The OPSBA Board of Directors held a meeting on September 28 and 29, 2018, in Toronto. OPSBA President Cathy Abraham gave an acknowledgement that the meeting was being held on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the Métis Nation.
Representatives from the Ontario School Trustees Association (OSTA-AECO) joined the Board of Directors on Saturday morning to provide a presentation.
Education policy and program issues that were discussed at the meeting are summarized below.
Legislative and Government Relations
The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, led by Doug Ford, was the winner of the provincial election held on June 7, 2018. Lisa Thompson (MPP Huron-Bruce) was named Minister of Education and Sam Oosterhoff (MPP Niagara West) her Parliamentary Assistant. Nancy Naylor is the new Deputy Minister of Education, replacing the now-retired Bruce Rodrigues.
Summer and Fall Sessions
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario opened the first session on July 11, 2018, and rose after Tuesday, August 14, 2018. The main pieces of work included Bill 2, Urgent Priorities Act, 2018 and Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018.
The House resumed on September 12, for Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark to table the revamped Bill 31, Efficient Local Government Act. Bill 31 was introduced in response to an Ontario Superior Court judge’s determination that Bill 5 violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It invoked Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the notwithstanding clause, to reduce the number of City of Toronto wards and councillors to 25 before the October 22 election. Debate on Bill 31 was no longer required when a three-judge panel on Ontario’s highest court granted a stay on the Bill 5 ruling. Government House Leader Todd Smith said Bill 31 will remain on the order paper, but there is no plan to debate or vote on it. Bill 5 will be back in the Court of Appeal for Ontario in November. The City of Toronto and several private citizens and former council candidates will take part.
The nomination period in Toronto opened again on September 20 and 21 to ensure no incumbents or prospective councillors or trustees were left out of the race. The government will sit again until a scheduled Thanksgiving constituency week.
New Democratic Party of Ontario: MPP Marit Stiles (Davenport) becomes the party’s new Education Critic. Prior to being elected in the recent provincial election, Ms. Stiles was a trustee with the Toronto District School Board.
Liberal Party of Ontario: MPP Kathleen Wynne (Don Valley West).
Current Party Standings
PC Party of Ontario – 76
Ontario NDP – 40
Ontario Liberal Party – 7
Green Party of Ontario – 1
School Board Governance – Update
Four regulations have been updated and filed:
- Regulation 246/18 Member of School Boards – Code of Conduct
This regulation requires all school boards to adopt a code of conduct for Trustees by no later than May 15, 2019. In addition, all Trustee codes of conduct must now be made available to the public. If a school board already has a Trustee code of conduct, it must review it by May 15, 2019 and every school board must review its Trustee code of conduct by May 15 every fourth year thereafter. The Ministry had announced the creation of a working group to look at minimum standard to be included in a policy.
Update: There is currently no direction if this work group will be established. OPSBA will continue to monitor for developments.
- Ontario Regulation 7/07 Student Trustees
This regulation allows student trustees to have one or two year terms, staggered terms and moves their election date to the end of February.
- Ontario Regulation 357/06 Honoraria for Board Members
This regulation includes the increased base amount for all trustees. It also directs compensation to appointed Section 68 school board trustees. A working group will be established to review the honoraria formula and OPSBA will be a part of that discussion.
Update: On August 24, the government issued memo B 14 – Update: Education Funding for 2018–19. The memo contains information about new initiatives and programs, as well as “Efficiencies and Redistributions for 2018–19.” Included in this section are changes to executive compensation (previously announced) and trustee honoraria. With regards to honoraria the memo states:
“Compensation adjustments are being suspended until the new government can conduct a review and put in place an appropriate expenditure management strategy. As a result, the ministry will not be increasing the base amount for the school board trustees’ honorarium as announced in the 2018–19 GSN memo (2018:B06). The base amount for district school board trustees will remain at $5,900. The ministry may review trustee honoraria in the future. In addition, the ministry will not be providing the trustees of Section 68 School Authorities an honorarium as announced in the 2018–19 Section 68 SB Memo (2018: SB13).”
OPSBA will be following up with the Ministry’s governance branch following the completion of the line-by-line audit and its recommendations.
- Ontario Regulation 463/97 Electronic Meeting
This regulation has a longer implementation date (next term 2022) before it becomes into effect. It will allow a chair or designate to be “physically present for at least half of the meetings of the board for any 12 month period beginning November 15 and may provide that the chair or designate must be physically present for a greater proportion of meetings.” Distance, weather, and health-related issues are also considered.
Provincial Education Reform Consultation
Consultation: Education in Ontario was launched on September 28. This is the first piece of this consultation. It includes an online submission form. Information regarding a separate online survey for more feedback and telephone town halls will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Ministry of Education reissued the 2010 curriculum for Grades 1 – 8 as an interim version to be used until a new curriculum is created. The government said it will also release a compendium to the current math curriculum that will allow teachers to move away from Discovery Math towards traditional memorization techniques.
Ontario Government Planning for Prosperity Online Consultation
On August 29, 2018, Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy announced a three week online public consultation, called Planning for Prosperity. It ran from August 29, 2018 to September 21, 2018, to complement the government’s current line-by-line review of all government programs and services. The survey focused on eight areas: Children’s and Social Services, Education, Environment and Resources, Economic Development, General Government and Other Services, Health, Justice and Postsecondary and Training. It also included an opportunity for people to provide up to three ideas or suggestions to improve the delivery of programs and services.
On September 25, the government released the results of its line-by-line review of government spending in a report entitled: Managing Transformation – A Modernization Action Plan for Ontario.
Feedback from the online public consultation, which gave the public an opportunity to rank the importance of eight areas of programs and services, including education, were reflected in the ‘transformational opportunities’ suggested in the Plan. There were apparently over 15,000 submissions. Key themes that emerged from the public responses to the consultation include:
- Programs and Services – Improving existing ones, exploring better ways to deliver them, combining them where appropriate, and closing out the ones that do not achieve outcomes;
- Increasing the voice of stakeholders in decision-making; and
- Making government spending more transparent, while paying down the provincial debt.
Bill 36, Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018
This bill was introduced on Attorney General Caroline Mulroney on September 27, 2018. Bill 36 would allow private retail stores to be open for business by April 1, 2019. The province will also create “distance buffers” between stores and schools and this is to be determined by regulation. The federal legalization date is October 17, 2018, and this bill is expected to move fairly quickly through the legislative process. OPSBA will review the bill’s contents for educational impacts, including the location of retail stores near schools and where cannabis can be consumed.
Updates were provided on the followings issues related to education funding:
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund
The $100 million designated for 2018-19 was cancelled as of July 5, 2018. As such, school boards were told not to enter into any further related contracts after July 3, 2018. The Ministry will cover the costs incurred if school boards have entered into contractual agreements for capital works on or before July 3, 2018. School boards with projects that are in the planning and design stage, and have not entered into contractual agreements for capital works on or before July 3, 2018, may choose to proceed with these projects only with their other existing funding allocations.
2018-19 Grants for Student Needs
On March 26, 2018, the Ministry of Education released memo B06 – Grants for Student Needs. Highlights are available on the OPSBA website.
Benefits Technical Advisory Committee
Through the 2017-18 GSN the Ministry announced the establishment of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to discuss a go-forward approach to funding benefits within the GSN. The TAC is reviewing all benefits, including Statutory, Health, Life, and Dental. The TAC includes school business officials and financial experts from the Trustee Associations. OPSBA has designated two Senior Business Officials to represent the association on this technical advisory committee. The committee is meeting throughout the school year.
Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC)
Chief Elaine Johnston, Chair of OPSBA’s Indigenous Trustees’ Council, provided a report that included updates on the following:
Cancellation of the Curriculum Writing Sessions of Four Indigenous Studies Courses
Following the government’s cancellation of summer curriculum writing sessions, the ITC has asked OPSBA’s incoming ITC Staff Advisor, Sean Monteith, to draft a letter on its behalf to submit to the Minister asking for clear and definable actions related to the cancellations.
Role and Capacity of Indigenous Trustees
The ITC Staff Advisor reported on research into the range of the role and capacity of Indigenous Trustees from a provincial perspective. It is clear that the role is wide and varied. Given that the Staff Advisor will be working with his Board (the Keewatin Patricia District School Board) this fall to completely rewrite their policy on Trustees to Represent the Interests of Indigenous Students, it was agreed once that new policy is approved, it would be shared with the ITC.
Communications and Media Relations
Updates on recent OPSBA communications issues were provided. There has been some media activity involving OPSBA since the June Board of Directors meeting, which can be found on the OPSBA website. OPSBA sent out four news releases since the previous board meeting:
September 26, 2018 – Before you vote – get to know your local trustee candidates
June 4, 2018 – Cathy Abraham elected President of OPSBA
June 8, 2018 – OPSBA extends congratulations to new PC government
July 6, 2018 – New CSBA President and Vice-President Acclaimed
OPSBA also released three media statements on Twitter during the summer months:
August 22, 2018 – Education Reform Consultation
August 14, 2018 – Executive Compensation
July 9, 2018 – Cancellation of Truth and Reconciliation Writing Sessions
Communications support was also provided for issues and projects including:
- The Canadian School Boards Association website and Twitter account
- The 2018 Ontario Provincial Election
- The 2018 OPSBA AGM and Program
- FSL Labour Market Partnership
- 2018 Municipal and School Board Elections
Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) New Policy and Recommendations on Accessible Education
On August 29, the OHRC released a new policy and recommendations on accessible education. This policy and recommendations provide the education sector, which includes primary, secondary and post-secondary education providers, the Commission’s advice on how to meet legal obligations under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. The recommendations set out actions that the government, school boards, schools and post-secondary institutions should take that the OHRC says will make the education system inclusive, function effectively and allow students with disabilities to thrive. Of the 29 recommendations, eight are specifically aimed at school boards and private educational providers. The full policy and additional 21 recommendations can be found at http://ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-releases-new-policy-and-recommendations-accessible-education. OPSBA staff are seeking feedback from member boards to determine what in the recommendations is currently standard school board practice, what boards require in order to comply and if a response to the OHRC is necessary.
Program Policy Update
A summary of Ministry meetings, workgroups and program-related announcements was provided. Information shared included updates on the following:
In September, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) released highlights of the provincial-level results from its 2017–2018 Assessments of Reading, Writing and Mathematics, Primary Division (Grades 1–3), Junior Division (Grades 4–6), the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics and the OSSLT. At the elementary level, math results have continued in a downward trend over a 5-year period. Since 2013 reading results have improved at the elementary level, while writing has declined in Grade 3, with a slight increase at the Grade 6 level. There is no significant difference in the results in elementary mathematics, reading or writing from the 2016-17 or 2015-16 results. The secondary OSSLT and provincial Grade 9 EQAO mathematics assessment did also not see significant changes from the past two years.
Health and Physical Education Curriculum
The initial announcement by the government to return to the 1998 Health and Physical Education Curriculum led to a response by OPSBA and every OPSBA member board. Other education sector partners were equally engaged in providing very consistent feedback. Student safety, human rights, equity, inclusion, professional development needs and expediting the consultation process were cornerstones of the feedback. OPSBA was clear in asking for a status quo position on the 2015 curriculum for both the elementary and secondary panel. There were no opportunities made available to meet or discuss this issue.
The Ministry of Education has released a teacher’s guide and a parent fact sheet that highlighted the fundamental math concepts and skills in the current curriculum. This does not represent new content. Some of the concepts and skills include working with numbers, recognizing number properties, mastering math facts, developing mental math skills and developing proficiency with operations. The ministry has also requested that school boards focus their numeracy professional activity (PA) day, which is one of three mandatory PA days, on fundamental math skills. To maximize impact, all boards have been asked to schedule this PA day before the Winter Break begins.
Ontario Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health
The steering committee has met to discuss engagement strategies and the necessity to reintroduce the Ontario Coalition to the new government. The Coalition has sent letters to each of the Ministers of Training Colleges and Universities, Health, Education and Children, Community and Social Services to request a meeting. This year the Coalition has added the student alliance organizations from colleges and universities to strengthen the student voice from elementary through to post-secondary settings.
OACAS Public Engagement, Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement Strategic Council
In our continuing partnership discussions with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aids Societies (OACAS), OPSBA has been asked to join the OACAS Public Engagement, Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement Strategic Council. OACAS is continuing with its annual Dress Purple Day Campaign to raise awareness about the rights of children and youth to safety and well-being, and the responsibility of adults and community services to help children, youth, and families who need support. This year OACAS has expanded the available resources to include middle and high school students. The prevention resources are evidence based and include lesson plans based on reasons for getting help, healthy and unhealthy relationships, self-esteem, and networks of support. Resources can be accessed here.
Update on 2018 Municipal and School Board Elections Campaign from Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC)
OESC, on behalf of Ontario’s four school board/trustee associations, has partnered with the Ministry of Education to develop a series of resources to support trustee candidates and communities in the upcoming Municipal and School Board Elections. In July 2018, OESC was directed by the ministry to pause work on these projects while the new government evaluated its priorities and resources. In August, OESC received the ministry’s approval to carry on with pre-election resources. An update on each resource:
Centralized School Board Elections Website
The hub for school board election information and trustee candidate information elections.ontarioschooltrustees.org has been revitalized for 2018.The site features profiles of trustee candidates running in all four school systems across the province. Candidate listings are now online and trustee candidates are welcome to submit their bios and photos for posting to email@example.com.
Your Guide to Hosting a School Board Trustee All Candidates Meeting
This resource is a guide for trustees, school boards and communities to encourage the organization of All Candidates Meetings in advance of the October 2018 Municipal & School Board Elections.
Public Education Resources
OESC has created a series of posters and newspaper ads to encourage greater interest in the upcoming elections and promote the role of trustee. The resources have three themes: 1) to encourage individuals to run for trustee office; 2) to promote All Candidates Meetings and 3) to promote the importance of voting in Municipal and School Board Elections.
Making a Difference for Kids: Running for Election as a School Board Trustee
This guidebook provides a user friendly overview of Ontario’s education system, school boards and the role of trustees.