Around OECTA

November 2021

Owed Planning Time

We at the Catholic Teachers of Hamilton-Wentworth office and the leaders at the Provincial office understand the stress that the OT shortage has caused for teachers. So much is already being asked of you and planning time is the opportunity to take a pause and get some much-needed prep work completed. The loss of planning time, the last-minute notice causes further stress. I’m sure that the fact that the board has not solved this problem, feels like further disrespect. We also understand that as your advocates, members want us to be able to do something about this.   

We have informed members of this information through emails, newsletters and at General Meetings, to ensure awareness of the measures we have taken to push the board to resolve this issue. We will try to help you understand why we are having this issue in HWCDSB but also what we are doing about it.  

First, it is important to know that this problem is not unique to HWCDSB. There is a province wide shortage of OTs. This is happening across the province. It is worse in our board because of problems that we have drawn to the attention of the board for years. Some are under the impression we have OTs who want to work and they are sitting at home not working but this just isn’t the case. The board is dangerously short OTs.  

We have pushed the board to make changes in several areas. The first is that the OT list is inflated. For years we drew the board’s attention to this because we saw names on there of members who had retired or been hired with other boards. The board tried to point the finger to OTs declining jobs. But they were short OTs and their inaccurate list made it appear as if they had more OTs than they actually did. Through our conversations over the past few months, they have finally committed to cleaning up the list.  Another major area that the board needs to work on is how they recruit new grads to HWCDSB. We have said repeatedly that other boards have a better system of hiring new OTs and that the HWCDSB takes too long to contact them after they apply. We have provided specific examples of OTs who were waiting to hear from them, that took other jobs because they didn’t get a call back. They didn’t do anything about this. In fact, in April/May/June 2021 they only hired 5 new OTs during “prime time” graduation from teacher’s college. This is unacceptable. We specifically have made the suggestion that every student teacher in our schools right now, should be approached by the principal, invited to apply, and the board should be interviewing them and making a job offer during their placement, even before they graduate. From what we are hearing, the board doesn’t seem to be taking this suggestion seriously.    

We have raised with the board, how to make HWCDSB more enticing to OTs. We shared with them that HWDBS is paying OTs at 133% of the daily rate. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how that would affect the number of OTs accepting jobs since it is not uncommon for them to be registered with more than one board for daily OT work. Some Boards pay all or some of the health and safety benefits. We have also made them aware of other incentives that boards in Ontario are using to bring OTs to their board. Some are offering benefits, $600 bonus for working a certain number of days in the school year, $300 bonus for work a certain number of Fridays in the school year. We haven’t seen any of these items implemented but are hoping the board has taken our suggestions seriously.    

We had a number of permanent and LTO positions that were unfilled this year. Our suggestion was that the board drop the requirement for AITs to have Arts qualifications, in order to get the position filled so teachers had their planning time. This also made sense since classroom teachers seemed able to teach the AIT curriculum all last year! They agreed to do this for LTOs and were able to fill some of the positions as a result. They would not do it for the permanent AIT positions. We suggested the board take any unfilled half-time positions (where no OTs applied for the job), and make them full-time positions. The other half of the day, we suggested, they could be used to pay back owed planning time. They did this. We suggested they call retired AITs to come back to fill the gap and they did. The board has also brought back retired SERTs and teachers to fill the gaps. This requires approval from OECTA, and we agreed to it. We are willing to agree to any reasonable band-aid measure to help get classrooms covered so members get their much-needed planning time.    

Last year’s missed planning time was in the process of a provincial grievance. Catholic Trustees were successful in arguing that the provincial arbitration should not be heard there but at a hearing at each individual Board. In a rare move OECTA Provincial is appealing it. The loss allowed us to file a local grievance which we just moved to arbitration. We made our position very clear to the board, that all of your AIT time is still owed, along with any outstanding PT. Primary virtual teachers are owed their AIT time and PPT since they had to teach all of that curriculum last year.  We also believe that paid back planning time during virtual instruction should not be counted as it required you to plan and assess for your planning time. Many had to be IT support while on “planning time”.  Both our office and the Provincial Association continue to work on a resolution of these grievances as a top priority.  

This year’s missed planning time is a little different. Our contract has a mechanism for payback that allows for a number of months to pay back the missed time. First, it can be paid back in the following month with any unassigned time in the PPT/FSL/AIT schedule. If it is still owed at the end of the next month then a principal calls in an OT until it is paid back. Due to the shortage, they ability to do this is challenging. The contract also states that owed planning time must be paid back by the end of the year in which it is owed. Any planning time still owed at the end of the year will be grieved if it is not resolved.  

We are doing everything we can, from our end, to come up with solutions for the Board, but in the end, the board has to agree and act. They are the employer. We hope this information helps you in understanding that we are doing everything in our power to deal with this issue. Unfortunately, some of those things simply require time. We know this doesn’t help you now. In the end, you need to take care of your mental health. If you can come up with a solution at your school, with your colleagues, then we would expect principals to be supportive of their staff. This could be a teacher taking 2 classes outside while the other takes planning time. Then they switch. Outside of the box thinking may not solve the shortage, but might be able to alleviate the pressure a little. If you are not supported by your principal, with some of these short-term measures, please let us know.

Professional Development Funds

As part of the OECTA Hamilton-Wentworth 2021-2022 budget, $20 000 has been set aside to assist members with costs associated with professional development opportunities such as AQ courses, conferences, and workshops. To take advantage of this opportunity, please complete the application form linked below.

Please Note:

  • Each member is able to access up to $250.00.

  • Included: AQ courses, conferences, workshops, classes, including OT coverage for an absence to attend a course/conference/workshop etc.

  • Excluded: Expenses like accommodations, mileage, books, technology, etc.

  • First come, first served. Priority given to members who did not access the funds last year.

  • Documentation of completion and a copy of the receipt will be required to receive reimbursement.

  • PD must be completed between September 1, 2021- August 31, 2022.

  • Persons working for another board are not eligible.

  • Applications are subject to the approval of the PD committee.

OECTA AQ Courses

Your Association offers a wide range of Additional Qualification courses to help you progress in your career. Taking an AQ course is a great way to add to your professional portfolio so that you can better meet the needs of your students. Consider registering for an OECTA AQ course today!

Course Fees

  • Religious Education Part 1 - $550

  • All other AQ courses - $600

Course Catalogue

Please note: No face-to-face courses are running during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, OECTA’s AQ program looks forward to relaunching their face to face program with even more courses than before.

Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting Updates

On October 29th, the Ministry of Education provided updated guidance to school boards regarding assessment, evaluation, and reporting in the 2021-2022 school year. While Growing Success remains the guiding policy, teachers will want to take note of the changes in place this school year. Adjustments to the policy are in place for the following:

  • Signing, Distribution, and Filing of Report Cards

  • Reporting for Kindergarten

  • Progress Reports

  • Assessment of Social-Emotional Learning Skills

  • EQAO Assessments

  • and more...

To view a summary of the updates, please click here.

COVID Guidance Updates

Intermediate Division Recess Cohorting

When schools opened in September, Hamilton Public Health made the recommendation that all students would maintain the practice of cohorting while outside for recess. This advice was given contrary to the perplexing guidance given by the government where students were free to cross cohorts so long as they maintained as much distance between cohorts as possible.

"Students do not need to stay within their cohort during recess and breaks outdoors, but distancing should be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible."

Health, safety, and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022)

Recently, Hamilton Public Health approved the elimination of cohorting at recess among students in grades 7 and 8. Students in Kindergarten through grade 6 must remain in their cohorts. On seeking clarity from the Board, it was expressed to us that students do not need to wear a mask while crossing cohorts at recess, and in the situation of a grade 6/7 split, the grade 6s would need to remain cohorted, though the grade 7s could cross cohorts.

Despite vaccinations being available to students aged 12-17, school vaccination data exposes potential folly in the plan. Whereas, some communities have demonstrated widespread uptake of the vaccine, there are several schools where the vaccination rate among grade 7 and 8 students remains low. Further, permitting cross cohorting places all schools on a slippery slope as the younger grades often take their cues from the older children in the building. Our concern is that this is a step too far, too soon. Time will tell. Members are encouraged to remain vigilant and ensure that they are following the prescribed COVID-19 measures and protocols. We're almost there. Stay the course.

177 C01 Lifting of Recess Cohort Requirement Lifted for Gr 7 & 8.pdf

CYO Winter Sports Return to Play

HWCDSB Memorandum 193 C00 C.Y.O. Athletics COVID-19 Management Policies and Procedures

Recently, Hamilton Public Health approved the CYO Winter Sports Return to Play Plan. Teacher volunteers should familiarize themselves not only with the points noted below, but also with the CYO's COVID-19 MANAGEMENT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES.

Senior Sports (Grades 7 and 8)

  • Tryouts/Practices can begin no earlier than January 3rd, 2022.

  • Games can begin as of January 10th, 2022

  • Volleyball – no vaccination or testing requirements (this sport has not been deemed high contact or high intensity), and;

  • Basketball – vaccination or regular testing will be required (see HWCDSB Protocols).

Junior Sports (Grade 4-6)

  • All of the same rules apply as above and;

  • Practices/Tryouts can begin no earlier than March 21st, 2022.

COVID Questions and Answers

"It’s all so confusing and frustrating at the same time. Nothing makes sense anymore when it comes to COVID."

~OECTA Hamilton-Wentworth Member, 2021

The above quote was taken from an email to our office by a member expressing exasperation with the ever-changing COVID-19 guidance. As more is learned about the virus and updates issued to documents, it is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated with it all. To help members with staying on top of things, your Association has pored over all the new information to assemble a Question and Answer document to help keep you expeditiously informed. Click the button below to access the Q&A.

Vaccinations For Children

With approximately 3.3 billion people in the world now double vaccinated against COVID-19, the evidence in support of the vaccine's effectiveness and safety is irrefutable. On Friday November 19, Health Canada authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine for children aged 5-11. To read about how the vaccine was studied and tested for children and youth, click here.

Please Note

  • Everyone who will be 5 years of age or older before the end of 2021 can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Children 5-11 year old MUST have an appointment.

  • Appointments are not required for individuals age 12 or older receiving first or second doses.

Tips to Help Your Child Prepare For Vaccination

Book an Appointment Today!

To view the available clinics, clicking on the COVID-19 Vaccines button to the left of the map. Select a clinic to begin the booking process.

Incident/Accident Reporting Procedures

When an Incident/Injury Occurs

  • Members shall immediately inform their supervisor.

  • Within twenty-four (24) hours the supervisor will complete a Parklane report with the member.

    • Please request a copy of the report for your records.

  • If medical attention is required or time is taken off from work, members will be given an “Initial Return to Work Offer” as well as WSIB Form 8 for the attending medical practitioner to complete.

  • Members are also required to contact the Disability Management Office.

What Happens With the Report?

  • The supervisor shall investigate the accident with the worker health and safety representative and suggest prevention measures on the online employee accident/incident reporting form.

  • A summary report for each incident is provided to the school's health and safety committee and the OECTA-HW office.

When a Critical Injury Occurs

  • After ensuring everyone's safety, the supervisor will secure the accident scene for a formal investigation to occur.

  • The Ministry of Labour, Health and Safety Manager, and worker health and safety representative must be notified.

  • A thorough investigation will be conducted by the supervisor and worker health and safety representative.

  • The results of the investigation are to be forwarded the Health and Safety Manager, the health and safety committee, and the OECTA-HW office.

Critical Injuries

The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines a critical injury as an event/incident which...

  • Places life in jeopardy;

  • Produces unconsciousness;

  • Results in a substantial loss of blood;

  • Involves a fracture of a leg or arm, but not a finger or toe;

  • Involves the amputation of a leg, arm, hand or foot, but not a finger or toe;

  • Consists of burns to a major portion of the body, or

  • Causes the loss of sight in an eye.

Epidemic of Violence

In Harm's Way: An Epidemic of Violence

In 2018-2019, Chris Bruckert, Darcy Santor & Brittany Mario, researchers at the University of Ottawa, conducted a survey respecting harassment and violence experienced by education sector workers in Ontario. The research specifically focused on the experiences of workers who are not teachers. These are our colleagues serving in roles of early childhood educators, educational assistants, youth workers, clerical, maintenance/trade, and food service workers. What is revealed by their responses to the survey is a truth that all education sector workers have known to be true for far too long - violence and harassment in Ontario schools is on the rise.

Some Key Findings

  • Rates of workplace violence are startlingly high and are increasing.

  • Rates of PTSD are shockingly high.

  • There is a significant risk of occupational burnout.

  • Violence against education sector workers is normalized and minimized.

  • All too often the response to violence is inaction and/or blame.

  • Workplace violence extracts a heavy toll from families.

  • Workplace harassment and violence have profound lasting impacts.

  • Workplace violence impacts everyone in the school community.

  • Women experience higher levels of harassment and violence.

  • One in ten participants experienced a reprisal for reporting harassment.

  • Workplace harassment and violence rates are correlated to incivility.

“I just want to say that schools are becoming zones of disrespect and violence. I have worked for 30 years. Kids have always had problems, but they didn't hurt their teachers.”

Read the Summary Report

Read the Full Report

Hear No Evil, See No Evil

Following the death of Devan Bracci-Selvey, a review panel was convened with a mandate to investigate the issue of bullying in schools of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. After a deep examination in which over 10 000 people were consulted, the panel returned 11 broad recommendations with detailed action plans for implementation. These recommendations and the other findings of the panel are applicable to all schools in Ontario.

Throughout its report, the review panel cites the necessity of data-driven and evidence-based decision making in the implementation of its recommendations. This underscores the importance of formally reporting incidents of violence, harassment, and bullying. Members are reminded of their professional duty to report incidents of violence, harassment, and bullying to the Board. In the absence of reporting, it's difficult to see the scope of the problem. No support will come for a problem which "doesn't exist."

Know Your Contract

After much going back and forth with the Board to ensure that everything was letter perfect, we are happy to make available to members a digital copy of their contract. Please be sure to download a copy of the collective agreement for your reference.

Collective Agreement September 1, 2019 - August 31, 2022 (pdf)

OT Collective Agreement September 1, 2019 - August 31, 2022 (pdf)

Earned Leave Plan

In last month's newsletter, an article explained that the Earned Leave Plan had been negotiated out of the contract, and that there were time limits in place with respect to the validity of any earned leave credits accrued. To address some questions which have arisen, members should take note that any credits marked as ELP_P must be redeemed before the end of June 2022. If one were to have 2 credits of ELP_P, those 2 credits can be combined and the member would be fully paid for the day. Any unused ELP_P credits will be paid out at the Occasional Teacher daily rate ($248.48) at the end of the school year. Credits denoted as ELP_U are unpaid. Those must be used by the end of the following school year or they will expire and carry no residual value.

Young Authors Awards

Your Association is proud to sponsor the annual Young Authors Awards competition for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12. Students are encouraged to showcase their flair for writing by submitting an original piece within a particular style of writing. For additional details, please open the following links.

Young Authors Awards Informational Flyer

Competition Policies and Procedures

Entry Form

Key Details

  • Three levels of competition - school, unit, and provincial.

  • Winners at each level advance to the next.

  • Deadlines:

    • School Level - February 11

    • Unit Level - February 21

    • Provincial Level - March 7

  • Provincial winners announced June 9-10.

  • 3000 word limit.

General Meeting

In reflection upon the additional hours that teachers are putting in this week while conducting conferences with parents, a decision was made to postpone the OECTA General Meeting until December 8. To ask members to commit more after-hours time in such close proximity to conferences seemed too high of an ask at this time.

The meeting on December 8th will occur virtually and will begin at 4:30pm.

An email will be sent on the morning of Wednesday December 8 with a Webex link to the meeting.

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