Honouring a Pioneer – Gina Coish

Web Posted by:


When Gina Coish started working in education, online privacy was not on the radar. In the 30 years before her official ‘retirement’ this year (more on that later) it became the defining focus of her career.

“I worked in practically every department,” Gina says of her early years with the Simcoe County District School Board (SDSB). “It gave me a broad understanding of the business of education.” That wide lens would be a great advantage when she was asked to assume full-time responsibility for access and privacy in 2005. Things were starting to explode on the tech side and the Ministry of Education had introduced managing information for student achievement. Boards had a lot of questions about the privacy and information management considerations.

Before long, Gina found herself co-chairing OASBO’s Privacy Task Force, which led to the creation of the Privacy and Information Management (PIM) Toolkit in 2009. It’s a comprehensive primer helping Ontario school boards comply with freedom of information, privacy, and records management legislation, as well as provincial and federal government directives that impact school boards.

“The PIM Toolkit was a huge effort and to this day it is still a great pillar for boards to build their privacy strategies around,” says John Shanks, ECNO’s Director of Business Development and the person who hired Gina into the Privacy and Record Management role at the SDSB all those years ago. “Gina has been a strong advocate for inclusion and development of cross sector thinking including many of the OASBO, OPSOA, OCSOA, CODE, and COSBO sub-committees and has set the standard for leadership by example through this process.”

“We were definitely building the plane while flying,” Gina chuckles. She is clear it was a massive team effort. “Collaboration was key. It was such a solid leadership team with a common vision. We felt that the stars aligned to bring key people together,” she says. “It was a fast moving push for innovation, so we had to keep pace and identify the risks as we went along. There also needed to be some cultural readiness in boards so we helped with that,” she says.

Gina plans to spend some of her retirement traveling and spending time with her family, although she can’t quite quit the privacy world she embarked on so many years ago: she recently assumed a part-time position as a business analyst/reviewer with ECNO’s VASP team. She also plans to do some occasional consulting with other boards.

“It has been so rewarding, I’m not quite ready to stop I guess,” laughs Gina.