Around OECTA

November 2023

From Your Local Unit

President's Message

We've provided a handy counter for those of you who are countdown people. 

‘Tis the season for Joy Days, Staff Bottle basket elimination contests, but most importantly, this time marks the end of progress reports and a busy interview time.  Hopefully it also involves time spent with family and close friends enjoying the holiday season.

Thanks to all who attended the General Meeting on November 29th. Of course, we understand that this is a busy time for everyone and also a time to take advantage of down time when it comes by. Your physical and mental health are paramount, especially during the long, cold, dark months. There is mental health and other resources available, outlined below in the newsletter, which OECTA and OTIP members have access to. Consider registering and exploring some of these resources. If you have any questions about them, please contact the office.

As mentioned at the general meeting, the bargaining landscape has become a little clearer with recent rulings on OECTA’s outstanding complaints. We have bargaining dates scheduled for November 30 as well as December 6, 7, 11, and 12. OECTA remains optimistic that these bargaining sessions will be productive and move our agenda forward towards a fair, negotiated agreement. We will try our best to see that any and all bargaining developments are communicated directly to the membership from either the provincial or unit office.

We continue to have, as a high priority, the issue of violence in our schools. The completion of SSIRs is vital in our work in the office when addressing this issue. We are happy to provide guidance in completing these reports and continue to visit schools to discuss many issues including violence. If your school has not had a visit already, have your OECTA sign up for available dates on the reps chat space. More dates will be available into the new year.

As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to the office by phone or email. Contact information can be found on our website;

Be well and enjoy your December.


Important Upcoming Dates

School Violence and Harassment Survey

Catholic teachers are encouraged to add your voice and complete this survey created by researchers from the University of Ottawa, as part of their groundbreaking study taking an in-depth look at violence and harassment in the education sector.

The online survey should take about 40 minutes to complete. Your responses will be entirely anonymous and confidential. No personal information about you or the school(s) in which you work will be collected. Reports detailing the findings will be available in the summer of 2024.

OECTA Strong Rally Shirt

Get Yours Today

PD Funds Allocation

At the suggestion of the provincial auditors, the Individual PD Assistance funds that are available to members to help offset costs of professional development opportunities that directly support your work as teachers (e.g. AQ courses, attendance at certain approved conferences, OECTA mini-courses) will see their timelines shifted.

In the past, the budget made available funds until August 31st of the current school year. This created accounting issues as our fiscal year ends on June 30th. As such, the unit was paying out funds from a previous year’s budget but accruing costs on the next year’s expenses.

As a result, this year’s PD Fund allocation will end on June 30th. All eligible expenses (up to $250 per person/per year) up to June 30th, 2024 will be paid out against our budget for fiscal year 2023-2024. July 1, 2024 will represent a new fiscal year.

What does this mean to you? If you are taking or considering taking a course this school year (as an example) you would be eligible to claim this expense, as well an additional claim (up to $250 for a different course, conference, etc.) during summer 2024 as that claim would be paid out from next year’s budget. 

As always, if there are any questions, please feel free to contact the office.

Promotional Material

Winter Tire 101

It’s no secret that getting from point A to point B in the middle of a Canadian blizzard can be tough. Thankfully, there’s one simple step you can take towards a safer winter drive: installing a set of quality winter tires.

Read more at #OTIPUpdate

Know Your Contract

Inclement Weather Code

On days when the weather is bad and you don’t feel safe travelling to school, you have access to the inclement weather code (in your collective agreement). This code was negotiated when the board would not agree to close schools on days when they cancel buses. 

When you use the code, you must ensure you have one of your five medical/dental/urgent/personal days. It is best to keep track of your 5 days to ensure you have days available prior to using the code. The best place to review absences is in SmartFind Express (SFE), as it takes a few weeks to roll over into ESS on MySite. We also suggest taking screenshots so you have proof that you had one of your five days available to you. 

If you do not have any of your 5 days available to you and you use an inclement weather day, you will not be paid for taking the day. 

Under the contract, a teacher shall be granted this day. Unfortunately the board is treating this as part of their management rights to police this when it is used on days where buses are not cancelled.  They seemed to have the time and resources to identify areas of the city where they deemed the conditions were safe to get to school and asked teachers to explain why they needed to use the code. After discussions with OECTA, they recognized that they have teachers who live in Niagara, Brant Haldimand Norfolk and other areas where on this particular day there were cancellations and closures.  There was a commitment to consider where teachers live,  prior to sending out emails in the future.  We weren't satisfied with this, but it was an improvement.

We trust that all teachers will exercise good judgement when making the decision to utilize the inclement weather code.  Sadly, photo evidence in this case may be necessary to have if you end up being contacted about your use of the code. Does this seem to be a "little much"? Well no. In one instance a teacher who lived in Hamilton, decided to use the code when their spouse fell on their driveway attempting to leave for work and their neighbour's car ended up on their lawn when they tried to leave for work. The board deemed their use of the code to be inappropriate and stated that if the teacher had still attempted to drive to work, they would have found the roads to be clear/safe for travel. We aren't aware of the board having hired a meteorologist nor investigators that drove the entire city to document conditions in every neighbourhood but when it came down to it, they did not trust their employee was telling the truth. Document, document, document.

Absences on Snow Days

If you have put an absence into SFE and the day ends up being a snow day, know that you have until the start time of the school to cancel your absence.  You should double check your ESS to ensure it was not taken from your balance. However, if you forget and cancel after the start time of your school, you will still have the day deducted from your bank.

Email Inquiries From the Board

Recently we had over 40 of our teachers receive an email from the board questioning their use of medical/dental appointment days.  This is not a thing!! You should should never be asked to explain their use or substantiate their use unless there are extreme/extenuating circumstances. You would always do so in collaboration with OECTA. 

The board has indicated this occurred due to a misunderstanding and committed that they would not be scrutinizing basic use of medical/dental days.

Naturally, when we are told we have used our days inappropriately, we want to defend ourselves. We are asking that you do not send an email response to any inquiries asking you to explain yourself. First, wait to see if OECTA sends out an email response to guide what your next steps are. Then, reach out to the office if you are unsure how to respond. Situations can be unique and require slightly different responses, so there may need to be different responses depending on circumstances. Finally, do not provide personal/medical information freely in emails or phone calls with the board.  We are always here to help! When in doubt, reach out.

Wishing you a joyful last few weeks! We do so much to set the stage in our classroom and this is often a time when we can breathe a little and enjoy our students and seasonal activities together. 

Take care, 

Alison Coyle
1st VP, Lead Negotiator/Contract Manager

Health and Safety Corner

Your Mental Health Matters

Starling Minds Mental Health Program

The Association and the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP) have partnered to provide members with Starling Minds Mental Fitness, a 24/7, confidential digital self-guided program for stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression, available anytime and anywhere. 

Starling Minds is a self-guided digital program that is available 24/7, private, and tailored to you. Access tools to help better manage your mental health including daily checkups, guided training sessions, and a supportive community. Based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, it can be used with medication or in-person therapy.

Ready to get started? Here are your access codes:


FeelingBetterNow is an online resource available to eligible OTIP members that helps employees identify mental health issues. FeelingBetterNow has compiled several online resources to help OTIP members and their families. Watch the video to learn more.


ALAViDA offers confidential, evidence-based substance use support from the privacy of your smartphone. The TRAiL is a secure platform where you can track your journey and access self-guided resources available 24/7. No awkward conversations, no shame and 100% confidential.

Go to To create an account on the ALAViDA TRAiL, scroll down and click the “Sign up” button. You will be directed to a registration page where you can fill in your information.

In case of any issues, you can email or call 1.888.315.3634 for support.

Christmas Decorations at School

Members are asked to consider the following information taken from the HWCDSB FIRE SAFETY PROCEDURES REFERENCE GUIDE (See Pages 31-32):

Christmas Trees


Nativity Scenes 

Bales of Hay

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, of which there are two. Registrations will be managed virtually, and tickets will be issued for entrance to the event. 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. For members with a bit of reluctance, perhaps picking up a few tips from Coach Jeremy will help with building enough 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 then join us on the ice on January 4.

Provincial Association Opportunities

OECTA Literacy Institutes

OECTA's Virtual Literacy Institutes offer a timely and indispensable opportunity for teachers to assist in comprehending and implementing the new Language Curriculum for Grades 1-8 in 2023.  Participants can expect to engage in meaningful learning and dialogue, and come away with practical resources and classroom ready supports for immediate implementation.

Space is limited ~ first-come, first-serve.

The Front Matters - Highlighter Worthy Notes

During this session participants will become familiar with the curriculum context (front matter) and have an opportunity to discuss, share, and build practical ideas and classroom routines that support effective literacy instruction for all learners.

Digging into the Foundational Skills

You've Got This! Tools to Support Teacher Impact

You've Got This! Tools to Support Teacher Impact

Winter Book Club

Book Club is Back!

Looking to read a great book? Looking to connect with peers to chat about that great book? Sounds like you should join OECTA’s Winter Book Club.

The Professional Development department is inviting members to its virtual winter book clubs. Book Club participants will meet once for the book launch, and once for the book talk. 

This year, two books are featured:

by David Chariandy

by Amanda Jetté Knox

Click on the link below to learn more!

Registration is now open.

Space is limited.



David Chariandy

Launch Meeting

December 6, 2023

7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Book Talk Meeting

January 9, 2023

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes the reader inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared, and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home.

Love Lives Here


Amanda Jetté Knox

Launch Meeting

December 7, 2023

7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Book Talk Meeting

January 10, 2023

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


An inspirational story of accepting and embracing two trans people in a family--a family who shows what's possible when you "lead with love."

Promotional Material

The top 10 tips for getting the most out of your mortgage renewal

Pay grids. Pension contributions. Deferred leaves. These are all factors unique to education members. And each of these factors plays an important role when it comes to your overall financial journey. 

This month, take time to empower yourself and invest in your own financial well-being. By being financially literate, you can better manage life events such as buying your first home, having a child, or retiring early.

Check out these upcoming events and educational resources to help strengthen your financial literacy and make more informed decisions about your money:

Brought to you by Educators Financial Group.