The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held its first in-person meeting since February 2020 on April 29 and 30, 2022, in downtown Toronto. A number of Board of Directors members participated in the meeting virtually. President Cathy Abraham provided a traditional territory acknowledgement and noted that members were joining from traditional lands across Ontario.
The Board of Directors also heard from Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), on Friday evening.
Education policy and program issues that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below.
2022 OPSBA Annual General Meeting and Program
The 2022 Annual General Meeting, scheduled for June 9 to 11 in Ottawa, will be OPSBA’s first in-person professional development and networking opportunity for trustees and school board staff leaders since January 2020. The full agenda and registration are now available on the OPSBA website! This event is an opportunity for trustees to re-connect and network, while learning from outstanding keynotes like pollster Nik Nanos and comedian “Brittlestar” Stewart Reynolds and informative workshops and panel discussions.
On March 21, a Call for Nominations for Elected Positions 2022 was sent to Board of Directors members and alternates and all trustees in OPSBA Connects. The nomination deadline is May 10, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. A direct link to this information is posted on the OPSBA homepage.
Fillable nomination forms and a list of nominations received are posted on the AGM and Program page.
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 Provincial Budget
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy delivered the 2022-23 Ontario Budget: Ontario’s Plan to Build on April 28. The government will not have enough time to pass the budget motion or its corresponding legislation as it rose shortly after introducing the budget bill. The proposed budget is essentially the government’s election platform. Education-related items were identified in the earlier release of the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) and 2022-23 Technical Paper.
Total government spending for 2022-23 is projected to be $198.6 billion – up from $187.1 billion in 2021-22. Education sector funding is projected to be $32.4 billion, up from $29.5 billion last year. This funding will largely flow through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN), which were announced in February (click for OPSBA’s review). By 2024-25, education sector expenses are projected to increase to $35.1 billion. This represents 5.9% average annual growth over that period. The Budget projects a deficit of $19.9 billion for 2022-23, falling to $12.3 billion in 2023-24, and $7.6 billion in 2024-25. Deficits are projected until 2027-28.
2022-23 Capital Priorities Program
On April 21, the Minister of Education announced funding to support school and child care projects as part of the 2022-2023 Capital Priorities Program. This latest round of approved projects was introduced in the February 4, 2022, memo that asked boards to submit up to five project proposals, with at least two being new project proposals. The news release, Ontario Building New Schools and Launching Rapid Build Pilot, also lists the five schools that will pilot using modular construction for their projects. Two OPSBA member boards were selected: the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and the Upper Grand District School Board. OPSBA President Cathy Abraham responded to the modular announcement in the Toronto Star.
Communications, Government and Public Affairs
An overview of recent media activity and OPSBA’s past, current and future advocacy and awareness planning was provided.
OPSBA Municipal and School Board Election Social Media Campaign
With municipal and school board trustee nominations opening on May 2, OPSBA created a series of social media posts to generate awareness of the nomination date and process, and to encourage more diverse candidates to seek election. This campaign was designed to complement the work of OESC with posts appearing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from April 28 to May 2, 2022. OPSBA encouraged all trustees and education partners to follow and share the posts with their contacts. To see the visuals and posts, please visit our social media accounts.
I ❤️ Public Education Campaign
In an effort to showcase the diversity of voices in public schools across the province, OPSBA is asking participants to submit a short clip (three to five seconds) holding a small sign with the phrase/image: “I ❤️ Public Education!” Participants can also write this in their “first language” (which may or may not be English) or any non-English language typically spoken at home.
The submissions will be used to create a two to three minute video showing the full range of diversity of ages, faces, voices, and places that make up our provincial public schools, and their collective love of learning and the shared values of public education.
Information will be posted at www.opsba.org shortly.
As we approach the provincial election on June 2, OPSBA is seeking to raise awareness of our priorities among candidates and voters by sharing a variety of materials to help our members raise the profile and awareness of our priorities in their communities across the province. OPSBA will once again be supporting those who choose to participate in our “Education Day” initiative on May 18 during the election. Association has been in touch with all parties throughout their platform development process, and has posted a comparison of each party’s platform with our OPSBA strategic priorities, and will also be sharing each party’s response to an OPSBA education priorities questionnaire.
In a verbal report, it was noted that Elaine Johnston, First Nations Director and Chair of the Indigenous Trustees’ Council of OPSBA, had recently attended and presented at the National School Boards Association conference in San Diego, California, on Indigenous Education successes and challenges with colleagues from across Canada. Canadian school boards were congratulated by American colleagues for their progressive work on Indigenous Education issues.
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario had a constituency week that aligned with the Easter long weekend and resumed on Thursday, April 28, 2022, to introduce the budget bill (see above). In accordance with the Election Act, writs are dated on a Wednesday and elections are the fifth Thursday after the date of the writ. This means the writ will be drawn up on Wednesday, May 4, and the election will occur on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Current Party Standings – 124 seats:
- Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario – 67
- New Democratic Party of Ontario – 39
- Ontario Liberal Party – 7
- Green Party of Ontario – 1
- New Blue Party of Ontario – 1
- Ontario Party – 1
- Independent – 5
- Vacant – 3 (Don Valley East, Ajax, Elgin—Middlesex—London)
Municipal and School Board Elections 2022
The nomination period is now open. The Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC), on behalf of the four school board/trustee associations (including OPSBA), has completed the first set of resources to support trustee candidates and communities in the upcoming October 24, 2022, Municipal and School Board Elections. These are posted on the school board elections website and include:
- Making a Difference: Running for Election as a School Board Trustee – a PDF guide
- Printable public awareness posters to encourage nominations and get out the vote
The resources were sent to municipal clerks via their association (AMCTO), all school board staff that are responsible for elections, and an extensive distribution list of community stakeholders and equity-seeking groups (i.e., parents, community groups, libraries, PICs, SEACs, Indigenous organizations, BIAs, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, education partners and more). School boards were asked to share the resources with their own distribution lists as well.
In addition, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAH) has posted their municipal and school board elections guides for 2022 at www.ontario.ca/municipalelections. These include the:
- 2022 Voters’ guide
- 2022 Candidates guide
- 2022 Guide for third party advertisers
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
Work on the actions approved at the February Board of Directors meeting continues. To date, 31.3% of the actions are complete (12.5); and 62.5% of the actions are expected to be complete by the end of June (25). The connection between Project Compass and equity work continues to be considered in all actions.
The OPSBA Roles and Responsibilities Guide has been updated to reflect feedback from Project Compass including clarification of: the role of the Board of Directors in Labour Relations, Executive Council as the Labour Relations Steering Committee, matters concerning Core Issue Work Groups, addition of information about Regional Council roles, and details about capacity building and succession planning.
Information on Project Compass, including the approved actions, is accessible to all trustees in the Members’ Area.
Updates were provided in private session on recent developments related to labour relations.
OPSBA held a successful virtual Education Labour Relations & Human Resources Symposium on April 28, 2022, with more than 170 attendees.
Release of Final Recommendations Report regarding a Proposed K-12 Education Standard for Accessibility
In early March, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility released the Final Recommendations Report from the K–12 Education Standards Development Committee (ESDC) regarding the development of a proposed K-12 Education Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). The report contains many recommendations on addressing barriers in the public education system. OPSBA has long advocated for school board perspectives to be included in any accessibility-related recommendations for the public education system, and did respond to the ministry’s consultation regarding proposed recommendations in October 2021.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
An update was provided on work related to the 29 recommendations contained in Turner Consulting’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Audit. Earlier this year, EDI recommendations were reviewed and considered for potential implementation by the OPSBA Executive Council, Program and Policy Work Teams, the Indigenous Trustees’ Council, Project Compass (steering and sub-committees), as well as staff.
The Board of Directors endorsed recommendations regarding the Indigenous Trustees’ Council and the establishment of a Black Trustees’ Caucus.
Ministry Initiatives Committee
This committee met on April 7, with discussions on the following:
Right to Read
Ministry of Education staff shared consultation questions regarding the OHRC’s recommendations for mandatory early reading screening. The ministry invited submissions from education partners regarding the following questions. OPSBA will be submitting a response and is gathering input from school board staff with expertise in reading and trustees on the Association’s Education Program Work Group (EPWG).
The following curricula have been communicated for implementation in September 2022:
- Grades 1-8 Science and Technology / Sciences et technologie
- Grade 9 Science / Sciences course, De-streamed
- Grade 10 Math Addendum/Suppléments aux cours de mathématiques de 10e année
Modernizing Education – Experiential Learning for Credit
A memo was sent to school boards on February 17, 2022, identifying $1 million for pilot projects related to the recognition of experiential learning for credit. Some existing programs include Specialist High Skill Majors (SHSM), Dual Credits and Cooperative Education, and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). The ministry is looking for further opportunities to recognize for credit the knowledge, skills and competencies that students develop outside of school with community partners through planned experiential learning activities.
Online Learning – English Public School Boards
OPSBA continues to support the implementation of the mandatory online learning credits through Ministry of Education and Consortium meetings. The Ontario e-Learning Consortium, OeLC has seen a significant increase in membership in the past month. Boards who are not members are encouraged to consider the benefits of membership.
Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience
The EPWG facilitated the OPSBA Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience discussion paper in collaboration with the OPSBA Advisory Committee. The discussion paper was released in May 2021 to all education partners and posted on the OPSBA website and associated social media platforms. Partners have been meeting monthly since June 2021 resulting in short term recommendations for GSN submissions in January 2022. However, meetings of the table have been put on pause until October 2022 to collect data and research to inform the discussions for a reimagined school system.
Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) – Non-Profit Education Stream
OPSA has led and developed this initiative after it was 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 were able to apply for this SHSM opportunity for September 2022 and had to follow the ministry timeline and process for application. The deadline was February 11, 2022. The ministry has reported a record increase in applications for the non-profit sector and ministry staff have credited OPSBA for this.
The EQAO Advisory committee met on April 13, 2022. Information shared included the following:
- To date, 140,000 students across every school board have participated in EQAO secondary assessments.
- The OSSLT spring administration is from March 23 to May 18, 2022, and individual reports will be available by the end of June 2022.
- Grade 9 assessments are ongoing.
- Primary and Junior assessments will be administered from May 4 to June 24, 2022.
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 English public and Catholic school boards in Ontario for the implementation of promising practices for FSL teacher recruitment and retention.