Around OECTA

October 2021

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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.

Mask Exemptions

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:

Workplace Violence Report

The Road Map to Reporting Workplace Violence in Ontario School Boards: A Training Resource for Principals and Staff, 2019

Accident Report

Safe School Incident Report (SSIR) 

WSIB Reporting

Reporting to the Police

While there may be differing opinions on the requirements to report, the law remains resolute in its expectations; all violent incidents must be reported. Understandably, for many of our colleagues, this may create a conflict of conscience. In reconciling one's principles with the obligations of law, it might be helpful to reflect on the tragic tale of Devan Selvey, where patterns of violent behaviours might have been identified earlier and appropriate supports  implemented for Devan and his assailants. There's no way of telling how the circumstances may have played out differently for Devan, but in such situations, it would be preferable to be accused of having over-reported than having not. Members are also reminded that failing to report could result in potential consequences such as professional misconduct allegations at the College of Teachers. While some may disagree with this, the law remains the law. Violence is violence, and it must be reported.  

Education Act - 306(1)

The Education Act Says...

Activities leading to possible suspension

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:

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:

Occurrences Requiring Police Response

Mandatory Notification of Police

Discretionary Notification of Police

Report Cards 

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;

"The teacher will consider all evidence collected through observations, conversations, and student products (tests/exams, assignments for evaluation)...that the student has completed or submitted...and will use their professional judgement to determine the student’s report card grade."

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...

Please refer to Article 8 of your contract for all the details related to accessing your earned leave.

Staff Directories

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


The unit office is now accepting applications to a number of committees Participation on a committee is a great way to learn more about how the Association operates, share your skills and perspectives, and meet new people.  If you're interested in increasing your involvement and serving our members, please follow the links below to complete your application.  Please note the due dates for each application is November 1st at 4pm.

Legislation Committee  

Local Collective Bargaining Committee 

Unit Staffing Steering Committee 

Persons of Colour and First Nations Advisory Group

We are looking to start a group to provide advice on matters related to inclusion and equity for Black and racialized members in our school communities.  This work group is open to members who self-identify as Black, racialized, First Nations, Métis or Inuit and will advise us on how we can build better inclusive communities.  Please click on the button below and provide us with your name and personal email address.  We will be in touch soon.

Register for the Persons of Colour and First Nations Advisory Group


We are a union committed to social justice, equity and inclusion. We are inviting members of who are members of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities and allies to make our work places a more welcoming place for colleagues and students.  Please join us in building more inclusive schools.  To express your interest please click on the button below

Register for the 2SLGBTQ+allies Group

Your Provincial Association Working For You

In 2019, the Ford government increased class sizes and slashed education funding. In the 2021 budget, there was a $1.3 billion cut to school funding. These cuts will continue to increase every year. According to Ontario’s budget watchdog, the Financial Accountability Office, the Ontario government is planning to spend $12.3 billion less on schools than what’s needed in order to keep up with population growth and infrastructure needs. These massive cuts to education come at a time when key school safety measures haven’t been implemented, and when students are already struggling with pandemic learning disruptions. 

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.

The Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) at your workplace is a key contributor to the Internal Responsibility System. While the responsibility for ensuring safety at the workplace rests with the employer, the JHSC operates as the primary channel through which workers can exercise their rights:

(*Please review the link provided for more information on work refusals.)

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.


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.

Visit the Archive of Past WebExperiences

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


Communicating With Parents and Guardians: Understanding and Honouring Diversity

All Teachers

Before the School Bell Rings: Well-Being Practices for Teachers

All Teachers

*This is a two part webinar.  Attendance is required on both days.

Play Based Learning in Kindergarten


Self-Regulation and Well Being


The Basics of Google Classroom

All Teachers

Enhanced Use of Google Classroom

All Teachers

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

Back by popular demand, the OECTA Book Club is exploring two new titles this winter from award winning Indigenous authors: Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians, and Jesse Thistle’s From the Ashes.

Book Club participants will meet twice. Initially in December for a launch meeting prior to reading the novel and then again for a book talk group after reading the novel, in the new year.

To take part, participants must register for one of the offered book club session dates. Attendees are required to obtain their own copy of the book in advance of the launch meeting.

Five Little Indians

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Book Launch Meeting: 

December 1, 2021 - 7:00 p.m.

Book Talk Groups:

January 5, 2022 - 4:00pm - 5:30pm

January 5, 2022 - 7:00pm – 8:30pm

January 6, 2022 - 4:00pm – 5:30pm

January 6, 2022 - 7:00pm – 8:30pm

“Taken from their families as small children and confined at a remote, Church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released, with not money or support, after years of detention.

Alone and without skills, support or family, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and criss-cross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they each endured during their years at the Mission.

With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the bonds of friendship between this group of survivors as they help each other to reinvent their lives and, ultimately, find a way forward.” (Good, M. Five Little Indians, 2020).

From the Ashes

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

Book Launch Meeting: 

December 8, 2021 - 7:00 p.m.

Book Talk Groups:

January 11, 2022 - 4:00pm – 5:30pm

January 11, 2022 – 7:00pm – 8:30pm

January 12, 2022 - 4:00pm – 5:30pm

January 12, 2022 - 7:00pm – 8:30pm

“In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is.” 



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.

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