The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a meeting in Toronto on February 24 and 25, 2023. This was the first Board of Directors meeting attended by Stephanie Donaldson in her new role as Executive Director.
On the evening of February 24, Board of Directors members received presentations on the following topics:
- An overview of the TDSB’s Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement from System Superintendent, Equity, Anti-Oppression and Early Years Karen Murray
- Training on the background and terminology stemming from questions connected to recent school board equity and human rights-related issues, misinformation, and controversy from OPSBA Associate Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Ken Jeffers
Updates were provided in private session on recent developments related to labour relations and collective bargaining.
OPSBA is hosting the 2023 Education Labour Relations and Human Resources Symposium on April 27 and 28 in Toronto. Online registration will open the week of February 27, 2023.
Education policy and program matters that were discussed in public session at the meeting are summarized below:
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario resumed on February 21, 2023. Earlier this month, the New Democratic Party of Ontario confirmed Marit Stiles (MPP Davenport) as the Leader of the party. She becomes the Leader of the Official Opposition. The riding of Hamilton Centre is vacant after former NDP Leader and MPP Andrea Horwath was elected mayor for the City of Hamilton in October. A by-election for Hamilton Centre will occur on March 16, 2023, with a full list of candidates available on the Elections Ontario web site after March 2. NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre) has indicated that she will resign after this next session before moving into a new role in July at the University of Waterloo.
The government is currently focusing on changing the provincial health care system through new legislation.
The official party standings are:
- Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario: 83 members
- New Democratic Party of Ontario: 30 members
- Ontario Liberal Party: 8 members
- Green Party of Ontario: 1 member
- Independent: 1 member
- Vacant: 1 riding (Hamilton Centre)
2023-24 Education Funding Consultation Guide / Grants for Student Needs (GSN) / 2023 Provincial Budget Consultations
In late November, OPSBA sent its submission regarding the 2023-24 Education Funding Consultation Guide to the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education. It was also shared with the opposition critics and key stakeholders. The Association’s draft included feedback from a survey of our Board of Directors, the Indigenous Trustees’ Council, senior business officials, and member board correspondence. The submission answered the ministry’s consultation questions and focused on key funding lines that align with our multi-year strategic priorities.
The government also recently concluded its province-wide pre-budget consultations with in-person sessions occurring in 10 locations. In Sault Ste. Marie, OPSBA Indigenous Trustees’ Council Chair Elaine Johnston presented to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. Her remarks focused on Indigenous Education and Northern Challenges faced by our member boards in the North – rural and remote. OPSBA adapted its 2023-24 Education Funding and the GSN submission and shared it with this Committee.
Note: In 2022, the GSN were released on February 17. The provincial budget will be released March 23, 2023. Supporting legislation to implement the budget would be introduced the same day or soon after.
Ministry of Education Consultation re: Electronic Meetings
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has indicated plans to consult on this issue, noting there are issues for large geographic boards. There may be changes coming to O. Reg. 463/97: Electronic Meetings and Meeting Attendance but the timing is currently unknown.
OPSBA Advocacy Day
OPSBA’s November 28, 2022, Advocacy Day was a tremendous success. Board of Directors members and student trustees spent the day at Queen’s Park attending Question Period, meeting with their local MPPs, and participating in the evening reception. In total, OPSBA representatives met with over 50 MPP offices either in meetings or at the reception. This includes meetings with the Minister of Education, the two Parliamentary Assistants, and the education critics from the New Democratic Party, the Ontario Liberal Party and the leader of the Green Party of Ontario.
The day began with OPSBA and Nanos Research releasing new survey data regarding several public education issues ranging from education funding to curriculum, special education, equity, and governance. Presenting the information were OPSBA President Cathy Abraham, Indigenous Trustees’ Council Chair Elaine Johnston, and Founder and Chief Data Scientist of Nanos Research, Nik Nanos.
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 2022-23 and prior years can be accessed on the ministry website. See information above regarding the release of the 2023-24 GSN.
School boards, particularly in growing areas of the province have struggled with delays in capital projects, in many cases delays not within their control. The pressure is going to be exacerbated by the government’s intention to ramp up residential growth and construction through the Build More Homes Faster Act that was announced in October and recently passed. The speed at which residential growth can be made far outpaces the speed at which school boards can build schools under the current process. It can take years – up to a decade – to see a new school open in an area.
The ministry is aware of this timing gap and growing pressure and have convened a working group of representatives from a number of sectors, include school boards, to try and come up with a way to expedite capital construction. It is believed the government is hoping to release a plan in this regard over the coming months
Ontario School Board Insurance Exchange
Based on the Auditor General’s recommendation that the province consolidate the financial results of the Ontario School Board Insurance Exchange (OSBIE), the Ministry of Education announced that school boards would be required to proportionally consolidate the operations of OSBIE in their financial statements. The ministry had delayed the requirement to consolidate until the March report, but very recently has indicated that they will be delaying the requirement further.
Indigenous Education / Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC)
At the February ITC meeting Elaine Johnston was acclaimed as Chair of the ITC and Claudine VanEvery-Albert acclaimed as Vice-Chair of the ITC. Paul Cormier was acclaimed as member of the Education Program Work Group, while Howard Archibald was acclaimed to the Policy Development Work Group.
The Council discussed post-pandemic planning for First Nation schools, and issues such as such as mental health, learning recovery, and access to high-speed internet.
Regarding the Secondary Native Languages Curricula, concern was raised that it has not been reviewed by the government in 10 years. The ITC reiterated the importance of native languages and explained that for First Nation people, cultures, ways of being, identities and spirits live within their language and who they are as people resides in language.
The ITC was pleased to welcome Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, and Patrice Barnes, Parliamentary Assistant, Minister of Education to the Council’s January 28 meeting at the Public Education Symposium.
Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC)
An update on recent initiatives undertaken by the OESC was provided by Executive Director Ted Doherty.
Government Relations, Public Affairs, and Communications
An overview of recent media activity and OPSBA’s past, current and future advocacy and awareness planning was provided. To see the Association’s appearances in the media, visit OPSBA in the Media.
Public Education Symposium (PES)
As part of PES, OPSBA hosted a meeting of communications staff from our member boards. Despite the weather, staff from the vast majority of our boards were able to attend. This year’s meeting included:
- Presentations and updates from OPSBA Policy and Labour staff
- Equity, diversity, inclusion training, and
- Current issues case study presentations on Cyber Incidents and Equity Issues.
On December 12, 2022, an announcement was made regarding two curriculum changes to better prepare students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas including a new Computer Studies curriculum and a new Technological Education Curriculum.
Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health
The Coalition position paper was released in November 2022 and summarizes the current research on children and youth mental health and addictions, identifies goals with rationale for action, along with evidence-informed recommendations. The recommendations are aligned with Right time, right care: Strengthening Ontario’s mental health and addictions system of care for children and young people. To date, representatives of the Coalition have met with the Ministry of Children and Social Services (MCSS), Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education to present the paper and engage in an advocacy dialogue to advance the recommendations.
French as a Second Language (FSL)
OPSBA is leading the research and promotion of workable solutions to the issue of attracting and retaining sufficient numbers of FSL teachers. As of February 28, 2023, the Ministry of Education-funded contract to continue to mobilize research findings and workable solutions in the areas of FSL teacher recruitment, hiring, professional support and retention is finished and all deliverables have been completed. Promotional materials have been created to encourage and support school boards in offering the new Specialist High Skills Major Non-Profit in Education including bilingual videos, flyers, presentation PowerPoints and scripts geared to teachers, students, and school leaders.
Education Partner Discussion Table
This OPSBA-coordinated Table of education stakeholders continues to meet to create a vision for what school should look like in the next five to 10 years. All education partners continue to engage with the process and are regularly attending the meetings. It is anticipated that this work will be completed in May 2023 and include a delivered report and infographic.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Black Trustees Caucus (BTC)
Two meetings of the BTC were held at the Public Education Symposium on January 26 and 27,Fifteen trustees had expressed interest to join the BTC. Twelve of these individuals were in attendance. These meetings focused on introductions, relationship building, general discussions and brainstorming information to include in a draft Terms of Reference. It was agreed that the group should be called “The Black Trustees’ Caucus.” A draft Terms of Reference is expected to be presented to the Board of Directors for consideration by June 2023.
Accessibility – AODA Review Submission Update
OPSBA is currently drafting feedback for the fourth independent legislative review of the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). On December 5, 2022, a province-wide focus group of over 20 accessibility staff leads from member boards came together to brainstorm information to include in OPSBA’s recommendations.
Strategic Planning Process
The process to identify multi-year strategic priorities to guide the association is well under way.
Actions taken to date include:
- Approval of the Project Plan (Fall 2022)
- Seek input from outgoing members of the Board of Directors (Fall 2022: prior to the end of the 2018-2022 Term of Office)
- Informal input from community and educational partners through the Executive Director (December 2022 – February 2023)
- Regional Councils were engaged in a brainstorming exercise on January 28, 2023
- A survey was sent to 365 trustees and 31 directors of education from across the province requesting individual input for consideration in the identification of priority areas.
To date, 24% of trustees have responded to the online survey. Please take 10 minutes to contribute to this important process and encourage your colleagues as well.
Deadline Extended to Monday, March 6, 2023 at 10 p.m.
Elections Planning (for the Annual General Meeting)
Information on the election and policy resolution processes will be included in OPSBA Connects and sent directly to all OPSBA BOD members.
Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA)
The CSBA Board of Directors met February 6 to 8 in Winnipeg, and were privileged to hold one day of meetings at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
CSBA Congress and the National Trustees Gathering on Indigenous Education is being held from July 3 to 5, 2023, in Banff, Alberta. Please keep checking back for accommodations. Registration will be open soon.
For more information on any of the above reports, please contact OPSBA at firstname.lastname@example.org or your school board’s OPSBA Board of Director member. The next OPSBA Board of Directors meeting will take place on April 28 and 29, 2023, in Toronto.