Around OECTA

December 2023

From Your Local Unit

President's Message

Hello, and Merry Christmas Season.

It’s hard to believe, from looking outside, that Christmas is around the corner. Hopefully, everyone is able to enjoy the last few days before the holiday break.

There have been challenges this year and issues that are on most meeting agendas. Violence in schools continues to be on a sharp incline, and it is the topic of many meetings both locally and provincially. Documenting incidents by staff and engaging in a plan for progressive discipline is the expectation from the office. Follow-up by principals continues to fall short, and it’s this communication that is key to developing and implementing safety plans for students that are effective. The office appreciates the feedback we receive from teachers as this helps inform our advocacy.

Collective bargaining continues at a frustratingly slow pace with January 10, 11, and 17 as current dates and we await dates in February. Many teachers have expressed their feelings towards this process, and I want to let you know, we hear you. This bargaining cycle has been like none other, and I’m not sure the model that is emerging with other affiliates is one that we want to duplicate in future rounds. The position of the Association is that staying at the bargaining table is the best way to deal with most of our priorities.

We want to acknowledge those teachers that have attended general meetings, acted as Association and Health and Safety reps, sat on unit committees, and volunteered their time beyond their classroom responsibilities. Those that are able to devote what little time they have beyond their massive workload for their students and teacher colleagues are recognized and thanked.

With that, we would like to extend our warmest wishes, during this season, to you and your families. We hope everyone stays safe, healthy, and takes the time needed to recharge with family and friends.

Merry Christmas to all, and God bless.


Important Upcoming Dates

PISA 2022: The Sky is Falling?

Triennially, students from around the world participate in a survey administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which assesses the acquisition of key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in social and economic life. The survey, more commonly known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, is conducted on 15-year-old students, an age at which compulsory education ends for many. Presumably, assessment at this stage in a student's education offers a glimpse into the effectiveness of the system through which the student has progressed.

In the previous assessment completed in 2018, Ontario's students performed exceptionally well, scoring among the upper echelons in reading, mathematics, and science—the three domains assessed by PISA. Without a doubt, Ontario's students, under the guidance and care of the hardworking teachers and other education professionals in the province, were world-class. This achievement had already become a triennial tradition for the Ontario public education system since PISA's inaugural year in 2000.

The results for PISA 2022 are in, and while Ontario remains among the best education jurisdictions in the world, some sharp declines were observed in reading and mathematics. Is it time for Chicken Little to duck and cover? Or, is the chatter of doom and demise in the ether nothing but bluster? 

Much has been made of the learning losses incurred by Ontario's students throughout the COVID pandemic. Seeking to advance their various agendas, pundits from all political slants have pontificated on their particular slice of the dataset and opined upon the best policy path forward. With 20 weeks of instructional time lost—the longest among Canadian jurisdictions—it is natural to expect that our students will have educational gaps in need of closing. But, before we make any rash decisions to chart new policy pathways, there are fair questions to ask: Are we being overly alarmist? Where does Ontario really stand? Is it as bad as they say it is? Is COVID the only influence? What does the data truly reveal?

What's in a Number?

Preemptive to what follows, as a teacher, it is understood that a student is embodied by many wonderful characteristics that make them unique unto themselves, and their demonstration of learning occurs across a rich spectrum of assessments employed in a teacher's practice. Teachers know that a child is not defined by any singular data point, and that standardized tests are merely a "moment in time" snapshot, a number as predictive of a child's future as the tea leaves at the bottom of a Timmies cup. 

Simply stated, a student's skills and competencies cannot be accurately captured in a single test given the complexity and depth of each child's understanding of the world. Any analysis of test scores and assessment data must always be taken with a grain of salt, for on the other side of the numbers are beautifully diverse children with immeasurable talents and attributes that make them special.

Driven by Data

Discussions and decision-making in the 'Eduverse' often revolve around the interpretation of narrowly curated subsets of data spun to suggest particular viewpoints. Most recently, timed to the release of the 2022 PISA results, several articles were published in a variety of media outlets with proclamations that the sky is falling, and that a desperately needed "re-think of education" (typically code for "privatize") is the salvo necessary to get things back on track. Meanwhile, other articles exclaim that public education in Canada is doing just fine and that it isn't time to pump the brakes just yet, at least for now.

Even the Minister of Self-Promotion, never one to miss an opportunity to congratulate himself, has effused on the standing of Ontario's students as among the best in the world. Are you new here, Stephen? The committed professionals in Ontario's classrooms have been preparing students to compete on the world stage many years before you came along. 

To attribute any of Ontario's students' achievement to the Ford government's "unwavering commitment" for, and "investment" in public education is, frankly, laughable. Given the experiences in schools these past 5 years, especially, making claims of accomplishment in the  education portfolio is likely to land as offensive to many in education, staff and students alike. 

The Ford government, having now reduced per pupil funding by $1200 per year since taking office, has created a sort of 'Hunger Games of Education' landscape, where the scarcity of resources is fostering chaos in schools, leading to some students falling between the cracks. In this arena, the odds are ever in the favour of the advantaged. Shame!

Your grade as Education Minister is an F. Please sit down, Stephen.

So who's to be believed?  Is Ontario doing well?  Or is there cause for concern? What's borne out in the data  would suggest that Ontario's results in reading and math, most notably, have been in decline for some time now. But the most pronounced declines were notched between the 2018 and 2022 PISA assessments, which might too easily be solely attributed to the impacts of COVID school closures, without giving other factors their due consideration. 

To lay it solely on the shoulders of the Ford government might also be too simplistic, albeit not without some merit. Significant reductions to funding since 2018 have not played out well for the students of Ontario. A longer view of the issue, however, would reveal that the factors driving the education under-funding crisis are myriad and complex, and started well before Ford took the reins of power in 2018. 

Elephant in the Room: Austerity's Impact 

Following the global financial crisis of 2008, the Ontario Liberal government, faced with significant budgetary deficits, embarked on what they touted to be the path to economic prosperity funded through deep cuts to spending on government services. Teachers who have been around this gig long enough might recall the Drummond Report, which made recommendations to the former Liberal government to cap spending on public services, with healthcare and education bearing a target for many of the cuts. To the Education budget, specifically, a key recommendation made was to hold the line at increases of 1% per year between 2010 and 2018.  Austerity became the guiding force of budget cycles, and schools were made to do far more with increasingly less support. Some things never change, it seems.

Now, more than a decade since 2012, austerity continues to be the mantra of the education budget, and its stranglehold has played out through an erosion of the programming and services which Ontario's students rely upon to retain their competitive edge as they prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. For Ontario's teachers, the strip-backs ramped up in earnest in 2012, and they were deep. Years of wage freezes. Grid freezing. Lost retirement gratuities. End of sick day banks. Restructured sick leave. The list goes on. Impacts to teachers, impacts to students. Prosperity through austerity did not include the education sector. A deeper dive into it, in fact, would reveal that austerity has been an underlying philosophy to education funding across North America these past 3 decades, playing an integral part of the orchestrated campaign to dismantle public education in Canada and the USA...but that's another article for another day.

Might COVID more reasonably be the proximate cause of the marked declines in PISA scores? Perhaps. It is awfully difficult, though, to discredit the impact that a continually constrained budget is having on the public education system. Those on the front lines can attest to the realities: fewer adequate resources; outdated or a lack of needed equipment; higher class sizes; and fewer dedicated professionals in schools to meet increasingly diverse and complex needs of students. Compounded over time, the impacts of these realities would most certainly have registered in the PISA 2022 results. 

Across an entire school or school system, imagine the opportunities possible for our students to reach their fullest potential with an extra $1200 per student per year. Smaller classes. Engaging learning resources. Experiential learning opportunities. Professional development. Computers better than Pentium™. More than one package of copy-paper per month. A supply room without a padlock. Imagination is the limit here.

The Road Ahead

As 2023 winds down, the arrival of the new year brings with it a glimmer of optimism amidst the gloomy backdrop of 2 more years with a Ford government. Why optimism? Good question. After twenty minutes of staring at a blinking cursor, it was decided there wasn't much to be optimistic about, but that this article needed to continue. So, the hard reality is that the road ahead is expected to be filled with more of the same belt-tightening. Austerity is here to stay - teachers, and the education system, will continue to be asked to do more with less on the path to prosperity

Looking beyond 2024, a true sense of optimism begins to emerge, as the Ontario political machine begins to ramp up in preparation for the 44th Ontario General Election on June 4, 2026. With the election of an education friendly government, one that understands that public education is an investment spurring $1.30 returned on every dollar invested, not an expense, the path to prosperity through education can be revitalized, and the students of Ontario can begin their ascent to their rightful place among the leaders in the world once again. 

PISA 2022: Overview of Results

PISA Reading Results, 2000-2022

PISA Mathematics Results, 2000-2022

PISA Science Results, 2000-2022

Sources and Links

OT Shortage and Unfilled Classrooms

We are all feeling the pinch of the teacher shortage. When the government changed the teacher certification program from one year to two years, OECTA Provincial warned them that this shortage would be the end result. It was a short-sighted reaction to the fact that, at one time, there were too many teachers graduating and not enough work. Add to that the fact that our profession has been demonized by the government for decades, and the conditions in our classrooms are deteriorating; our profession is becoming a less desirable job than it once was.

It is easy to become angry and jaded when you don't have the resources to meet all the needs in your classroom, and when you add in missed planning time because the PPT/FSL/AIT/TL has been pulled, it often becomes too much. It is often easier to deal with these feelings if this is someone's fault, but whose? Your colleague for taking a sick day? The OT because they don't want to work? The board because they purposely aren't sending OTs and are saving money at the cost of your mental health? We have to be honest; it is none of the above!

Teachers need to take the days available to us if we are sick or have appointments. OTs also have this same right. What it boils down to is that there is a critical staffing shortage. The board provides us with the weekly absence and fill rates during Joint Board Level Staffing Committee meetings. At our last meeting on December 11, 2023, the board showed us the data that indicates the previous three weeks had over 900 absences each week. The fourth week had over 600. In the span of a month, 3,479 sick/appointment days were utilized. When the board has just less than 200 daily OTs available, it is no wonder why we find ourselves with between 180-220 unfilled classes per week. The system cannot handle the strain.

We have heard rumblings regarding OTs who were saying they were at home, available to work but did not receive calls on days when there were unfilled classrooms. We understand how hearing this must be very frustrating for teachers; however, we have not found any cases where this is true. We have been provided with names of OTs, and we investigated. After being provided the SmartFind data, it showed: 1) calls were received but no jobs were accepted by the OT; 2) the OT had made themselves unavailable - which they are allowed to do to attend appointments or if they are ill; 3) the OT already had a job for the day, so they would not have received a call. We have yet to find evidence that the board is simply saving money by not sending out OTs. Combined with the sheer numbers of absences, we also do not believe this is a cost-saving measure.

In addition to this, OTs have been instructed to reach out to Marjalyn Thiopoulos if they do not pick up a job. An OT should be utilizing this path if they don't get work, so if you hear this, you should make sure they know to call Marjalyn to be assigned to a school with an unfilled class.

Hopefully, this information helps put the lack of OTs and loss of planning time into perspective. Please reach out to the office with any questions or concerns.

All the best as we wrap up 2023.


1st Vice-President
Lead Negotiator/Contract Manager

AGM Callout

Each year, at the March Break, local unit delegates gather en masse to participate in the democratic functions which give direction and shape to the larger Association. Across the three days of the meeting, resolutions are debated and voted upon, elections are conducted, reports are presented, awards are announced, and more.  

The time has come again to experience OECTA at the next level. OECTA’s Annual General Meeting is taking place in Toronto March 9-11, 2024. This is an opportunity to participate in your Association’s business as a voting member of the delegation representing our Hamilton-Wentworth Unit.

This opportunity is open to all permanent and occasional teachers of OECTA Hamilton-Wentworth. The selection process, as determined by the unit by-laws, gives consideration first to unit executive members, then to school association representatives, local committee members, and finally, members at large. 

To be included in the selection process, please ensure that your application is submitted by Friday January 12, 2024 at 4pm. If you have any questions about the AGM, please contact the office at 905-574-6483.

Promotional Material

Should You Opt Out of Direct Compensation Property Damage Coverage?

Soon, Ontario drivers will have a new option to restrict coverage in the event of a collision—the option not to claim damages.

In December 2022, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) announced that Ontario Policy Change Form (OPCF) 49 will give drivers the choice to opt out of Direct Compensation Property Damage (DCPD) coverage.

Under OPCF 49, you can agree not to be compensated by your insurance company or anyone else, including anyone at fault for causing the damage or their insurance company. But what does that mean?

Read more at #OTIPUpdate

Know Your Contract

Salary Calculations/QECO

Have you noticed that as a permanent teacher you seem to be paid more per pay from September to December than you are from January to June?  Your pay rate ("gross salary") is the same but you have fewer deductions during this time period because some of these deductions are "maxed out" at the end of June. You should plan to have less take home pay, starting in January as regular deductions resume. Great timing, I know.

As permanent salaried employees we are not paid for holidays/school breaks. We are 'protected' from having a fluctuation in pay when there are holidays/school breaks since our salary is spread out evenly across 26 pay cheques. 

An OT receives their full rate of pay up front. The daily OT rate includes vacation pay and pay in lieu of benefits. This is part of the reason why, unfortunately, each pay can fluctuate since holidays and school breaks are not paid days.  The January 11th pay will only have 5 paid days on it as will the January 25th pay. 

There are pay schedules on MySite for you to check which dates fall under which pay period. Permanent teachers use the "current" schedule and OTs use the 2 Weeks Behind schedule. It is always recommended, especially for OTs, to double check your pay is correct. These pay schedules can be found in the Employee Centre -->Board Resources-->Payroll section. 

QECO does not communicate with school boards, it is up to you to provide your QECO rating to the school board. Do not wait to notify the board until your official paperwork comes in because there are deadlines for you  to notify the board of a category change. These dates are December 31 for retroactive pay to September and March 31 for retroactive pay to January. Simply email Chris Doyle and state that you anticipate a category change then send her another email with the paperwork attached once it arrives. 

If you have any questions or aren't able to get a commitment for the retro pay to be paid out, reach out to the unit office.


Member Opportunities

Local Unit Opportunities

OECTA-HW Community Skating Event

On Thursday January 4, the social committee will be hosting the first ever OECTA-HW Social Skate at Dofasco Park.  Members and their families are invited to join us for a bit of post-holiday exercise, and an opportunity to rekindle connections with colleagues. 

Space at this event is limited to 100 skaters per session. The cost of admission is a 'what-feels-right' donation, with proceeds for the event going to De Mazenod Door Outreach in Hamilton.

Safety Information

Participation in this event is subject to acceptance of the OPHEA guidelines for ice skating which will be presented to members during the registration process. A CSA approved hockey helmet is required for all children aged 16 years and younger, and a helmet is strongly suggested for all other participants.  

Looking For Some Pointers?

You don't need to be the greatest of skaters to participate in the OECTA-HW Community Skate. Everyone is welcome - beginners, pros, and everything in between. 

Can't skate? Coach Jeremy will help you with the basics so you can build the confidence to strap on the blades.  Jeremy breaks down the basic skills of skating in easy to follow videos, and gives you drills you can practise to develop your abilities.  Give them a watch and join us on the ice on January 4!

2SLGBTQIA+ Social Event

The 2SLGBTQIA + Allies committee is inviting members to a social event at the Unit office. Creating space for equity deserving members is a goal of the Association and the committee would like to open the unit space to gather. Join us for an evening of socializing and support. All are welcome to attend.

Provincial Association Opportunities

Religious Education Part 1,2,3 or Specialist Course in Italy

Buon Giorno!

After a successful trip to Italy last summer, OECTA is pleased to announce that Religious AQ courses will be returning to Italy in July 2024. 

Do not miss out on this amazing opportunity to take your Religious Education AQ courses – Parts 1, 2, and Specialist – in some of Italy's most spectacular regions: Umbria, Rome, and the southern Amalfi Coast!

Led by OECTA’s experienced Religious Education AQ instructors and faith animators, this trip is a one-of-a-kind cultural experience, rooted in our rich Catholic faith, designed for Catholic teachers.

Course Starts May 2024

Dates of Travel
JULY 6TH - 16TH, 2024

Costs are based on double occupancy, and determined by the number of participants in the program.

Course registration fees paid separately to OECTA upon registration ($550 for Part 1, $600 for Part 2, and $600 for Specialist.)

Registration is now open on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Email Georgia Hardy Tours at to reserve your spot. 

Call For AQ Course Writers

OECTA is seeking Black members to develop and deliver the Additional Qualifications course: Anti-Black Racism, Part 1 – Addressing Anti-Black Racism to Change Pedagogy and Practice.

As part of the Association’s commitment to accessibility, inclusion, diversity, and equity (AIDE), we strive to promote diversity in our professional development and encourage applications from individuals who self-identify and have lived experience as Black (including African Black, Canadian Black, Caribbean Black persons).

Minimum Requirements:

Additional Assets:

Interested applicants may submit their resume/CV with an introductory cover letter, video, or audio recording that speaks about their vision for the project.   Project to start in January 2024.

Application to Include:


All applications may be submitted by email to

by 5:00 p.m. on January 8.

OECTA Literacy Institutes

Promotional Material

Pet-Proof Your Home in 7 Easy Steps

As the colder months continue, many are looking for a furry companion to brighten up dark winter days. Before you bring home a new dog or cat, you’ll need to do a thorough inspection of your home and ensure any harmful objects and chemicals are out of reach from a curious pet. Follow these seven steps to create a safe environment for your new family member.

Read more at #OTIPUpdate