Saturday, February 9, 2013

The view from the board

FEB 8/13
by Jeff Kanter

It has been less than a week since the previous segment was completed, during
which things have been suspiciously quiet. Naturally, the premier designate is busy
putting together her new cabinet, as many of the previous rats continue to abandon
a ship, which if not sinking outright, is certainly taking on prodigious amounts of

Not that nothing has been going on: the director of education at OCDSB sent out
a very interesting letter to teachers, basically saying “hey guys, the legislation is
in place, not everyone may like it but that’s just the way it goes, let’s all just forget
about all that previous nastiness and get back to our extra curriculars, that’s what a
nice group of dedicated professionals should do, yes? Ok? Please?”.

The Real Issue comes out later in the letter. As we move towards that time of year
when students and their parents make decisions for the upcoming school year, the
director’s missive takes on a decidedly desperate and threatening tone: there is
going to be a massive migration from the public system to the separate system if
teachers don’t go back to providing voluntary services.

First of all, as the response from OSSTF leadership indicated, most of the declines
in student population were already predicted and predicated upon other criteria.
Secondly, even if that were not the case, to now try to shift blame/focus/attention
regarding That Issue onto the teachers is unconscionable.

Boards of education have been reduced to near irrelevance by Bill 115 (even
though it be officially repealed). To see their leaders immerse themselves in the
prolongation of the problem rather than the seeking of solution is a shame.

The entire issue was created and sustained by the provincial government under the
previous premier (again, the name escapes me at the moment). The emergence of a
new premier signifies the possibility and potential for repair. Directors of education
can certainly help to move this process along by lending their voices in support
of their most valuable resource: teachers (students are not the resource; they are
the raw materials). Declining enrolment? Nah. Declining influence perhaps, by an
individual whose salary and perks and severance package would appear off the
scale to a mere teacher. Even the city councilors just got a nice raise – maybe not as
much as the most recent OCTranspo contract gave to its drivers, but still.

Wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Jeff Kanter is a secondary teacher in Ottawa.

1 comment:

  1. Your points about the power of the boards and their directors are well taken. Will the directors be decision makers or just the messengers of news from the provincial government?

    I will agree with you that teachers are the most important resource in our school systems. School boards can offer a variety of extra-curricular activities. If the students choose only to participate in them and not participate in classroom activities, we as teachers will be failing in our unofficial mission to educate the students. Some extra-curricular activities are learning activities where a teacher/coach will instruct the students on best strategies. Other activities are just recreational activities where minimal learning may take place between the teacher and students or among the students themselves (with the teacher acting as a supervisor). Either is fine. However, students do need to learn in the classroom from motivated and resourceful teachers so that they can apply their learning outside the formal classroom environment. The application of their learning can be performed in their homes and communities.