization that the language in this field can fuel. Language and definitions are important.


OCCBD has always tried to be an advocate for students with behavioural challenges, their parents or caregivers and the school staff who work with them daily. A good working relationship with the Ministry of Education was developed over the years so that our voice was valued, and our input was sought on important topics (Physical Restraint). 


Lastly, progress in the emerging field of educating students experiencing behaviour challenges in this province has been significantly aided by the efforts of OCCBD. Its dedicated executive over the years has included highly respected leaders in this field, top notch researchers and presenters ….and innovative thinkers. Its membership has been uniquely passionate about what they do and those they tirelessly serve. 


We have made a difference.

Last Updated:  29 August, 2022

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