Around OECTA

March 2022

Missed Planning Time and the Occasional Teacher Shortage

Missed planning time continues to have a profound impact on the operation of schools and on your mental health. We have been constantly advocating on your behalf. Not a week has passed since the beginning of this year that we have not addressed the situation with the Board. In October we met with senior administration and members of the Human Resource Department to offer specific actions the Board could take to alleviate the situation. We continue to do so.

The week before the March break, the daily unfilled classes were in the 50s. When we returned from the break absences had increased into the 70’s, and is now around 100 each day. Public Health officials and medical experts anticipated these increases in response to the return of vacationers coupled with the removal of most layers of safety. Front line educators, like their counterparts in Long Term Care and Hospitals, are seeing the impacts of these policies in their daily working conditions. Please read the responses to the FAQs below for further understanding.

What are the Causes of the Occasional Teacher (OT) Shortage?

There are multiple reasons for the OT shortage.

  • Province wide shortage. We regularly reach out to other regional OECTA offices to keep informed about the OT shortage. Some years ago, the Faculties of Education extended the program to 2 years. At the same time, it was taking OTs over 5 years to get a permanent job offer. This has resulted in fewer students in the Faculties.

  • Job Satisfaction. More and more the teaching profession is being perceived negatively. For many the job is no longer seen as a desirable career.

  • Board Hiring Practices. The Board has antiquated and insufficient hiring processes. Too many HR employees have shared responsibilities and no one has the exclusive or substantial authority in recruitment. Each year the HWCDSB has hundreds of student teachers practicing in classrooms and it is incomprehensible that the majority of these people do not end up as our colleagues. Our Board is habitually late in filling the OT list which results in these teachers taking positions elsewhere.

  • Hamilton Public Board. The Public Board pays daily OTs $80 more each day and they pay OTs when there is a snow day. Other Boards give incentives for teachers who work more than 120 days or 75% of the school year’s Fridays. It is imperative that we are the most desirable employer in a time of limited OTs. Obviously that is not happening.

What are we Doing About the Problem?

In the beginning of November, we requested that the Board implement these specific changes;

  • Assign one HR employee the responsibility of teacher recruitment. Start recruiting as soon as student teachers enter HWCDSB schools. Each candidate should be given at least one personal invitation to apply. HR should set up interviews quickly in the first teaching block and follow up with job offers within days.

  • Don’t wait until the College of Teachers produces the certificates. The OCT is having challenges sending the certificates in a timely manner, why wait? Other Boards are hiring prior to the documentation being submitted.

  • Eliminate the Pastoral Letter. We all know the stories of how some of these letters are obtained. Possession of the letter does not mean you are “more” Catholic. There are other ways to maintain Catholic identity in schools.

  • Making our schools better places to work. If the workplace is welcoming and an enjoyable place to spend the day, the OT will be happy to return. Provide support from colleagues and administration when an OT is placed in the challenging class.

  • Posting and hiring LTO positions before the summer so other Boards do not recruit them first.

  • Be understanding and forgiving when rookie teachers make errors or don’t understand how things work.

  • Not assigning OTs duties beyond their contractual obligations.

  • HR needs to clean up the OT list.

What is the Board Doing?

It has taken far too long for the Board to begin to implement changes! The pressure you, the principals and this office have exerted appears to be beginning to make a difference. Here are some changes that appear to have begun to implement;

  • The Board is beginning an external audit of recruitment in the Human Resources Department to review the hiring process.

  • Beginning to implement steps in actively recruiting student teachers.

  • They have committed to hire uncertified students from Faculties of Education.

  • The Board has have agreed to timelines that will lead to job offers to permanent and LTO positions before the summer starts.

  • HWDSB has made some steps in maintaining a more accurate OT list.

What can Schools do to Improve the Situation?

Let’s make each of the schools a welcoming place for guest teachers. Be available to answer questions and support in dealing with difficult situations.

COVID Updates

The Sixth Wave

A Brief Timeline

  • December 7 - Initial concerns about Omicron raised by Public Health.

  • December 23 - Ontario Science Table declares Omicron is spreading quickly.

  • December 30 - Ford changes PCR testing eligibility and reporting procedures.

  • December 31 - Reported new cases precipitously drop.

  • January 1 - "Folks, folks, folks - I've solved COVID!" ~Doug Ford (allegedly)

  • January 2 - "Hold my beer." ~COVID

  • April 27 - Government's scheduled end to COVID.

  • April 28 - "lol" ~COVID

Let's be frank, the government's scheduled end to COVID is a lovely thought to hang onto. It's something we can all rally around and come together over. After two long years, we are finally out of the woods and able to move onward with our lives, putting behind us an ugly and challenging chapter of our history. Spring is around the corner, the weather's improving, spirits are up - life's looking good. Who wouldn't want that? A more critical analysis of the situation, however, would reveal that we aren't quite free and clear of this virus just yet, and that a cautious approach to removing COVID restrictions would be wise. While it is nice to remain hopeful that we are able to move on and back into a "normal" way of life, it is important to remember that the virus is still in the driver's seat, and that the government cannot simply legislate society into the endemic phase.

The most recent evidence drawn from our schools suggests that COVID is not done with us just yet. Since classes resumed following the March Break, there has been a notable increase in the number of teachers testing positive, absences are up, and the number of uncovered classes across the system has never been higher. Before the break, the Board was reporting approximately 50 unfilled classes per day. Post-break, the number of unfilled classes has doubled. Reported daily new case counts, on the other hand, stand in stark contrast to the lived experience of the education community, another example of the gaslighting we have endured at the hands of the Ford government these past four years.

Dr. Peter Jüni, head of the Ontario Science Advisory Table, and internationally renowned and respected epidemiologist, pictured here wondering why Ford won't listen to him.

*up to March 29, 2022.

Recent comments given by Dr. Peter Jüni, head of the Ontario Science Advisory Table, speak to what we already know in schools. “Oh, we’re in the middle of it,” Dr. Peter Jüni told a media outlet on March 29 in response to a question of whether Ontario was in the midst of a sixth wave. “When you look at our wastewater, it's very clear. You can call it whatever you want, you know; whether it’s a resurgence of the Omicron wave we had or a sixth wave, the point is really to understand this is not a BA.2 wave.” Elaborating further, Dr. Jüni attributed the recent increase in cases to the removal of mitigative strategies such as masking, and cautioned that we have gotten a bit ahead of ourselves by throwing caution to the wind. Clearly, COVID is not over yet. Members are advised to continue with the familiar COVID protective strategies which we have all become accustomed to over the course of the previous two years.

Advice for Symptomatic and COVID-19 Positive Individuals

Additional COVID Safety Requirements

For a total of 10 days (or 20 days for immunocompromised individuals) after symptom onset (or date of specimen collection, whichever is earlier/applicable), individuals must:

  • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings.

  • Participation in activities where masking can be maintained throughout may be resumed, but individuals should avoid activities where mask removal would be necessary (e.g., dining out)

  • Individuals who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without masking.

  • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors).

  • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact the office.

Advice for Symptomatic and COVID-19 Positive Individuals

Management of Household Members

Symptomatic and COVID+ individuals should isolate away from household members where possible to avoid ongoing exposure.

Household members should generally self-isolate while the individual with COVID-19 symptoms is isolating, with the following exceptions:

  • 18 years of age and older boosted,

  • under 18 years of age and are fully vaccinated,

  • previously tested positive for COVID19 in the last 90 days.

If self-isolation is complete after 5 days, or if self-isolation is not required, for a total of 10 days after the last exposure to the COVID-19 case, ALL household members must:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if they develop any symptom of COVID-19;

  • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings, and avoid activities where mask removal would be necessary (e.g., dining out);

  • Individuals who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without masking;

  • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness;

  • Not visit or attend work in any highest-risk settings.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact the office.


WSIB Form 6

With COVID spreading so easily, many of our members are finding themselves falling ill lately. If it is believed that COVID was contracted in the workplace, it is advised that members pursue a claim with the WSIB. An approved claim would see the reimbursement of sick days used, and, should it be required, there are health benefits available for treatments needed in recovery. Additionally, should any longer term implications present down the road, an established claim today could potentially be re-opened to access benefits in the future. To initiate a claim, a worker must complete WSIB Form 6. It is highly encouraged that contact be made with the OECTA office for support with a claim.

WSIB Exposure Incident Form

In the event where COVID is present in the workplace but one does not develop symptoms, it is recommended that a WSIB Exposure Incident Form be completed as a precautionary measure to document the incident. Given that an individual may remain asymptomatic while infected, it is entirely possible to have had the virus and never know it. The presence of an Exposure Incident Form at the WSIB, though, could help to substantiate a workplace exposure to the virus in the event of a future claim made for any potential long-term complications. The Exposure Incident Form, in this regard, would serve to protect one's future interests. Please note that this form does not open a claim but acts only to document an exposure to the virus. In all likelihood, the form would remain in perpetuity upon the WSIB's servers. But, in the event that you need it, you'll be happy you took the 5-10 minutes to complete it today. Please follow the appropriate link below to complete the form.

*Be sure to call the OECTA office for support with the claim process.

Assessment Data & Professional Judgement

“Teachers’ professional judgments are at the heart of effective assessment,

evaluation, and reporting of student achievement.”

Growing Success; Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools, First Edition, 2010.

After two grueling years marred by pivots to virtual learning and extended periods of isolation, the gaps in student learning are undoubtedly chasmic and in need of remedy. Certainly, this is an urgent issue which must be given some priority as we emerge into a post-COVID world. Integral to the process of identifying gaps in learning are the practices of assessment and evaluation - practices which form the backbone of what we do as educators. As a reminder to members, the following article taken from our collective agreement speaks to the role of the professional judgement of teachers in the process of assessment and evaluation.

A teacher’s professional judgment is the cornerstone of assessment and evaluation. Diagnostic assessment is used

to identify a student’s needs and abilities and the student’s readiness to acquire the knowledge and skills

outlined in the curriculum expectations. Information from diagnostic assessments helps teachers determine

where individual students are in their acquisition of knowledge and skills so that instruction is personalized and

tailored to the appropriate next steps for learning. The ability to choose the appropriate assessment tool(s),

as well as the frequency and timing of their administration, allows the teacher to gather data that is relevant,

sufficient and valid in order to make judgments on student learning during the learning cycle.

So what does this mean? As a professional educator, you know best the students you serve. You gain insights into where each child is at on their learning journey through myriad points of assessment which span the range from formal assessments to observations during work periods or play centres, even to conversations shared while on recess duty. Your practices of assessment and evaluation are ongoing, and not limited only to formal tests or tasks. Teachers know best which assessments are needed for each student and when the assessments are needed. Recently, some administrators have asked teachers to provide specific and prescribed data on their students, including data reaching back into term one. Let's be clear, data collection for the sake of data collection is a fruitless activity which does nothing to improve the quality of service provided to students. If anything, it makes additional work for teachers who are already not receiving planning time, and who are exhausted after giving their everything throughout a pandemic. When are you expected to find the time to accomplish these senseless and tone-deaf asks? For certain, it must not come at the expense of time spent with your loved ones or time spent for yourself.

Soon, the Board will begin placing tutors in the schools to assist in reducing the gap. When your principals ask for information to identify the students who would most benefit, you should be able to suggest students with whatever assessment you use. Please reach out to the office if your principal insists on providing that information in specific form with all the students.

EQAO Testing and Preparation

The format of EQAO testing is changing this year. The shortage of OTs has eliminated the possibility of training for Grade 3 and 6 teachers during school hours. Any training or preparation for EQAO during your planning time, at lunch or outside school hours is strictly voluntary. This government is notorious for dropping new initiatives at the last minute and expect it to happen. Our Board just passes the work on to you. Mental Health experts encourage us to determine that not all activities need to be done spectacularly, some activities only need to be done adequately. We know the EQAO adds little, if anything, to education. Please prioritize your mental health when dealing with EQAO.

OCT Sexual Abuse Prevention Program

On January 3, the Ontario College of Teachers' requirement that all teachers complete the Sexual Abuse Prevention Program came into effect. New to each teacher's OCT certificate is notation indicating whether the program has been completed or whether it remains incomplete. Teachers are required to complete the program by September 15, after which the notation will be changed to "incomplete." Successful completion of the program requires a score of 80 percent on the assessment component. Multiple attempts are permitted. Successful completion of the program is required for certification.

Through the coordinated advocacy of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) and the other affiliates, one half of a PD day prior to the start of the new school year in September will be afforded to teachers for the completion of the program. Should you have questions, please read the Sexual Abuse Prevention Program FAQ found by following the link proved below. Members can also reach out to the office with their questions.

OECTA Hamilton-Wentworth Unit Elections

Call for Nominations

In accordance with Unit By-Law 4.2, the Nominations Committee, comprised of Horst Schweinbenz and Lynda Cifani, published its first call-out for interested candidates for the following open positions.

  • President (2 year term)

  • 2nd Vice-President (2 year term)

*Must be fully certified in Health & Safety.

  • 3rd Vice-President (1 year term)

*Note: This position will carry a 2 year term length beginning in 2023-2024.

  • Recording Secretary (1 year term)

*Note: This position will carry a 2 year term length beginning in 2023-2024.

  • Treasurer (2 year term)

  • Councillor (1 year term)

*Four positions available.

  • Occasional Teacher Representative (1 year term)

*Must be an elementary Occasional Teacher. Only an elementary Occasional Teacher will be able to vote for this position

Interested in Running for a Position?

Serving your colleagues in a position on the unit executive is an exciting and rewarding experience. To put your name forth as a candidate, please e-mail Horst Schweinbenz at indicating which position you will be running for. Though the window to declare your candidacy in the first callout has closed, there will be a second and third call out in the weeks leading up to the election. Candidates may declare their interest during future callouts.

By April 25th, each candidate should send to Horst their election statement and a personal picture. Election statements will be limited to 250 words. Candidates are permitted to provide a link to a YouTube video of their speech, should they choose to create one. The hyperlink is not included in the 250 word limit. No Power Point can be used in the speech. Speeches for president will not exceed 5 minutes and all other positions will be limited to 3 minutes.

OECTA Hamilton-Wentworth Family Festival

A Time to Reconnect, Renew, and Revitalize

Facing unprecedented demands posed by a worldwide pandemic, the efforts of educators these past two years has unequivocally demonstrated to the public that the descriptor "world-class education system" when speaking of the work you do is not without merit. The countless additional hours invested redefining your practice, and the changes made to your work environment by COVID measures such as cohorting resulted in a loss of community. Now, after two long and trying years, the time has come to reconnect with our colleagues to renew our bonds and revitalize our collective spirit as a community of Catholic educators.

On Friday June 3, as a way to celebrate the heroic efforts of teachers during the pandemic, and to celebrate three years' worth of retirees, OECTA Hamilton-Wentworth will be hosting a family friendly festival at Camp Marydale. All members and their families are invited to this event. It will provide a perfect opportunity to enjoy some (COVID friendly) outdoor activities such as swimming, canoeing, archery, and more while rebuilding bonds with colleagues.

To help make this event a success we will need volunteers. Please let us know if you are able to volunteer your time for this fun event. Reach out to the office if interested.

More details regarding this event to follow. Stay tuned.

Retirement Planning Workshop

Retiring in the next five years and have questions about retirement benefits & finances?

OTIP invites you to attend the Walk into Retirement with a Plan workshop.


April 13, 2022

4:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Homewood Suites by Hilton

40 Bay Street South


During this workshop, you’ll learn about:

  • Retirement benefits for life – discover why OTIP is now the leading choice for plan flexibility regarding retirement health, dental and travel benefits;

  • Your Pension;

  • Other sources of retirement revenue, including CPP and OAS

A light dinner will be served.

If you are retiring this school year, we would love to be able to properly acknowledge and celebrate you. Please inform the office of your plans by following the link below.

From Your Provincial Association

Updates to the OECTA Leadership Training Program

Reach, Inspire, Support, and Engage

This new program was born of a desire to reach more Catholic teachers, at more varied points in their careers, with more relevant opportunities that speak to where they are along their journeys, as well as what interests them.

The program also seeks to inspire more Catholic teachers to learn and engage, as well as support those members already undertaking activities on behalf of the Association – such as Association representatives, unit treasurers, committee members, and so many more – teachers who volunteer their precious time and who deserve more direction, guidance, and support to fulfil these roles to the best of their abilities.

Lastly, the program endeavours to empower more members to action – whether that be within their classrooms, their communities, or the Association.

RISE features three programming tracks.

  • Member Engagement Series

  • Training for Active Members

  • Training for Release Officers

Member Engagement Series

Designed for classroom teachers, the professional development and training offered through the Member Engagement Series will be delivered through three annual conferences.

Beginning Teachers Conference

  • Held in autumn; 2 day event; details TBA

  • Open to permanent and occasional teachers in their first five years of teaching.

  • Features content relevant to members in the early stage of their career.

Teachers As Leaders

  • April 21 & 22, 2022.

  • Sheraton Centre Hotel, Toronto

Participants have been selected. Please stay tuned for information about next year's conference.

  • Open to permanent and occasional teachers.

  • Seeks to empower classroom teachers, at any point in their career, and provide them with the tools to engage with issues of importance to them, as teachers and union members.

  • Visit the conference page for more information.

Common Good Conference

  • Scheduled for Summer 2022.

Please stay tuned for information about applications.

  • Open to all permanent and occasional Catholic teachers who wish to engage on social justice issues.

  • Focus will be on social justice issues of importance to educators and the Association.

Training for Active Members

Designed for teachers who have taken on additional roles within, and on behalf of, the Association, this training will help to provide members the knowledge and tools needed to support their work. These roles include, but are not limited to, school rep, JHSC rep, committee chairperson, LCBC member, AQ instructor, executive member, etc.

Opportunities will be offered throughout the school year. Please reach out to the local unit president for more information on upcoming events for which you might be a good fit.

Training for Release Officers

Designed for those serving as local unit release officers, and/or non-release members identified by the local unit to fulfil current or future roles within the unit, these training opportunities will be varied in topic and complexity allowing for choice in meeting needs.

Training will be delivered throughout the year in two streams:

  • new release officers

  • experienced release officers

Information will be forwarded to local unit presidents to be shared with the membership.

Summer AQ Courses

Upgrade Your Skills. Upgrade Your Practice

Registration for summer Additional Qualification courses is now open. Courses run from July 4 to August 5. Select from a wide range of courses offered by your provincial Association. For more information, please follow the link to the course descriptions below.

Please note: All of our courses are delivered asynchronously using D2L (Brightspace).

General Course Fees

  • Religious Education Part 1 - $550

  • All other AQ courses - $600

For Your Career


To assist members develop professionally, the Association has developed WebExperiences covering a wide range of topics and issues. A WebExperience is a an engaging approach to professional development which are delivered using live and interactive online sessions designed by teachers for teachers

Upcoming WebExperiences

Click on a Date to Register

Making the Grade With Awesome Assessment

Primary, Junior & Intermediate

Faith and Wellness: A Daily Mental Health Resource

Elementary Teachers

Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Play Based Learning, Exploration, and Inquiry

Kindergarten Teachers

Pedagogical Documentation; Uncovering the Kindergarten Program

Kindergarten Teachers

Writing Communication of Learning Comments: Sharing Evidence of Learning Using Pedagogical Documentation

Kindergarten Teachers

OECTA Mini-Courses

What is a Mini-Course?

We are so glad you asked! They are short, one-month, online courses, requiring about 25 hours of time with a manageable workload that you complete on a schedule that works best for your busy life. Each Mini-Course costs only $50.

Offered on a variety of topics, they are led by fully qualified instructors and participants will get a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the course. Improve your quality of life in the classroom and try one!

Spaces are limited and pre-registration for each course is required. There is a two (2) Mini-Course limit per registrant.

Upcoming Mini-Courses

Courses Schedule: May 16-June 10.

Registration: Opens March 28 - April 25.

Got Questions? Read the Mini-Course FAQ.

OECTA Office Hours

Office Hours Live is an opportunity for teachers to connect online with an experienced teacher leader about a particular topic. It is an opportunity to ask questions about practice and pedagogy, get advice, share teaching tips and network with other teachers. Office Hours Live provides a safe space for teachers to ask questions about topics that matter most to them.

Got questions? We've got answers! Check out our frequently asked questions for more information about Office Hours LIVE.

Click on a Date to Register

Upcoming Office Hours - Interview Skills

PLEASE NOTE: Office Hours Live sessions are scheduled for members to connect with experienced staff who will be able to respond to questions that may arise from the recorded presentation. The OH LIVE session is an opportunity to ask questions about how you can improve on your interview responses, or seek advice about the hiring process. Participants are expected to have previewed the presentation and come to the LIVE session prepared to ask questions, share experiences and engage in dialogue.

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