The OPSBA Board of Directors held a meeting on April 21 and 22, 2017.

Dr. Karen Grose, Vice-President, Digital Learning at TVO, presented to the board on the evening of April 21, providing an overview of the broadcaster’s products and services, with a specific focus on their digital offerings. She noted mPower, Teach Ontario, Homework Help and TVO Kids digital games. The board was invited to participate in a hands-on demonstration of some of TVO’s online products.

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

Labour Relations
A confidential report was provided on developments in the labour relations and collective bargaining sector.

Communications and Media Relations
Updates on the following issues were provided:

  • Distribution of Media Release re: Grants for Student Needs Announcement
  • OPSBA’s Letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star re: a column entitled “School trustees have lost public trust”
  • President Media Interviews:
    • President interviewed by Toronto Star re: GSN Announcement (April 12)
    • CBC Radio Ottawa “All in a Day” Program – interviewed/clipped for re:  Rural School Closures (March 28)
  • Advocacy on behalf of Peel District School Board regarding Religious Accommodation Issue

Updates were provided on the School Energy Coalition and the next steps with regards to the review of student transportation. In response to the Auditor General’s recommendation that the Ministry of Education revisit the current student transportation funding formula, the ministry will proceed with a 12 to 18-month multi-stakeholder engagement to solicit input and feedback to renew the vision of student transportation in Ontario.

The Ministry released information regarding education funding (Grants for Student Needs [GSN]) on April 12, 2017. Investments in Ontario’s publicly-funded education system continue to increase from $23 billion in 2016-17 to $23.8 billion in 2017-18. Per-pupil funding is projected to increase in 2017-18 to $12,100 – an increase of 68 per cent since 2002-03. The 2017-18 GSN reflects implementation of recently ratified labour agreements. The announcement showed increased funding to support Special Education, Indigenous student achievement, school infrastructure, and student transportation. OPSBA will continue to address pressures related to excess capacity and programming needs through pupil accommodation reviews with the phase out of top-up funding under the Ministry’s School Board Efficiencies and Modernization Strategy (SBEM) and growing student transportation costs. The provincial budget will be released on April 27, 2017.

An update on copyright regulations and activities was provided. In the fall of 2016, OPSBA electronically distributed a bundle of materials developed by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. These materials will help aid school boards in keeping staff advised about copyright requirements.  The Copyright Decision Tool was also noted and an overview of the new prohibition on copying of consumables was given.

Community Hubs
OPSBA staff and a number of member board trustees are participating in the Ontario Community Hubs Summit on May 1 and 2 at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. On April 4, Minister Hunter announced the government is seeking to preserve local community services for families in Toronto by proposing to acquire two facilities from the TDSB that would be maintained as community hubs. The March 6 memo announcing a provide-wide engagement on education in rural and remote communities also included a review of progress made with regards to supporting community hubs, noting investments in capital funding for community hub school retrofits and upcoming funding for community replacement space.

Legislature and Government Relations
An update on activities of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario was provided. The House will rise for the summer recess after June 1, 2017. Current Bills relevant to the education sector include: Bill 68, Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act; Bill 90, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Safety Zones); Bill 94, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Bus Camera Safety Systems); Bill 114, Anti-Racism Act; and the Construction Lien Act. The Ministry of Education’s upcoming Rural and Remote Education Review has been of great interest to Ontario school boards and OPSBA has reached out to the Minister’s Office to learn more about the timing, process and how boards and trustees can be part of this review. The consultation will include stakeholder and public town hall meetings in rural areas across the province. Feedback is due June 9, 2017.

Early Years/Middle Years
An overview of recent announcements and activities related to Ontario’s Early Years and Middle Years strategies was provided. A new provincial framework for the early years and child care will be released in May. In early March, OPSBA facilitated a conference call between the Ministry of Education and Early Years leads regarding before-and-after-school care for children ages six-to-12. OPSBA will be following up with school boards regarding the September 2017 implementation date. Ministry contacts have confirmed the federal child care budget will assist with facilitating new growth in child care spaces and help low-income families access services.

Healthy Schools Working Table
OPSBA staff attended a Healthy Schools Working Table meeting hosted by the Ministry’s Healthy Schools Unit/Safe Schools and Student Well-Being Branch on March 29. The agenda included updates on concussions, medical conditions, student injury prevention and future funding for Physical Activity in Secondary Schools Grants. It was noted that the main part of the day concentrated on a proposed review of the Daily Physical Activity (DPA) requirement for school boards, with changes that could be in effect by September 2017.

Indigenous Trustees Council (ITC)
Peter Garrow, OPSBA’s First Nations Director, delivered an update on the ITC’s recent actions and advocacy. OPSBA has received funding to act as the lead on developing a new module for the Trustee Professional Development Program on educating trustees about the real history of Indigenous peoples in Ontario, as well as highlighting best practices in Ontario school boards that are moving us towards reconciliation. He also provided updates on the work of the Well-Being Subcommittee of the Minister’s Advisory Council on FNMI Education Working Group and the development of new curriculum to address the Calls to Action of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Well-Being Engagement Paper Response
The Ministry released its Well-Being Engagement Paper in November 2016. OPSBA, through the Education Program Work Team, created an online survey that teams of trustees and board staff from boards were requested to complete. A summary report with recommendations and guiding principles was created and forwarded to the Ministry. The Ontario Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health also utilized the results to submit their own report, which reinforced many of the principles contained within OPSBA’s submission.

Ontario’s Special Needs Strategy
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services is leading Ontario’s Special Needs Strategy for Children and Youth. Steps are being taken to support children and youth with special needs to get the timely and effective services they need at home, in school, and in the community, as they transition to adulthood. This is a multi-ministerial strategy that includes Education, Health and Long-Term Care and Community and Social Services.

Minister’s Advisory Council for Special Education (MACSE)
Cheryl Lovell, OPSBA’s representative on MACSE, provided an update on recent activities related to the advisory council.

Education Labour Relations and Human Resources Conference
An overview of the recent Education Labour Relations and Human Resources Conference was provided. Participants viewed the event as informative and engaging.