OSSTF Toronto President’s remarks to the TDSB Finance, Budget and Enrollment Committee re P/VP additional pay

On November 3, 2020 OSSTF President Toronto Leslie Wolfe made the following remarks via a verbal deputation to the TDSB’s Finance, Budget and Enrollment Committee.  Deputations to Board Committees are limited to five minutes and must relate to a matter under consideration by the Committee.  These remarks are in addition to the letter sent to TDSB senior staff, the TDSB Chair and TDSB Trustees about the decision to pay Principals and Vice Principals in addition to their annual salary. This is shared with the Membership for your information.

Thank you for allowing me to speak to you this afternoon.  I am here today as President of OSSTF Toronto, on behalf of Teachers, Adult Day School Teachers, Occasional Teachers and Professional Student Support Personnel.  

I want to talk to you about the financial decision-making of the TDSB and its impacts on these frontline employees of the TDSB.

Recently, the Board senior managers determined not to enroll any more students in the Secondary Virtual School.  This decision was made to protect against programming loss at bricks-and-mortar sites that would accompany the requirement to move more teachers to the secondary Virtual School as required by increased enrollment.  And why would program be lost? Because there are not enough teachers in the system to run it.

As a result of this reality, in-person secondary teachers are once again waiting to find out what they will be teaching, and how they will be teaching it, with no assurance that they will have this information in time to do any meaningful planning for Qud 2.  

Each secondary school is developing its own timetable.  Some schools are using the models shared with you by Board staff, but we are hearing that many have decided on the pedagogically untested simultaneous delivery model where teachers provide learning to both in-person and online learners at the same time.

Why is this necessary?  Simply put, there are not enough teachers in the system to offer the regular breadth of programming in both virtual and in-person classrooms in a pedagogically sound way.  

This leaves us asking where is the voice of this Board in the fight  for more staff?  Have TDSB Trustees simply accepted that the paltry pandemic funding provided by the Ford Tories is going to have to suffice? Where are the Trustees in relation to the Parent groups?  Why are you not out there with the parents who are leading the fight for the resources you need to ensure students can succeed in this difficult time?

As a budget committee, why have you made no recommendations to your colleagues and to staff that obtaining additional teaching staff must be a priority? Have you approached the government for additional funding? Have you joined parent-advocates in the fight for increased staffing? Have you requested the ability to exceed your current debt levels? 

My letter to senior staff about the decision to pay Principals and Vice Principals for the additional time worked this summer reflects the absolute exhaustion, stress, anxiety and frustration of my Members who are required to carry the underfunding of school reopening on their backs.

Let me be clear, OSSTF Toronto does not object to workers being paid for their time worked. We do object to one group being singled out for recognition at a time when the entire system is under duress due to underfunding; at a time when adult day school teachers had to mount a fight to protect against a potential ⅓ loss of salary; when occasional teachers are having to fight for the right to replace absent teachers so that they have an income; at a time when mental health workers, always available on an as-needed basis, find themselves working even more hours than normal during evenings, and weekends to assist families and students; at a time when guidance counsellors worked in the summer and continue to work evenings and weekends to time table students; at a time when teachers must plan, prepare, re-plan and then plan again as their timetables are changed; while many TTBU Members are still owed lieu time from last year; at a time when I have repeatedly reported to senior staff at the Board that I have never seen morale among OSSTF Toronto Members this low, or levels of stress this high.

What we object to is that TDSB senior management made the decision to pay these workers in the absence of any public, stated plan on their part, or yours, to fight for the additional staffing needed to support teachers and students; in the absence of a central plan for how to manage the growing demand for online learning; in the absence of any recognition of the extraordinary work done by thousands and thousands of other TDSB workers, work without which this Board and its Administrators would 

Today I was asked what I want as a result of my letter and this deputation.  Here is what I want:  I want this Board to walk the walk of its talk that the mental health, physical health and safety of its employees is a priority.  I want this Board to consider all it’s workers when making decisions.  I want this Board to fight for more funding and more staffing, and if it doesn’t come, to make programming decisions that reflect what is realistically achievable in the face of a government unwilling to provide what’s needed, in order that it not be placing the mental and physical health and safety of its workers in jeopardy.

I want this Board to figure out how it is going to acknowledge, on an ongoing basis, the contributions of its frontline workers to the Board’s ability to keep schools open, functioning and healthy.