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The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a virtual meeting on Zoom on February 25 and 26, 2022. President Cathy Abraham provided a traditional territory acknowledgement, noting that “we are all treaty people” and acknowledged that members were joining from traditional lands across Ontario.

The Board of Directors also heard from Warren Hoshizaki, Director of Education at the DSB of Niagara, and Jim Costello, Executive Director of the Public Council of Ontario Directors of Education, regarding diversity in senior school board leadership, and received a presentation from Todd Pottle, Coordinator, and John Procter, Chair, of the Ontario e-Learning Consortium.

Education policy and program issues that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below.

Education Funding

A summary of important B and SB memos that have been released since the last Board of Directors meeting in February was provided. B & SB memoranda for 2021-22 and prior years can be accessed on the ministry website.

2022-23 Grants for Student Needs

The Ministry of Education announced the 2022-23 Grants for Student Needs (GSN) and Priorities and Partnerships (PPF) funding on February 17, 2022. Grant funding is projected to be $26.1 billion, which represents an increase of 2.7% over the prior year. The average per-pupil funding amount is projected to be $13,059, which is an increase of $339 from last year. The technical paper is to be released later in March. For more information, OPSBA has completed its initial review.

OPSBA’s Submission to the 2022-23 GSN Consultation

Communications, Government and Public Affairs

An overview of recent media activity and OPSBA’s past, current and future advocacy and awareness planning was provided.

Media Statements and News Releases

OPSBA Media Activity

Indigenous Education

The Indigenous Trustees’ Council participated in a meeting with the Ministry of Education on February 24 regarding trustee Code of Conduct. The Council will be looking to provide written commentary to the ministry’s consultation.

Legislative Update

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario resumed on Tuesday, February 22. Recent and current legislation OPSBA is following includes:

Full Legislative Updates are available on the OPSBA Connects blog. All OPSBA submissions to the government are available on the OPSBA website.

Provincial Budget

The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs conducted pre-budget consultations during the month of January and on two occasions members of OPSBA’s Executive Council were able to address the Committee virtually to share the importance of education funding. OPSBA shared its 2022-23 Education Funding/Grants for Student Needs (GSN) submission with the Standing Committee, which followed our GSN submission to the Ministry of Education in December. The budget is expected to be delivered by the end of April.

2022 Provincial Election

The next provincial election is on or before June 2, 2022. If this date remains, the writ will drop on May 4, 2022. OPSBA has begun to engage with the main political parties on the development of their election platforms to discuss and share education priorities. Meetings have occurred with the NDP, Liberals and Green Party.

Current Party Standings – 124 seats:

  • Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario – 68
  • New Democratic Party of Ontario – 40
  • Ontario Liberal Party – 7
  • Green Party of Ontario – 1
  • New Blue Party of Ontario – 1
  • Independent – 5
  • Vacant – 2

Municipal and School Board Elections 2022

Election Day is October 24, 2022. OPSBA will be working with the Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC) on the revision to several resources, including the Candidates’ Guide, posters, Good Governance Guide and the school board elections website.

The Association has been meeting with key stakeholders including the Ministry of Education’s Leadership and Governance Branch, the Equity Secretariat, PCODE, OPC, OSTA-AECO, AMCTO, AMO, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and senior staff and communications officers within our member boards.

The 2022 Trustee Determination and Distribution Guide has been released along with OESC’s distribution and determination tool to school boards. Population of Electoral Group (PEG) reports were to be delivered to boards by February 15, 2022. Municipal-election related information and memos can be found on the OPSBA website: Municipal Elections.

Key Dates: 2022-2026 Municipal and School Board Elections

  • May 2, 2022 – Nomination and Campaign Period Begins
  • August 19, 2022 – Nomination Day (Last Day to be nominated)
  • August 19, 2022 – Final Day for Withdrawal of Candidacy
  • October 24, 2022 – Voting Day
  • November 15, 2022 – School Board Term Begins

Labour Relations

Updates were provided in private session on recent developments related to labour relations.

OPSBA’s annual Education Labour Relations & Human Resources Symposium is scheduled for April 28, 2022. Event and registration details will be available as of March 2 on the OPSBA website.

Education Program

Ministry Initiatives Committee

This committee met on December 2 and February 10, with discussions related to the following:

OPSBA staff consulted with the Education Program and Policy Development Work Groups and senior school board staff on ministry-proposed PPM 81 changes before sending a formal submission to the ministry on February 25.

Online Learning – English Public School Boards

The Ministry of Education has informed the sector that it is proceeding with providing direction in the form of a PPM regarding two mandatory online credits, with a very short timeline to meet the course option process for 2022-23. TVO will be assisting with creating courses for this. The e-learning consortia will also be leveraged to support school boards. OPSBA continues to reinforce that school boards are central to the administration and delivery of online courses, adherence to collective agreement language, and that any planning is inclusive of all students including special education, racialized groups and lower income households.

The 2020-21 Grade 9 cohort has been granted one credit due to the amount of remote learning already experienced by these students. Therefore, these students (currently in Grade 10) only need to earn one credit to earn their mandatory requirement on their transcript. Future cohorts will require two credits.

The Ministry has created a preview site for families to view online course content at www.ontariocoursepreview.ca. Additional course development is being discussed and will be prioritized based on criteria that is being determined. TVO is able to develop 12 new courses per year. This is in addition to courses that already exist and have been developed and offered through consortia and school boards.

Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience

OPSBA’s Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience discussion paper was released in May 2021 to all education partners and posted on the OPSBA website and associated social media platforms. Invitations were sent out to education partners to join in a collaborative discussion using the discussion paper as a springboard for visioning discussions. Five meetings of this partnership table have now occurred, with monthly meetings scheduled for the remainder of this school year. 

The OPSBA online survey for parent/guardians and community groups closed on November 30, 2021. More than 8,000 responses were received, and a research report, which is now posted on the OPSBA website, was finalized with input from the education partner discussion table and OPSBA’s Education Program Work Group. This report will be released in conjunction with the Grade 5-12 Provincial Student Survey to be used to inform future discussions and recommendations.  The reports have created a roadmap for ways in which school boards can support students and their families in relation to online learning. This data will be combined with other data sources to inform OPSBA’s future of education discussions to ensure recommendations are evidence-based and reflective of multiple perspectives that aim to maximize student engagement, interest, mental health/well-being and achievement.

Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) – Non-Profit Education Stream

This initiative has been developed and led by OPSBA after being identified as a high-leverage strategy through the FSL Labour Market Partnership. There are many components to this strategy, but a specific goal is to encourage students, (especially core, extended and immersion students), of different lived experiences to consider teaching as a career option, thereby ensuring that future teachers reflect our communities. School boards are now able to provide this SHSM opportunity for their students for September 2022, with the deadline for application already having passed. Presentations were made to school board SHSM leads in January to promote and encourage participation. Canadian Parents for French will also be promoting this opportunity through their website. More information can be obtained through OPSBA at inquiry@opsba.org.

EQAO

An update on assessment-related initiatives and recent changes was provided, including the re-introduction of primary and junior assessments, which have not been in place for two years during the pandemic. EQAO assessments are required under the Education Quality and Accountability Office Act, 1996. For the remainder of the school year, the Ministry of Education is expecting school boards to participate in all EQAO assessments. Boards must notify the EQAO and ministry if they are seeking to be exempt from administering EQAO assessments. Such requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

French as a Second Language (FSL)

OPSBA and its members and partners continue to lead a number of initiatives under the Ministry of Education funded FSL Labour Market Partnership Project, with the goal of helping to build awareness, capacity and momentum among all 60 public and Catholic school boards province-wide for the implementation of promising practices for FSL teacher recruitment and retention. 

In addition, OPSBA is leading three pan-Canadian initiatives, that include the development of an FSL Teacher Recruitment Guide for English Language School Boards, a French Language Assessment Toolkit and Resources and an initiative to support school principals in addressing challenges in hiring and retaining FSL teachers. Pilot projects are underway in all three initiatives to implement high potential strategies and approaches in various provinces.

OPSBA-OSTA Liaison Committee

OPSBA and the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA-AECO) recently released a new publication – a Student Trustee Handbook, which was produced by the trustee members of the OPSBA-­OSTA Liaison Committee and student trustees on the Public Board Council (PBC) of OSTA-AECO. It has been created for use by all school board trustees to understand fully the requirements for the role of student trustees in the governance practices of the board, but also to build appreciation of and identify processes that will fully mobilize the valuable resource student representatives provide. A key goal is to standardize some of the activities in school boards across the province.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

Board of Directors members participated in a 90-minute EDI professional development session on Friday night, led by OPSBA’s Associate Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. A work plan was also provided to the Board of Directors, with work broken into five distinct areas:

  1. Governance, Policy and Operational Change
  2. Education, Resource Development, and Resource Capacity
  3. Data Collection, Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation
  4. Recruitment, Employment, Labour Relations and Management
  5. Engagement, Communications, Outreach, and Advocacy

Project Compass

After 15 months, the 28 trustee members of the four Project Compass sub-committees engaged in a comprehensive review of OPSBA’s Mission, Vision and Values, strategic planning process, Policy development process and governance structures over 44 meetings. Engagement and communication were foundational throughout the process with 147 trustees responding to the Spring Survey and approximately 80 trustees participating in Regional Council and Zoom Focus group meetings.

The Board of Directors endorsed 40 actions that clarify or formalize governance structures, roles and responsibilities, policy development and priority setting processes, succession planning, onboarding, communication, trustee engagement and general awareness of the Association.

The following new policies were developed and will be posted on the OPSBA website in the coming weeks.

  • Policy #100, Policy Review, Development and Monitoring Framework
  • Policy #150, Strategic Planning, Implementation and Monitoring

More information about Project Compass, including the list of approved actions can be found in the Members’ Area.

Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA)

The 2022 CSBA Congress will go forward in person in Saskatoon this July, with an online attendance option available for trustees who do not wish to travel. Other current focuses for the CSBA include:

  • Advancing an anti-racism project awarded to the University of Regina with a goal of providing tools and materials for local boards and associations, including to help increase the diversity of locally elected school boards through PSAs and social media
  • Engagement of an Indigenous Lead to advance priorities in Indigenous Education
  • An advocacy event with Federal Ministries in Ottawa on May 18
  • The creation of a National Table on Education, with an initial meeting on March 4. Invited partners include the Canadian Association of Principals, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the Canadian Association of School System Administrators, La Fédération nationale des conseils francophones, and the Assembly of First Nations.
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