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OT Shortage and Missed Planning Time
Almost all of you have been impacted by the shortage of Occasional Teachers (OTs). You have missed planning time and have been asked at the last minute to change your teaching assignment for the day. This has been an on going problem that has been exacerbated through COVID, especially this year!
In Hamilton Catholic, the shortage is particularly acute this year, but it is a problem experienced throughout the province. There is a shortage of OTs all over Ontario for a variety of reasons. There are way more positions available than teachers. That means OTs can be very selective about the positions they choose. It also means that employers need to make their job offers as attractive as possible. HWCDSB must make working here far more desirable than it has been.
Here are the latest background facts the Board shared with us.
Total # of OTs: 485
OTs on Leaves: 50
OTs in LTOs: 162
Total Active: 273
Two hundred one teachers were listed on the latest Smart Find Express. Of the 201, 70 did not even get a call! Just less than 50 OTs had made themselves unavailable. There are many reasons why someone would do that, including that they could be working elsewhere or can not work for family reasons. The remainder of the OTs not receiving calls were already offered LTO or permanent work or were on leaves but hadn’t been removed from the list. A further 70 received calls but did not accept any daily work for that two week period. Only 78 different teachers accepted non LTO work for that period. Some days this year we have as many as 130 absences. Obviously the Board needs to hire many new teachers.
The numbers simply do not add up. We have been telling the Board this for years. The OT list has included teachers that have been permanent teachers for other Boards for years. The list included teachers who had retired from OT work two years ago. It is not a true reflection of teachers working for HWCDSB. Only 261 OTs paid dues for work in our Board in September. That number includes the LTO assignments, so that would only leave approximately only100 OTs available for calls. That’s not even close to the number of OTs on the list for daily assignments and no where near the 395 teachers the Board could have available for daily work. What clear is that Board has consistently demonstrated incompetence in the recruitment of teacher college graduates and the management of OT lists and call out information.
While the Board has hired over 100 OTs in the last 14 months, it is too little, too late! The Board has hired twice as many permanent teachers, mostly from the OT list. That’s a net loss of 100 positions. Ontario teacher college programs are completed in April, some American schools end in December. We would expect significant hiring to occur in January and May, yet very few were hired in those months. The majority of hiring occurred in September, when most OTs have already been offered work at other Boards months earlier. So when they accept the Board’s offer, they often take an immediate leave of absence. The Board has five employees chasing doctor notes and one working on all the teacher staffing, including hiring. They need to rethink their priorities!
We have heard about people sitting at home waiting for calls and not getting contacted. If you provide us with the names in these cases, we will follow up. But the reports don’t suggest that occurs often. Some you have mentioned that teachers are declining jobs. No doubt that is happening. The contract allows for that, they may have accepted a job in another Board or maybe are looking for an assignment the better meets their situation.
When the labour market is as tight as it is with teachers, OTs will want to get the best fit for them. They have the luxury of being picky. Together we need to make HWCDSB to be a great place to work. All of us can help with that. While it is natural to be frustrated by this situation, taking it out on guest teachers will only help them choose another school or Board in the future. Having administrators assigning more supervision than the contract allows for may solve an immediate need, but it doesn’t make that teacher taking future assignments likely. Not making OTs feel welcome and valued does not encourage them to return to work at your school. Human Resources can certainly do a better job making new hires feel welcomed and valued.
The Board is floundering to solve the immediate problems with temporary solutions, but never addresses the root problem. In an attempt to solve their problems they have regularly violated the contract. We are open to providing variances for any solution that will help you now, but we are demanding that the Board to solve long term solutions simultaneously. Other Boards provide bonuses for OTs who work more than 120 days or work at least 75% of Friday assignments. Toronto Catholic pays benefits for OTs who work more than 50 days per year. It’s time for HWCDSB to step up with permanent strategies that will provide lasting solutions for you.
COVID Guidance Updates
Power Outages and Ventilation
In the event of a power failure, a key layer of protection against an airborne virus is eliminated, impacting the overall safety of the work environment. Last year, prior to the accepted understanding that COVID is airborne, the Board informed us that the indoor air would remain safe for up to two hours. Given the accepted understanding today that the virus is transmissible through the air, a threshold of 2 hours seems out of line with the importance being placed upon ventilation as a layer of protection.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Allen et al., Nov 2020), it is recommended that the entire volume of air in a room be fully exchanged 3-4 changes per hour as a bare minimum, and 4-6 times per hour to achieve ideal ventilation conditions. The failure of an HVAC system yields, essentially, zero air changes per hour and, thus, raises concerns for the safety of the students and staff in the building.
In the event of a power or HVAC failure in your workplace, please inform the OECTA office and the Joint Health and Safety Committee immediately. Seek direction from your principal on what is expected. Consideration should be given for an alternate learning environment with adequate ventilation until the problem is remedied.
Masking exemptions for students appear to be on the rise this year. Last year, exemptions were limited in number, with only a handful of teachers reaching out with concerns. This year, there has been a significant increase in the number of members contacting the office.
The staff guide for re-opening makes mention of “medical advice” being part of the exemption process, yet it seems that a parent’s request for an exemption is not being vetted for its medical merit. We have requested clarification on the exemption process and for clear direction on additional safety measures to implement in response to the exemption. So far, no clear direction has been provided.
To help us in furthering our understanding of the situation on the ground, a short survey has been assembled. If you have student(s) with a masking exemption, we are seeking your input. Please take a moment or two to complete the survey.
Pivoting to Online Learning
Across the board, several of our colleagues' classes have been touched by COVID, leading to a pivot to online learning. When this situation arises, teachers should ask of their principal the time they need to be prepared for a successful transition to a remote learning model. Direction will be provided by your principal. If the direction provided to you seems unreasonable, please reach out to our office to discuss.
Complicating matters further this year is the situation of classes comprised of fully, partially, and unvaccinated students. In these situations, Public Health has been providing clearance for some students to return to school, while instructing those without a full course of vaccines to isolate. In this situation, the Board assures us that they are not pursing a hybrid model at this point. Teachers are expected to post asynchronous work to the LMS for the students who are at home.
Should direction be provided to the contrary, members are encouraged to contact the unit office.
Workplace Violence Reporting
When a violent incident occurs, there are reporting requirements which must be observed as part of a process designed to identify and manage unacceptable behaviours early to minimize the potential for these behaviours to lead to workplace violence. Unfortunately, violence in our schools is often going unreported, underreported, or is incorrectly documented. This is creating the illusion of a violence free workplace, and diminishes the strength of the argument being made that our students are in need of additional supports. To help in securing the support teachers need, proper reporting procedures must be followed. Through accurate reporting, appropriate measured steps can be taken to address violence, leading to a safer workplace for everyone.
When a Violent Incident Occurs...
In any given set of circumstances, a combination of the following reports may be necessary:
Education Act - 306(1)
The Education Act Says...
306 (1) Subject to a regulation made under clause 316 (1.1) (a), a principal shall consider whether to suspend a pupil if he or she believes that the pupil has engaged in any of the following activities while at school, at a school-related activity or in other circumstances where engaging in the activity will have an impact on the school climate:
Uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person.
Possessing alcohol, illegal drugs or, unless the pupil is a medical cannabis user, cannabis.
Being under the influence of alcohol or, unless the pupil is a medical cannabis user, cannabis.
Swearing at a teacher or at another person in a position of authority.
Committing an act of vandalism that causes extensive damage to school property at the pupil’s school or to property located on the premises of the pupil’s school.
Any other activity that is an activity for which a principal may suspend a pupil under a policy of the board.
Any act considered by the principal to be injurious to the moral tone of the school.
Any act considered by the principal to be injurious to the physical or mental well-being of any member of the school community.
Education Act - 310(1)
The Education Act Says...
Activities leading to suspension
310 (1) Subject to a regulation made under clause 316 (1.1) (a), a principal shall suspend a pupil if he or she believes that the pupil has engaged in any of the following activities while at school, at a school-related activity or in other circumstances where engaging in the activity will have an impact on the school climate:
Possessing a weapon, including possessing a firearm;
Using a weapon to cause or to threaten bodily harm to another person;
Committing physical assault on another person that causes bodily harm requiring treatment by a medical practitioner;
Committing sexual assault;
Trafficking in weapons or in illegal drugs;
Bullying (if the student has been previously suspended for engaging in bullying and the student’s continuing presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person);
Any activity listed in subsection 306(1) that is motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate;
Giving alcohol or cannabis to a minor;
Any other activity for which a student may be expelled under board policy.
An act considered by the principal to be significantly injurious to the moral tone of the school and/or to the physical or mental well-being of others.
A pattern of behaviour that is so inappropriate that the student’s continued presence is adjudged to be injurious to the effective learning and/or working environment of others.
Activities engaged in by the student on or off school property that cause the student's continuing presence in the school to create an unacceptable risk to the physical or mental well-being of other person(s) in the school or Board.
Activities engaged in by the pupil on or off school property that have caused extensive damage to the property or the Board or to goods that are/were on Board property.
Any act considered by the principal to be a serious violation of the requirements for student behaviour and/or a serious breach of the Board or School Code of Conduct.
Where a pupil has no history of discipline or behaviour intervention or no relevant history, a single act, incident or infraction considered by the Principal to be a serious violation of the expectations of student behaviour and/or a serious breach of the Board or School Code of Conduct.
Occurrences Requiring Police Response
Mandatory Notification of Police
At a minimum, the police must be notified of the following types of incidents:
physical assault causing bodily harm requiring treatment by a medical practitioner;
possessing a weapon, including possessing a firearm;
using a weapon to cause or to threaten bodily harm to another person;
trafficking in weapons or in illegal drugs;
possessing an illegal drug;
hate and/or bias-motivated occurrences;
non-consensual sharing of intimate images; and
Discretionary Notification of Police
Police response may also be needed in connection with the following types of incidents:
giving alcohol to a minor;
being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs;
threats of serious physical injury, including threats made on social networking sites or through instant messaging, text messaging, email, and so on;
incidents of vandalism; and
incidents of trespassing.
While drafting their progress reports, members are reminded that it would be inappropriate to assess or comment on the progress of a student in the absence of supporting data. Growing Success offers this guidance on the formulation of a report card assessment;
In the absence of evidence, Growing Success suggests that extenuating circumstances may result in the use of the code "I" on the report card if a teacher determines it to be appropriate in the circumstances. Our members are reminded that they are to use their professional judgement in consideration of all the available evidence when authoring reports. If you have further questions to this, please contact the unit office.
Earned Leave Plan
Article 8 of the 2014-2017 contract provided members with access to partially paid and unpaid days as in incentive for an attendance record which was better than the average of their colleagues across the system. As of August 31, 2019, this plan ceased to have any force inasmuch as additional earned leave could no longer be accrued. Days previously earned, however, would remain in place to be accessed with conditions. Members should be aware of the following with respect to their earned leave days...
Partially paid days (ELP_P) may be used by no later than June 30, 2022 or if not utilized by that date shall be paid out at the occasional teacher daily rate as at June 30, 2022.
Unpaid days (ELP_U) may be used prior to June 30, 2023. If not used by that date the unpaid days shall expire and have no residual value.
You must provide at least twenty (20) calendar days’ written notice of requested days.
Access to leave days is available at any time during the school year and requests shall not be denied subject to reasonable system and school requirements.
Please refer to Article 8 of your contract for all the details related to accessing your earned leave.
To help the unit office in maintaining accurate records, your OECTA staff rep will be asking you to verify your contact information. As we head into the next round of negotiations, this is a good time to update your personal email address so that you will receive communication from our office. A reminder to OECTA staff reps...please be sure to send your school's updated directories and schedules to our office by November 9th in order to qualify for the gift card draw.
Committee and Group Callouts
Your Provincial Association Working For You
A Guide to Health and Safety in Schools and School Boards
Within all workplaces, regardless of title or position, all workers have a direct responsibility for health and safety as an integral part of their job. Everyone plays an important role as part of an Internal Responsibility System through which hazards to the health and wellness of workers are identified for the employer, and then fastidiously and appropriately remedied, yielding a safer work environment for all.
RIGHT TO KNOW about the hazards in your workplace.
RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE in keeping your workplace safe and healthy.
RIGHT TO REFUSE* any work which is unsafe.
To assist in building the capacity of members to exercise their health and safety rights, our Provincial Association has published An Introductory Guide to Health and Safety in Schools and School Boards. This document provides a comprehensive overview of the laws and regulations governing health and safety policies and programs in workplaces. It is encouraged that all our members review this guide to familiarize yourself with this information.
OTF Online Teaching Survey
The Ontario Teachers’ Federation is calling on teachers and education workers to share their lived experiences, perspectives, and insights regarding online teaching, to support the federation as it gathers data about the implications of virtual teaching and learning.
The survey closes on November 8.
OECTA Book Club
PROVINCIAL BARGAINING UPDATES
The next round of collective bargaining is upon us. Throughout the process, the Association provides regular email updates to members. Keep up-to-date on Provincial Bargaining news. Update your personal email address today. Click on the button below to begin.
What’s behind the increased cost of auto insurance claims?
With the average cost of auto insurance claims on the rise, many drivers are wondering what’s behind the increase and if there’s any relief in sight.
Here’s a breakdown of two key factors that are behind the rising cost of auto insurance claims in recent years. Learn more at