As a retired teacher, I do not support the current labour disruptions by Ontario teachers

As a retired teacher, I do not support the strikes and work disruptions by Ontario teachers.

Here is my take on things.

Governance issues at the Toronto District School Board

The larger context we are dealing with is being addressed, at one level, by an expert panel that is leading Toronto District School Board consultations, as noted in a March 16, 2015 Ministry of Education Backgrounder:

Expert panel to lead TDSB consultations

The panel is addressing governance issues at the TDSB. Among the panelists is Shirley Hoy, whose profile in the above-noted Backgrounder is outlined as follows:

“Ms. Hoy started her career in municipal public service in 1980 with the former Metro Toronto government, where she held various positions, including general manager of administration/corporate secretary, at Exhibition Place, and executive director in the Metro Chairman’s Office.

“Between 1991 to the end of 1995, Ms. Hoy worked in the Ontario government as assistant deputy minister in three ministries – Ontario Women’s Directorate, Ministry of Community & Social Services, and the joint position of ADM of operations, and CEO of the Ontario Housing Corporation, in the Ministry of Housing. In 1996, she returned to Metro Toronto, as the commissioner of community services. Following amalgamation, Ms. Hoy was appointed the commissioner of community and neighbourhood services department, and from 2001 to 2008 she served a city manager for the City of Toronto.

“From 2009 to January 2014, Ms. Hoy completed a five-year term with the Toronto Lands Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Toronto District School Board, responsible for managing and disposing of surplus school properties.

“With respect to community and volunteer activities, Ms. Hoy is currently vice-chair of the Governing Council of University of Toronto, and a member of the board of trustees of United Way Toronto. In the last five years, she has also served on the board of the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation, and the board of regents of Victoria University, U of T.”

[End of Backgrounder profile]

Previous posts regarding Toronto District School Board

My take on governance issues at the TDSB I have outlined at previous posts.

Click here to access previous posts about TDSB >

Most certainly, I do not wish to engage in broad generalizations. Some of the work being done by the TDSB and other boards across Ontario is exemplary. I’m a strong supporter of the work that TDSB Trustee Pamela Gough is doing, in the City of Toronto Ward in which I live. In my view, Trustee Gough is a dedicated elected official, whose work on behalf of the community is exemplary and outstanding, as evidenced, by way of example, in her assistance in ensuring that Parkview School, located close to where I live, remains in public hands.

That said, some of the work done by the TDSB has been abysmal, as recent posts (see link above) outline, and much work is required with reference to governance issues at the TDSB to get things working better than has been the case in recent years.

Total Institutions

A basic argument, that many people have advanced, is that individuals in positions of authority, within school boards such as the Toronto board, work their way up through a closed system – a kind of parallel universe that is separate from the larger universe that surrounds it – and make decisions that do not make a lot of sense. The problem is that such systems display features of what the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman has described as Total Institutions.

Such an institution has characteristics of organizations such as the Canadian military, with the attendant problems involving abuse by individuals who hold senior positions within a strongly hierarchical chain of command. A good overview of the necessity to have outside organizations step in to deal with problems within strongly hierarchical chain-of-command structures, such as the command structure of the TDSB, is provided by the following article:

A May 15, 2015 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Former Canadian soldier says complaints of sexual harassment ignored.”

Feminist parties

Creative ways are emerging to address the broader societal issues that underline urgent problems of the nature outlined in the above-noted article. An article that offers an outline of better ways of doing things, within the broader context of political decision-making, within any society, is this one:

A May 6, 2015 openDemocracy.com article is entitled: “The feminist parties redefining Scandinavian politics.”

CBC Metro Morning interview with former education minister

I’n not a supporter of Janet Ecker’s general orientation to reality. However, I agree strongly with comments that she made at a May 7, 2015 Metro Morning interview.

A May 7, 2015 Metro Morning podcast is entitled: “Janet Ecker, teachers unions & government: Janet Ecker a former education minister says it’s time for the union to recognize reality and look at taking a deal because they are the ones who have historically held up labour negotiations.”

A key point that Ecker makes in the interview is that teachers who work their way up through the ranks of teachers unions in Ontario have a pretty blinkered view of the larger economic and political context in which teachers operate. She also notes that teachers’ salaries have in not that long a period of time seen a twenty-five percent increase, as subsequent fact-checking by Metro Morning has confirmed.

I have learned a few things after the time that I retired from teaching

I do not have an expectation that governance issues at the TDSB can be adequately addressed by the governance structure that is currently in place.

I do not have an expectation that, generally speaking, teachers who head teachers unions in Ontario would have the capacity to comprehend the point that I am making in this post. My point is as follows:

As a retired teacher, I am blessed with having an adequate teacher’s pension. The pension enables me to engage extensively in volunteer work, and to build up a small business, that I otherwise would not have been able to do.

In the years since I retired from teaching, I’ve also had the time to learn something about how my local community, and the wider provincial community, works at the political and economic level. I have a view of things that I would not possibly have been able to attain, in my particular role as a teacher, during the years when my focus was on teaching my classes, doing teaching-related paperwork, meeting with parents, and taking on all of the responsibilities that being a public school teacher entails.

I do not imply that my experience is the only kind of experience that is available to all teachers; I am certain there are exceptions to my own experience, but I also believe that my own experience is not unusual.

Teaching is important work. It’s my hope that my students, from those years, have learned a few things from my own efforts as a teacher. Beyond question, I have learned many things of tremendous value, during the thirty-plus years that I worked as a teacher –  at primary, junior, and high school levels in several school boards across the Greater Toronto Area, and also in the day care field, which is where I began my work as a teacher.

However, I am pleased to add that, in the years during which I have retired from teaching, I have had the occasion to learn many new things. My outlook is broader; I have a better understanding of things.

Expert panel to lead TDSB consultations

For these reasons, I agree with Janet Ecker that teachers’ unions in Ontario would benefit from a better acquaintance with everyday reality than the current teacher-led labour disruptions in Ontario demonstrate. For these reasons, I strongly support the work of the expert panel that I have referred to earlier in this post.

The full text of the Ministry of Education Backgrounder, referred to earlier, reads as follows:

March 16, 2015 2:00 P.M. Ministry of Education

Ontario has appointed an expert panel composed of seven members to lead the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) consultation process. The panel will consult with the TDSB community and make recommendations to the Minister of Education on how to improve the governance structure at TDSB. The panel will lead up to 20 public consultations between March and May 2015.

Barbara Hall (Chair)

Ms. Hall has more than 40 years of experience as a community worker, lawyer and municipal politician. She served three terms as a Toronto city councillor from 1985 on and as Toronto’s mayor from 1994 to 1997. From 1998 to 2002, she headed the federal government’s national strategy on community safety and crime prevention. She was chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 2005 until February 2015.

Ms. Hall has also practised criminal and family law, been a member of the Province of Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care health results team, and lectured nationally and internationally on urban and social issues. She has extensive experience on non-profit boards and committees, and has a strong record of bringing diverse groups together to build safe and strong communities.

Dr. Vicki Bismilla

Dr. Bismilla is the former vice-president, academic, and chief learning officer at Centennial College (2005 – 2012), and a former teacher, principal and superintendent of education with the previous Scarborough Board of Education, the Toronto District School Board and the York Region District School Board (1972 – 2005).

Dr. Bismilla was involved in the creation of 20 equity programs and committees for the York Region District School Board that address a range of equity issues including racism, homophobia, classism and diversity hiring practices. She initiated the province-wide equity committee for supervisory officers from school boards across Ontario and taught the supervisory officer qualification program.

She won the Province of Ontario volunteer service award in 1998 for her years of volunteer service including serving as president of the board of directors for the Scarborough Women’s Centre. Since 2010 to the present, she has served on the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Council.

Patrick Case

Mr. Case, LL.B. LL.M, is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph and he is the current chair of the board of Ontario’s Human Rights Legal Support Centre. Mr. Case is an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and the director of the Osgoode Hall Law School Certificate Program in Human Rights Theory and Practice. Mr. Case is also a member of the board of Facing History and Ourselves, an organization that helps educators worldwide link the past to moral choices today.

From 1979 to 1985, Mr. Case was a school trustee with the former Toronto Board of Education and from 1989 to 1999 he was an equity advisor with the same board. From 1999 to 2009, Mr. Case was the director of the Human Rights and Equity Office of the University of Guelph. From 2006 to 2010, he held an appointment as a Commissioner at the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He has been a trade unionist, a school trustee and a practitioner whose chief focus was serving women who were victims of male violence. Mr. Case has served as a staff lawyer in the family law division at Parkdale Community Legal Services. He is a past chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, which was created as a part of the federal government’s redress agreement with Japanese Canadians and has been a co-chair of the equality rights panel of the Court Challenges Program of Canada.

Briony Glassco

Ms. Glassco is a former trustee for Ward 10 and served from August – November 2014. Before serving as trustee, Ms. Glassco was a member of several TDSB advisory groups including the parent involvement advisory committee, the inner-city advisory committee and her community and local parent councils. As a parent, she has worked to improve communication between parents and schools, trustees and the school board. In 2013, she served on an advisory committee reviewing the TDSB’s community advisory committees and has run workshops with many school and ward councils on effective communication and meeting practice.

As a communication skills coach, Ms. Glassco has developed innovative programs and exercises for both young people and adults to help them with their communication skills. Ms. Glassco is a board member of the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation, a philanthropic foundation promoting innovative public policies for the north and fresh water management and Playwrights Workshop Montreal.

Shirley Hoy

Ms. Hoy started her career in municipal public service in 1980 with the former Metro Toronto government, where she held various positions, including general manager of administration/corporate secretary, at Exhibition Place, and executive director in the Metro Chairman’s Office.

Between 1991 to the end of 1995, Ms. Hoy worked in the Ontario government as assistant deputy minister in three ministries – Ontario Women’s Directorate, Ministry of Community & Social Services, and the joint position of ADM of operations, and CEO of the Ontario Housing Corporation, in the Ministry of Housing. In 1996, she returned to Metro Toronto, as the commissioner of community services. Following amalgamation, Ms. Hoy was appointed the commissioner of community and neighbourhood services department, and from 2001 to 2008 she served a city manager for the City of Toronto.

From 2009 to January 2014, Ms. Hoy completed a five-year term with the Toronto Lands Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Toronto District School Board, responsible for managing and disposing of surplus school properties.

With respect to community and volunteer activities, Ms. Hoy is currently vice-chair of the Governing Council of University of Toronto, and a member of the board of trustees of United Way Toronto. In the last five years, she has also served on the board of the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation, and the board of regents of Victoria University, U of T.

Richard Powers

Mr. Powers is the national academic director, directors education program and governance essentials program at the Rotman School of Management. He recently completed a five-year term as the associate dean and executive director of the Rotman Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Finance programs. Mr. Powers’ areas of expertise include corporate governance, ethics, business and corporate law. He also teaches in Rotman’s Executive MBA, Omnium Global MBA and executive education programs.

Mr. Powers is a director of several not-for-profit organizations and frequently comments on legal and governance issues in various media across Canada. He currently sits on the following boards: Commonwealth Games Canada (president); Rugby Canada (COC representative); CIS eLearning Consortium (chair of governance committee) and Childhood Cancer Canada.

Jennifer Williams

Ms. Williams is a third-year student at Queen’s University in the health studies and life sciences programs. She is a former TDSB student trustee (2010-2012) and was active in the board’s strategic planning and in developing policies around electronic device use, student leadership, and student activity fees. She was also involved in planning and executing student leadership events and retreats geared towards grades 7-12 students. As president of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (2011-2012), Ms. Williams co-authored the Mental Health Charter of Rights for students and forged greater links among and between student trustees and other student leaders across Ontario.

Ms. Williams is active in student affairs and initiatives supporting prospective and first-year undergraduates and academically at-risk students, and has for the last three years had a leadership role in the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on healthcare.

Media Contacts
Gary Wheeler
Communications Branch
gary.s.wheeler@ontario.ca
416-325-2454

Nilani Logeswaran
Minister’s Office
Nilani.Logeswaran@ontario.ca
416-314-6020

[End of text]

 

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