The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a virtual meeting on Zoom on November 28, 2020. President Cathy Abraham gave an acknowledgement that participants in the meeting were connecting to the meeting from numerous traditional territories of the Indigenous peoples of Ontario.
Education policy and program issues that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below.
Updates were provided on recent developments related to labour relations. Following the revocation of Regulation 274/12: Hiring Practices, and consultation with school board trustees and staff, a submission regarding the interim Program/Policy Memorandum on School Board Teacher Hiring Practices was made on November 16, 2020.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at OPSBA
The Board of Directors supported the following motion unanimously:
Be it resolved, that the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association
- Hire an external third party to conduct an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Audit to determine the best approach to combatting systemic racism and oppressive practices introspectively within our own organization with an expected outcome of determining best practices, strategies, and approaches to advocate and support an inclusive OPSBA organization and to support school boards with regard to Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous Racism.
- And that the external third party report back to the OPSBA Board of Directors regularly about the progress of the audit, and provide a final report with recommendations
OPSBA will now work to operationalize the motion.
A number of important B and SB memos have been released since the last Board of Directors meeting in September. B & SB memoranda for 2020 and prior years can be accessed on the ministry website.
The Provincial Budget was released on November 5. An overview is available on the OPSBA website. The Budget was significantly focused on COVID-19 supports and the eventual economic recovery. Total government spending for 2020-21 is projected to be $187 billion – up from $164.8 billion in 2019-20. Education sector funding is projected to be $31 billion, up from $30.2 billion last year. This funding will largely flow through the Grants for Student Needs, expected to be announced in the spring. By 2022-23, education sector expenses are projected to increase to $31.3 billion. The Budget projects a deficit of up to $38.5 billion in 2020-2021, in line with the projected deficit from the finance minister’s quarterly update in August.
OPSBA’s Indigenous Trustees’ Council will be meeting via Zoom on December 3 at 5 p.m., with all trustees invited to participate as observers.
The final sitting day before the Winter Recess is December 10, 2020, with MPPs returning on February 16, 2021.
OPSBA sent a letter to the government regarding Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020, and the Association has begun to solicit feedback from its members about next year’s Grants for Student Needs (GSN) funding. While details from the Ministry of Education about sector engagement are still to arrive, it is known that many boards continue to experience unexpected costs due to COVID-19 and the safe return to school for both students and staff. These costs include: additional staffing for both teachers and education workers; IT devices for staff and students; HVAC and air ventilation; PPE and cleaning – supplies and caretaking costs; student transportation, and others. As always, OPSBA will be connecting with trustees to inform our GSN consultation through the Education Program and Policy Development Work Teams, student trustees and senior business officials at school boards. Discussions have already occurred at the November regional and Board of Directors’ meetings.
The government’s Student Transportation Advisory Committee will be meeting soon to discuss procurement.
Communications, Government and Public Affairs
An overview of recent media activity, as well as OPSBA’s future advocacy and awareness plans, was provided.
French as a Second Language (FSL)
Phase III of the FSL Labour Market Partnership Project has continued and all partners are engaged in virtual meetings to support and facilitate action plans related to the recommendations and next steps from the Phase II report. There continues to be significant interest and motivation to support the ongoing efforts linked to the supply/demand issue of FSL teachers. Phase III ends on January 31, 2021, and the full report will be available by March 2021.
Three additional pan-Canadian projects have been approved by the federal Department of Canadian Heritage. These are:
- Development of an FSL Teacher Recruitment guide for English Language School Boards
- French Language Assessment Resources
- Supporting Principals to Address Challenges in Hiring and Retaining Qualified FSL Teachers
Each of the projects currently has pan-Canadian research underway in the form of surveys and focus groups/interviews. The pandemic has affected the level of participation rates for all research studies, regardless, there is sufficient participation to generate data and analysis.
EQAO Advisory Committee
An EQAO Advisory Committee meeting was held virtually on October 21, 2020.
Prior ministry announcements indicated:
- No primary or junior EQAO assessments in the 2020-2021 school year
- No OSSLT requirement for students graduating in the 2020-21 school year
- The Ministry has issued a Request for Bids to procure a vendor to build a modernized online assessment system to be used for subsequent administrations of all assessments.
On October 2, 2020, the ministry released a memo indicating that the Grade 9 Mathematics assessment will be a field test this year that will only be given to in-class students. The request was made by OPSBA and other organizations represented at the meeting to defer any field testing this year due to the extreme pressures on schools and school boards. OPSBA has expressed concerns to EQAO staff regarding broadband availability and equity of access if paper testing were to be made unavailable in the future.
Children and Youth Mental Health
The Ontario Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health, now in its 11th year, has proven to be integral as students and staff struggle in the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health members continue to share resources and materials to help to support students, families and staff. The Coalition met on November 30, 2020, and shared organizational updates, explored areas that need collaborative support and identified themes that can be addressed or championed collectively.
School Mental Health Ontario continues to expand its support to school boards and resources can be found on their website.
Policy/Program Memorandum 164: Requirements for Remote Learning
Based on consultation with school board staff, a comprehensive submission developed jointly by the Education Program and Policy Development Work Teams was given to the Minister of Education regarding this PPM. The submission is posted on the OPSBA website.
Public Education Symposium
OPSBA’s annual Public Education Symposium will take place virtually on January 28 from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Keynote speakers and workshop topics will be available soon, and will include a focus on kick starting anti-racism efforts within public institutions and systems, governance in a pandemic, community engagement, and Indigenous education. This year’s event is free of charge to OPSBA and ACÉPO trustees.
Canadian School Boards’ Association
As of October 2, former OPSBA President Laurie French will serve a third term as CSBA President, and Carolyn Broady, Chair of the SD45 (West Vancouver) Board of Education, will serve as CSBA Vice President. The CSBA has released its annual report. L’Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’Ontario (ACÉPO) has also recently joined the Association.
The National Trustees Gathering on Indigenous Education will take place July 6, 2021, with CSBA Congress immediately following on July 7 and 8. Both events will be virtual and are being organized and hosted in collaboration with the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA), and promise to be unique and interactive.
Education Standards Development Committee (SDC)
A report from the K-12 SDC Committee was brought by committee member and OPSBA Executive Council member Donna Edwards. A final report from the committee will likely be released in the coming months for consultation with stakeholders.
Ontario Educational Services Corporation (OESC) Update
Established in 2002, the OESC provides Ontario school boards with first-in-class education and business services, offering boards effective and cost-saving solutions with a focus on the success of every student in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. Partnering with OESC generates significant savings for boards, and in turn, benefits are passed along to students. OESC Executive Director Ted Doherty provided an update on program offerings for school boards.