The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a virtual meeting on Zoom on June 11, 2021. Indigenous Trustees’ Council Chair Elaine Johnston gave an acknowledgement that participants in the meeting were connecting to the meeting from numerous traditional territories of the Indigenous peoples of Ontario and spoke to the recent discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Trustee Corrine Rahman of the Thames Valley DSB spoke to the recent horrific act of Islamophobic hate in London that resulted in the loss of four members of a Muslim family and a 9-year-old boy orphaned.
Tana Turner of Turner Consulting Group joined the meeting to provide a verbal update on the ongoing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion audit of OPSBA.
Education policy and program issues that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below.
A presentation on current labour relations developments was provided in private session.
A summary of important B and SB memos that have been released since the last Board of Directors meeting in February was provided. B and SB memoranda for 2020-21 and prior years can be accessed on the ministry website.
The GSN and related documents (including PPF grants) were released on May 4 (10 individual memos, five B memos, and five SB memos). A review is available on the OPSBA website.
Student Transportation Review
This is ongoing and the sector is currently in the second year in a row with no increase to the base transportation rate (only increase is to reflect increased enrolment if applicable). There are Covid supports for enhanced cleaning for the first half of the year. Bus driver retention funding was announced again for the coming year.
Federal Covid-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream
The Ministry of Education relayed the concerns raised by school boards with respect to the December 31, 2021 completion deadline with the Federal Government. The change to timelines is under consideration. If approved through an amendment to the bi-lateral agreement between the Government of Canada and Government of Ontario, all projects would have two additional years for completion (completion date of December 31, 2023 or December 31, 2024 for projects that are deemed rural).
The Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC) held a meeting on May 11. Out of this, a letter from the ITC was sent to the Minister of Education regarding online learning and the challenges it has created for Indigenous students. The ITC is also investigating the possibility of writing of a position paper, which will be discussed at its next meeting on June 23. The next meeting will also include a discussion with Tana Turner of Turner Consulting regarding the Association’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Audit.
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario rose after June 4, 2021 for summer recess; however, it returned this past weekend to pass one piece of legislation. Attorney General Doug Downey introduced Bill 307, Protecting Elections and Defending Democracy Act, which reinstates sections of the Election Finances Act struck down by a Superior Court judge earlier this week. Under the government’s new legislation, third party-advertisers cannot spend more than $600,000 in the 12 months ahead of a campaign period. MPPs sat Saturday morning to begin debate on the new election financing bill, which invokes the notwithstanding clause, at second reading (plus a likely time-allocation motion). MPPs also sat on Sunday to complete second-reading debate and Monday for a third-reading vote.
The fall session is to begin on Monday, September 13, 2021
Next Municipal and School Board Election: Monday, October 24, 2022
Next Provincial Election: On or before Thursday, June 2, 2022
Next Federal Election: On or before Monday, October 16, 2023
Communications, Government and Public Affairs
An overview of recent media activity and OPSBA’s current future advocacy and awareness planning was provided.
Above and Beyond – Public Awareness Campaign
During Education Week (May 3 to 7), OPSBA launched the first phase of our Above and Beyond Campaign. The goals of the campaign include highlighting the strengths of our public education system, dispelling misconceptions, and raising awareness about the important role local governance plays in our system. The first phase was social media-focused, with a combination of posts from all of our social media accounts – including a relaunched OPSBA Facebook page, as well as paid social media posts. The first video will be launched in June, along with a campaign website (landing page).
Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience
The Education Program Work Team facilitated the OPSBA discussion paper, Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience, which has been finalized and released. Plans are underway to plan the engagement sessions with OPSBA education partners and to begin the process of co-developing recommendations to the Ministry of Education in time for 2022-23 GSN process. To support the launch of the Discussion Paper, OPSBA staff developed a comprehensive communications plan to engage school boards, education sector partners, media, and the public.
French as a Second Language (FSL)
Phase III of the FSL Labour Market Partnership Project and the Year 1 final reports for the Department of Canadian Heritage initiatives can be found on the OPSBA website. Pilot projects are underway to implement high potential strategies and approaches in various provinces. There has been very positive commitment and enthusiasm across Canada by participants to collaboratively engage in this work. OPSBA is awaiting a Ministry of Education agreement for the Year 2 funding of the three Department of Canadian Heritage projects.
On May 12, 2021, the Project Compass Steering Committee (PCSC) discussed the findings in the 2021 Spring Survey and how the information will be used by Sub-Committees to support their work. They also agreed on a framework for the Fall Collective Stakeholder Consultation and what is required from Sub-Committees to further engage members in next steps in the review. A template will be developed for each Sub-Committee to frame their work to date and seek feedback on proposed recommendations and/or next steps.
The 2021 Spring Survey closed on April 22. There was an overall response rate of 37.9%. The data identified areas of strengths and opportunities for reflection and/or refinement. The summary of findings and complete data are posted in the OPSBA website’s Members’ Area. This information is accessible to all trustees.
Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA)
The National Gathering on Indigenous Education and CSBA Congress will take place virtually for three afternoons, July 7 to 9, 2021. Both events are being organized and hosted in collaboration with the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA), and promise to be unique and interactive. Register now here.