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The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a virtual meeting on Zoom on November 27, 2021. Alternate Indigenous Director Lucille Kyle gave an acknowledgement that participants in the meeting were connecting to the meeting from numerous traditional territories of the Indigenous peoples of Ontario.

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

Education Funding

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 2021-22 and prior years can be accessed on the ministry website.

2022/23 Grants for Student Needs Consultation

OPSBA has gathered feedback from its members about next year’s GSN beginning with regional meetings in early November and a survey that was sent to Board of Directors members asking high level education funding questions. OPSBA is working with OASBO on the more technical questions and will coordinate key messaging. Additional information has been sought from the Indigenous Trustees’ Council, senior business officials, and from member board correspondence that included funding requests. The submission will be sent to the Ministry of Education and posted on the OPSBA website shortly.

Second half of GSN-related COVID-19 Funding

The ministry has confirmed that the remaining COVID-19 funding supports, first announced in May 2021, will be provided to school boards for the second half of the school year. The announced amounts include access of up to two per cent from school board reserve funds.

Capital Funding

On November 23, the government announced capital building programs to support 78 school and child care related projects. The newly approved Capital Priorities Program projects will create 19,700 new student spaces, and 1,525 new licensed child care spaces in schools. These new spaces will be supported by $565 million in funding, which will see 26 new schools and 20 permanent additions and renovations built. This capital funding is part of a projected $14 billion to support school construction over ten years.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

OPSBA’s work on equity, diversity, and inclusion is ongoing, with current practices, structures and policies under review. OPSBA has hired a staff lead for this important work, Ken Jeffers, who has more than 20 years of experience in the public education and not-for-profit sectors, having previously served in various equity, diversity and inclusion roles at the Toronto District School Board for well over a decade.

Legislative Update

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario rises for Winter Break following the sitting on December 9, 2021. MPPs will return to Queen’s Park on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 – after Family Day. Recent and current legislation OPSBA is following includes:

  • Bill 43, Build Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2021
  • Bill 13, Supporting People and Businesses Act, 2021
  • Bill 35, Equity Education for Young Ontarians Act, 2021
  • Bill 34, Anti-Asian Racism Education Month Act, 2021
  • Bill 25, Early Years and Child Care Worker Advisory Commission Act, 2021
  • Bill 11, Autism Awareness Day Act, 2021
  • Bill 10, Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act, 2021

Trustee Code of Conduct Consultations

OPSBA’s Policy Development Work Team met to review the Association’s draft response to the Ministry of Education’s Code of Conduct consultation and a submission was sent on October 28, 2021. The submission also included feedback expressed at the ministry’s stakeholder meeting that included OPSBA representatives.

Current Party Standings – 124 seats:

  • Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario – 69
  • New Democratic Party of Ontario – 40
  • Ontario Liberal Party – 7
  • Green Party of Ontario – 1
  • New Blue Party of Ontario – 1
  • Independent – 5
  • Vacant – 1

2022 Provincial Election

The next provincial election will be held on or before June 2, 2022. If this date remains, the writ will drop on May 4, 2022. OPSBA has begun to engage with the main political parties on the development of their election platforms to discuss and share education priorities.

Full Legislative Updates are available on the OPSBA Connects blog. All OPSBA submissions to the government are available on the OPSBA website.

Municipal and School Board Elections

In previous election years (2010, 2014 and 2018) OPSBA worked with the Ministry of Education’s Governance and Leadership Branch and OESC on the creation of and revision to several resources. The Association is confirming there is a possibility to secure funding to support these resources and if there is any commitment to participate and fund orientation for the next term of trustees (2022-2026).

Key Dates – 2022-2026 Municipal and School Board Elections

  • February 2022 – Trustee Determination and Distribution Guide released
  • By February 15, 2022 – Population of Electoral Group Report (PEG) delivered to boards
  • Monday, May 2, 2022 – Nomination and Campaign Period Begins
  • Friday, August 19, 2022 – Nomination Day (Last Day to be nominated) and Final Day for Withdrawal of Candidacy
  • Monday, October 24, 2022 – Voting Day
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2022 – School Board Term Begins

Labour Relations

Updates were provided in private session on recent developments related to labour relations.

OPSBA’s annual Education Labour Relations & Human Resources Symposium is scheduled for April 28 and 29, 2022. The planning of the symposium is currently underway and a call for presenters and requests for topics have been sent to senior negotiators in school boards.

Communications, Government and Public Affairs

An overview of recent media activity and OPSBA’s past, current and future advocacy and awareness planning was provided.

Media Statements and News Releases

OPSBA Media Activity

OPSBA’s Above and Beyond Campaign

The Above and Beyond public education awareness campaign has been running on social and traditional media since May 2021, performing well above industry standards in terms of viewership and cost efficiency. 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. Near the end of August, OPSBA’s Above and Beyond Campaign ramped up in a variety of ways, including:

  • A social media campaign, highlighting a number of stories of people in our system going Above and Beyond.  The campaign also encouraged others to submit stories from their communities.
  • Advertising across the Rogers Network on TV, radio, and online including CityTV and Sportsnet

In total, the campaign’s videos garnered 4,395,000 impressions and 209,000 completed video views across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Television and web advertising brought in another 3,983,000 impressions on Sportsnet, CityTV and the CityNews website.

In the coming weeks, staff will assess how to continue the momentum of the campaign over the coming months as we get closer to a provincial election.

Ministry Initiatives Committee

The Ministry Initiatives committee met on September 28, 2021. The intention of this committee is to provide information on initiatives in advance for feedback and implementation recommendations to support successful initiatives in school boards. Items discussed included:

  • Anti-Sex Trafficking Policy for District School Boards that was released in early July
  • New Grade 9 math course and de-streaming update
  • Learning recovery and renewal
  • PA Days for 2021-22
  • Board Improvement and Equity Plans

Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience Discussion Paper

OPSBA’s Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience discussion paper was released in May 2021 to all education partners and posted on the OPSBA website and associated social media platforms. Invitations were sent out to education partners to join in a collaborative discussion using the discussion paper as a springboard to identify and codevelop recommendations that can be included in the 2022-23 GSN submissions. Three meetings of this partnership table have now occurred. OPSBA’s online survey of the public education community is open until November 30, 2021.

Accessibility

Recommendations of the Education Standards Development Committee (ESDC)

The recommendations document that was released earlier this year set out the committee’s initial recommendations for proposed education accessibility standards in nine areas identified as barriers. A tenth area, transition planning, was considered by a technical committee comprising both K-12 and Postsecondary ESDC members. OPSBA responded to the ESDC’s consultation on October 4.

Joint Education Sector Letter to Minister Raymond Cho

In late October, OPSBA joined Colleges Ontario, The Council of Ontario Universities, the OCSTA and ACEPO, in signing a letter to Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho regarding concerns about a specific requirement in Question 14 of the 2021 accessibility compliance reporting for large public sector organizations. Question 14 poses great difficulty in terms of accurate and feasible reporting for large educational institutions. Universities, colleges and school boards offer various services through department, project-based and individual school websites in order to deliver quality education to all students, create inclusive and accessible learning spaces, and support faculty/teacher-led initiatives. The full letter, with proposed solutions, is available on the OPSBA website.

OPSBA-OSTA Liaison Committee

OPSBA President Cathy Abraham spoke at the recent OSTA-AECO student trustee meeting in Toronto, which was held in-person with very stringent COVID-19 attendance protocols.

As well, nominations are now open for the Ontario Public Student Trustee Leadership Scholarship. The intent of this award is to recognize outstanding achievement in a leadership role and provide financial support to a graduating public board student trustee to assist with their post-secondary education plans (University, College, or Apprenticeship). This scholarship is based on an outstanding initiative accomplished during the student trustee’s term and how the initiative positively impacted the students in their board. Two scholarships, in the amount of $500 each, will be awarded.

French as a Second Language (FSL)

OPSBA and its members and partners continue to lead a number of pilot projects under the Ministry of Education funded FSL Labour Market Partnership Project, with the goal of helping to build awareness, capacity and momentum among all 60 public and Catholic school boards province-wide for the implementation of promising practices for FSL teacher recruitment and retention.

In addition, OPSBA is leading three pan-Canadian initiatives, that include the development of an FSL Teacher Recruitment Guide for English Language School Boards, a French Language Assessment Toolkit and Resources and a project to support school principals in addressing challenges in hiring and retaining FSL teachers. Pilot projects are underway in all three initiatives to implement high potential strategies and approaches in various provinces.

Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA)

Past OPSBA President and Limestone DSB Trustee Laurie French was re-elected as CSBA President for the 2021-22 school year at the Association’s Annual General Meeting held October 3 and 4 in Victoria, B.C.

The CSBA’s Annual Report can be found here.

Plans for the 2022 CSBA Annual Congress and National Indigenous Trustee Gathering are now underway. The event is scheduled for July 6 to 8 in Saskatoon.

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