The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Board of Directors held a virtual meeting on Saturday, September 25, 2021. President Cathy Abraham 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.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: September 30
This day of recognition was created by the federal government through the enactment of Bill C-5 in June to fulfill the 80th call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which urges the creation of a statutory holiday to “ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” It honours First Nations, Inuit and Métis residential school survivors, their families, and communities, as a vital part in the process of reconciliation. Traditionally, this date has been known as Orange Shirt Day. OPSBA is highlighting the work of school boards in commemorating and honouring this day, and will also be making a public statement through the Association’s Indigenous Trustees’ Council.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at OPSBA
Turner Consulting Group’s Equity Audit of OPSBA has completed, with Tana Turner presenting her final report to the Board of Directors. In the interim, the Association has posted for the position of an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisor to provide support to the Association.
The Board of Directors carried a motion recommending:
That the OPSBA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Audit be referred to Project Compass, Indigenous Trustees’ Council, OPSBA Work Groups, OPSBA-OSTA Liaison Committee and Staff for further immediate consideration and/or implementation by the Board of Directors (BOD) meeting in April 2022 that Appendix A, summary of recommendations, be added as a standing item with tracking on BOD agendas until all supported recommendations are fully implemented.
The Legislative Assembly is currently prorogued until October 4. Prorogation is the act of completely ending a session of Parliament, and has the effect of terminating all outstanding business before the House. All business on the Order Paper has lapsed and no committees meet until the next Session of Parliament is commenced. Any bill that did not go through the full legislative process (i.e. receive Royal Assent) is dismissed and would have to be re-introduced in the next session. OPSBA will continue to monitor any legislation that is re-introduced, including:
- Bill 216, Food Literacy for Students Act
- Bill 260, Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act
Trustee Code of Conduct Consultations 2021
School board and trustee associations have been invited to an October stakeholder consultation regarding Trustee Code of Conduct. This consultation was first announced in June via a Ministry of Education news release, Ontario Supporting 2SLGBTQI+ Students. OPSBA has been corresponding with ADM Didem Proulx and the Leadership, Collaboration and Governance Branch to share and remind ministry staff of the Association’s previous work on a Code of Conduct template and Enforcement Procedure for member boards, which was last updated in 2019. As part of the ministry consultation, an online public survey has been posted with a feedback deadline of November 1, 2021. OPSBA’s President, Executive Director, and senior staff will be attending the October stakeholder meeting and the Policy Development Work Team will take the lead on a response to the online survey.
Federal Election – September 20
The 44th Federal Election was held on September 20, with the Liberals winning a minority mandate, and the Conservatives serving once again as the Official Opposition. Party platforms and other election-related information, including key messages developed by the Canadian School Boards Association and OPSBA’s Federal Election Package, are available on our website.
A summary of important B and SB memos that have been released since the last Board of Directors meeting in June was provided. B and SB memoranda for 2021-22 and prior years can be accessed on the ministry website.
The Ministry of Education was clear that there would be no stabilization funding available to school boards to deal with any unexpected enrolment fluctuations that arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and suggested that boards should be conservative in their enrolment forecasting for this year. Conservative forecasting may be leaving some boards in a tight spot with staffing, as the government has encouraged school boards, in writing, to reorganize schools to lower class sizes where they are able as soon as possible.
COVID-Related Infrastructure Stream (CVRIS)
Supply chain issues have caused delays to some projects funded through this federal program. An agreement has been secured between the Federal and Provincial Governments to extend the required completion date for urban projects to December 31, 2023, and for rural projects to December 31, 2024. Because these are projects directly related to the health and safety of students and staff, they should be completed as expediently as possible.
Second Half of GSN-related COVID-19 Funding
The Ministry of Education has begun gathering information to support the release of the second half of the previously announced COVID-19 support funds. September enrolment count information has been requested from school boards, instead of the typical October 31 count date information. September enrolment information is due to the ministry by October 25, 2021.
Updates were provided in private session on recent developments related to labour relations.
Communications, Government and Public Affairs
OPSBA’s Above and Beyond campaign continues to run on social media and through advertising across the Rogers Network on TV, radio and online, including on the CityTV and Sportsnet websites. A website featuring good news stories from across the system is now active at www.aboveandbeyondontario.ca.
An overview of recent media activity and OPSBA’s current future advocacy and awareness planning was provided. For more:
Transitioning from the COVID-19 School Experience Discussion Paper
The Education Program Work Team facilitated the OPSBA Transitioning from the COVID 19 School Experience discussion paper in collaboration with the OPSBA Advisory Committee. The discussion paper was released in May 2021, after which invitations were sent out to education partners to join in a collaborative discussion, using the discussion paper as a springboard to identify and co-develop recommendations that can be included in the 2022-23 Grants for Student Needs submissions in early 2022. The first meeting of the education partner table was held virtually on June 23, 2021. All education partners that were invited accepted the invitation to participate in the discussions to be held monthly from October 2021 to January 2022. A survey of Ontario’s public education community is open on SurveyMonkey until November 30.
OPSBA staff also provided an overview of the Student Perceptions of Online Learning in Ontario during COVID-19 report, which stemmed from OPSBA’s recent survey of Grade 5 to 12 students.
Recipients of OPSBA’s 2021 Awards are now posted on the OPSBA website. Congratulations to all who have been honoured for their commitment to public education!
OPSBA is currently wrapping up consultation of school boards and trustees as a response to recommendations from the Education Standards Development Committee (ESDC) for K-12 Education is finalized. These recommendations are meant to inform the Government’s work on proposed new accessibility standards for education. The Association’s response will be posted publicly at www.opsba.org in October.
French as a Second Language (FSL)
Phase III of the FSL Labour Market Partnership Project and the Year 1 final reports for the Department of Canadian Heritage initiatives can be found on the OPSBA website. These initiatives were created in response to concerns raised by OPSBA member boards about the growing gap between the number of students enrolling in French language programs and the recruitment and retention of sufficient numbers of FSL teachers and support staff.
OPSBA has now received Ministry of Education approval for continuing the FSL labour market partnership project and approval for Year 2 of all three Department of Canadian Heritage Initiatives.
Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA)
The CSBA’s Anti-Racism Work Team is preparing for next steps in their work, including a request for proposals. Full reports of the Association’s Anti-Racism policy audit and areas identified for change is available at https://www.cdnsba.org/anti-racism. The CSBA also continues to advance Indigenous Education initiatives and advocate for the continued existence and positive impact of locally elected school boards across Canada.