Newsletter February 2012

WSD and Budget Time!

By: Dave Najduch, President

Education funding can be a very dry and difficult topic at the very best of times. It is nothing we (WTA) have any control over and yet it has the ability to profoundly impact what occurs in schools with our students.

In most years around this time, the Province makes its education funding announcement. The WSD then calculates its portion of that amount and then talks would begin between the division and the province regarding additional funding through the Tax Incentive Grant (TIG). The TIG would be given to the school division if it froze the local school tax rate at the previous year’s level.

The WSD choose to take the TIG funds three of the last four school budget years. The impact of the TIG and the Education Property Tax Credit has been significant in the WSD. The actual money being paid in school taxes has fallen consistently since 2005. The average rate payer today is paying $287 less in school taxes than they did in 2005 (based on an average accessed home valued at $ 131,786).

This year the government is providing a 2.2% increase for education funding across the province. This amount varies widely from division to division and is based on a very complex set of calculations. In the end, on an approximately $341 million budget, the WSD will receive only a few thousand dollars more than it received last year which means it is obtaining virtually none of the 2.2% increase in funding. To compound this year’s funding problem, the provincial government is no longer going to provide additional TIG money.

The WSD is currently talking about an 8.0%-8.5% school tax increase to maintain the same level of services and programming as last year. Built into this amount will also be the need to provide funds to maintain aging schools and to enhance a technological system in need of repair. If the WSD chooses not to increase the tax rate by this amount it will then need to reduce programming and maintenance across the system to find the savings; this at the same time the WSD has seen an increase in enrollment of almost 1000 students.

The Association’s position on the funding issue is clear, the WSD needs to increase the tax rate to maintain all of the services and programs it currently delivers. Taking the TIG over the last few years has meant the tax rate in the WSD has been kept artificially low. The system does not have much, if any, budget flex left after years of tax freezes.

The discussions around the budget and a tax increase will be taking placed over the next few weeks. The WSD Budget meeting is Feb 27, 2012 and the budget and tax increase must be finalized by the middle of March.

 

WTA Information

By: Nathan Martindale, Vice-President

Despite what happens with the Groundhogs across the country today, I believe that Spring is merely weeks away!  I have no desire to shovel mountains of snow in the upcoming months and have no fond memories of that task from my youth (and did not find it amusing when my father purchased a snow blower when I moved out…)

Speaking of warmer weather, it has been six months since the memo regarding the contract ratification process was sent out.  I feel it is important to discuss how the WTA continues to advocate on behalf of its members even when we are not sitting at the bargaining table.  One mode of advocacy is face-to-face meetings with our employer as set out by pre-determined committee structures.  A combination of Dave Najduch (WTA President), Henry Shyka (WTA Business Agent) and I attend these meetings with representatives from the WSD under the auspices of the following committees:

President’s Committee

  • WTA: President, Vice-President and Business Agent
  • WSD: Chief Superintendent and Director of Human Resources
  • meets monthly

Personnel Committee

  • WTA: President, Vice-President and Business Agent
  • WSD: Director and Assistant Director of Human Resources
  • meets monthly

WSD/WTA Joint Committee

  • WTA: President, Vice-President, Business Agent and Treasurer or Secretary
  • WSD: Three School Trustees – Kristine Barr, Darlyne Bautista and Suzanne Hrynyk
  • meets four times per year

Comprehensive Assessment Program Committee

  • WTA: President and Vice-President
  • WSD: Director of Assessment and Instructional Support Services, District Superintendent
  • agreed to in the last round of Collective Bargaining to discuss the ongoing implementation, progress and proposed changes to CAP
  • meets three times per year (for each remaining year of the current Collective Agreement)

During these meetings concerns are brought forward, questions are asked, suggestions are made and discussions take place.  The purpose (and sometimes outcome) of these meetings directly relates to one of the objectives of the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association “to promote the welfare of our members”.

Another objective of the Association is “to foster active participation by the members”.  There are several upcoming events that address this objective.  (See The President’s article and the calendar on the WTA Website for more information).

One of the events is a result of the following motion which was passed at the December WTA Executive meeting:

The Executive request the WTA Negotiations Committee to host a meeting of elementary math teachers to help develop a request for information about the teaching of Math across the division.  The meeting to take place early in the new year.

The Negotiations Committee met and discussed the idea of a math forum and would like to announce the following:

The WTA Negotiations Committee invites you to attend: An Elementary Math Forum

Date: Tuesday, February 28th
Location: MTS Arnett Auditorium
Time: 4:30 PM to 8:00 PM

10 teachers from each grade (N/K to 6) will be selected from all those who apply for a total of 70 participants.  A cross-section of teachers will be selected (to ensure even distribution by school/district).  Dinner will be provided and the tentative agenda includes: a whole group introduction and brief discussion on what is working and what is not working, a break-out session during which each grade group can discuss specific problems/concerns/solutions and finally a whole group session where responses can be collected and heard.

If you are interested in attending this event, please contact me at the WTA Office @ 831-7104 or via email at vpres@wta.mb.ca by February 21st.  Members selected will be notified by February 23rd.

Hang in there, less than two months until Spring Break!

So far, so good, so what now?

By: David Harack, TWC Chair

We’ve made it to roughly the half way point of the school year, 100 days down and a 100 days to go! How are you feeling; tired, stressed, run-down? Or are you full of energy ready to take on any challenges that may come your way? It seems at this point in the school year teachers can be “feeling it”, trying to juggle the business of teaching, a cold Winter and the ups and down of life in general. But that’s not to say that by making a few simple little changes your overall Wellness can improve drastically. What do I mean by Wellness you may ask, well in my readings over the past break the best way I can describe it is by listing the Dimensions of Wellness; Nutritional, Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Social and Spiritual. So to simplify this even more it means; get moving, eat better, practice optimism, read, , connect to family or friends, and my favourite; find out the meaning of life(easier said than done!), or just slow down and take some time to reflect. If you can add any positive changes to these dimensions your life will improve.

Some really amazing things are starting to happen amongst our membership, to date eights schools have applied and received funding for a wide variety of Wellness initiatives such as Yoga classes, speakers on stress reduction, healthy dietary choices, financial Wellness and many others. Some schools are bringing people in while others get to go out and explore some of our city’s recreational facilities. Certain schools do Wellness events for a full day others do a half day while some schedule early morning or lunch workouts and others do after school classes-the sky is the limit! Be creative in your planning and think outside the box! At this point I would like to talk about a Physical Wellness plan that is being practiced at my school.

Early September of this year our Physical Educators got together and started to create something special that they called “AFL” or Active For Life, to which followed a series of workouts that they would facilitate at lunch or in the mornings. The big ones are “Get Fit Fridays” and “Monday Morning Active or MMA” and these workouts are very well attended at times it is a big mix of staff and students training and getting fit together. It has become very empowering for everyone involved. Speaking to the Tec Voc Physical Education Department Head Garth McAlpine about his pet project, where he sends out semi-weekly comedic and motivational emails about the program, he said “We just want to inspire and motivate people to get fit and hopefully this will continue on in their lives after the school day is done, just as the slogan says-Active For Life!” And in my many conversations with Garth it sounds like the plan is working as each week more and more people are joining. Positivity breeds positivity and getting fit seems is very infectious. People at school here are realizing and seeing the benefits of increasing their Wellness.

As we have a few months left, I strongly encourage you to apply for the Teacher Wellness/Welfare Grants, try to get something going in your building. Be creative. We are here to help facilitate your Wellness needs. Please feel free to talk with me at council, send me an email and I will try to answer any questions you may have. Remember small changes can have lasting positive effects. Be Well.

 

Special Education Workshop

By: Jennie Matteis

Dealing with Violence
and Harassment in the Workplace

The Winnipeg Teachers’ Association – Ad Hoc Committee on Special Education is hosting a Workshop for all WTA members who work in the area of Special Education or work with Special Education students in The Winnipeg School Division

Date:  March 13th, 2012
Location:  MTS Arnett Auditorium, 191 Harcourt Street
Time:  4:30 PM – 7:30 PM

4:30 PM           Andrew Peters, Staff Officer with The Manitoba Teachers’ Society

5:30 PM           Dinner

6:15 PM           Breakout Sessions:

  1. What are your safety concerns related to the work you do with students with special needs in your program?
  2. What supports can be put in place to ensure a safer teaching environment when working with students with special needs?
  3. How is the issue of funding applications and the provision of supports impacting;
  4. safety within the classroom
  5. the provision of special education programming
  6. If you could make one improvement in the delivery of your special education programming, what might that be and why?
  7. What other concerns or issues related to your work in the area of special education would you like to share with the group?

For more information on Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention
please view the PDF links below:

Preventing Workplace Harassment

Amendments to the Workplace Safety and Health Regulation on Violence Prevention

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Please FAX your registration form to the WTA office (837-9698) by:
March 5th, 2012

Name: ________________________________ e-mail: ______________________
School: ________________________________ Grade Level:_________________

Pregnancy and Sick Leave:
Your Rights and Responsibilities

By: Nancy Kerr, Staff Officer, The Manitoba Teachers’ Society

There was a time when women who were pregnant were denied the right to use sick leave in connection with pregnancy and childbirth, but that changed because of a couple of significant court cases that determined denying access to sick leave in connection with pregnancy was against human rights legislation. From that time on, pregnant women could access sick leave benefits due to complications arising from being pregnant, and new mothers could also access sick leave benefits to cover the time it takes to recover from being pregnant and giving birth. However, there are some things teachers need to be aware of when it comes to exercising the right to access sick leave.

The most important thing to remember is that accessing sick leave while pregnant is no different than accessing sick leave at any other time. The use of sick leave always has to be legitimate, and the employer always has the right to request a medical note from the teacher’s doctor or midwife, subject to any legislation or collective agreement provisions that may exist. Also, the assessment of the medical condition that results in the medical note being issued must be done at the time the note is issued, except in special circumstances. In other words, just as a teacher would not plan to have the ‘flu six months ahead of time and hand in a note saying so, so should a teacher not plan several months ahead to take sick leave prior to commencing maternity leave. Legislation does require a minimum notice period to commence maternity and/or parental leave, but there is no such requirement to give notice that one will be taking sick leave, nor is it prudent to do so. Giving a note to the employer advising that sick leave will be taken in two or four months time calls the legitimacy of the note and the medical condition into question.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. For example, a teacher might be told a few weeks in advance that they are scheduled to have surgery, and in this situation, can give advance notice to the employer of the need to take sick leave. A similar situation may arise with a pregnant teacher, who may have a pre-existing condition that the doctor knows will require the teacher to leave work on sick leave a few weeks or months prior to giving birth. In this situation, there is nothing wrong with giving the employer advance notice of the need to access sick leave, but these situations are not common. In most situations, a teacher will be assessed by her doctor or midwife on a regular basis throughout the pregnancy, and should a time come when the teacher can no longer work due to medical reasons, that is when the note should be handed in, and sick leave started.

There are sometimes instances where medical notes are given to the employer, and the employer wants further information from the doctor with respect to the medical condition. In many of these situations, the employer requests the teacher to sign a form giving the doctor permission to speak directly to the employer. It is important to understand that when such a form is signed, regardless of the reasons given for the request, the employer now has permission to speak to the doctor about whatever may be in the teacher’s medical chart. If the employer has questions about a medical note, those questions should be forwarded to the teacher (or her union representative) who can then go to her doctor to get the answers. It is also important to understand there is ample case law that makes it clear what kind of information employers are entitled to request, and puts clear limits in place to ensure confidentiality of medical information. In other words, the employer is not entitled to whatever information it wants about an employee’s medical condition.

Your personal medical information should always be protected to the greatest extent possible, and you do have the right to maintain confidentiality of your medical records at all times. Should your employer issue a request to you to give permission to contact your doctor directly, you should consult with the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association, or Henry Shyka or Nancy Kerr at The Manitoba Teachers’ Society prior to agreeing to any such arrangement.

 

Renewal of Manulife Extended Health Benefits Plan

The following are the rates for the Manulife Extended Health Benefits Plan that are effective March 1st, 2012:

Active Single:

No change –  $51.00

Active Family:

No change – $106.00

Retiree Single:

from  $59.88 to $61.68 plus $0.35 TRAF admin fee  to – $62.03

Retiree Family:

from $124.96 to $128.71 plus $0.35 TRAF admin fee to – $129.06

An Elementary Math Forum

The Winnipeg Teachers’ Association – Negotiations Committee is hosting:

An Elementary Math Forum

Date:  February 28th, 2012
Location:  MTS Arnett Auditorium, 191 Harcourt Street
Time:  4:30 PM – 8:00 PM

The WTA Negotiations Committee wishes to bring together N/K – Grade 6 teachers to talk about the instruction of Math in the Winnipeg School Division. Ten teachers from each grade (N/K to 6) will be selected from all those who apply for a total of 70 participants. A cross-section of teachers will be selected to ensure even distribution by school/district. Dinner will be provided and the tentative agenda includes: a whole group introduction and brief discussion on what is working and what is not working, a break-out session during which each grade group will have the opportunity to discuss specific problems/concerns as well as possible solutions and finally a whole group session where responses will be collected and heard.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Please FAX your application form to the WTA Office (837-9698)by: February 21st. Members selected will be notified via email by February 23rd.

Name:___________________________________________Grade:________

School :  _________________________________________

Non-WSD E-mail :__________________________________