Newsletter June 2014
WTA in Transition
The following is staffing information that has been shared with the WTA Executive and Council as information. It is based on the best information that our office had from the WSD at the time the report was developed.
WSD Staffing Update:
- WTA Retirements as of May 8, 2014
- 19 members prior to June 30, 2014 (December, January, other)
- 54 members effective June 30, 2014
- 73 in total for 2013-2104 (includes 8 Principals & 1 Vice-Principal)
- Posting # 1 May 2, 2014
- 178 positions (43 part time +135 fulltime = 178 / of those 32 term)
- Amendment Sheet May 2, 2014
- Amended 13 positions, added 5 positions, deleted 9 positions
- Removed 4 terms and added 1 term
- Posting # 2
- Friday May 23, 2014 – Second Ad. in schools
- Monday May 26, 2014 – 12:00 PM deadline for application
- Surplus Declarations: approximately 20 across the WSD
- According to HR, your school Principal cannot “block” you from being short listed or interviewed for a position.
- HR will be speaking with school administrators to review the Surplus Declaration process.
- The WTA asked the WSD to ensure staff placed in programs such as LAC, FASD or Autism have experience in these areas or be provided with significant opportunities for training and professional development.
STAFFING CONCERNS…IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENTS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE STAFFING PROCESS, PLEASE CALL THE WTA OFFICE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
The following is the full text of my report which is included in the WTA Annual Report booklet provided at our May 15, 2014 Council meeting.
Writing this report has always been difficult. To take an entire year’s worth of work and squeeze it into a few short paragraphs is a challenge.
This school year has seen unprecedented levels of change in the WSD. Some of the changes have been implemented as the result of demands made by the province and others have been generated at the divisional level. The changes include:
- Math CAP changes
- Fountas and Pinnell
- The writing assessment process
- New Report Cards
- The new IEP’s
- Workplace Safety and Health Training
- VOIP (new school phones)
In addition to the list provided above, many teachers are working in new program areas related to Math, Reading or Writing that are based in individual schools. On top of all the new programming, work-shopping, training, assessment and reporting, members were/are still delivering a quality educational program to students.
Much of the ongoing dialogue between the WTA and the Division this year has focused on the changes, the processes by which they have been implemented, the impact on teacher workload and morale.
Since September 2013, the WSD has appointed 17 new school Principals, a new Area Superintendent and a New Director of Aboriginal Education. Along with these changes, numerous Vice-Principals have been moved or new people have been put in place. What is also unique is the fact that the WSD has chosen to make these changes during the school year. There is still the possibility that other Principals will be announcing their retirement and further changes will occur.
A number of issues related to the selection, interview and appointment of senior divisional staff and school administrators have also formed the basis for discussions with the Superintendents’ and Human Resources Departments. These discussions have also led the WSD and the WTA/MTS into preliminary talks about a joint leadership/professional development training model for members in the future.
The school visits undertaken by our office continue to be one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of the job. By the end of June, Nathan and I should have visited 85-90 locations and spoken with well over 1000 members. The visits allow us the opportunity to hear directly from the members about what is going on across the system.
In previous years, the visits were organized so that Junior and Senior High locations would be visited before winter break and elementary schools later in the year. This September we deliberately choose to visit elementary schools prior to the break. To those school staffs we spoke with, I would like to say thank you. Our frank conversations and your sharing of information was most helpful. During many elementary visits, members spoke about low morale, increased stress, and feeling overwhelmed by all of the changes they were being asked to implement. Frustration was also a factor because there was not always a clear and consistent message from the WSD regarding implementation of the changes. Much of the information provided through these visits became the substance of lengthy discussions with the WSD. As visits progressed through the year, much of the initial information received was confirmed.
The membership feedback process was expanded this year to incorporate Liaison Groups at the WTA Council meetings. Twice this year Council Representatives were split into working groups chaired by an Executive member and discussed a series of topics. The notes from these sessions were then provided to me and the feedback reviewed at the next Executive meeting.
The theme of change is also extended into the WTA Office this year. This spring two individuals who have provided long standing and exemplary service to the WTA announced they would be retiring.
Henry Shyka is an MTS Staff Officer who’s primary assignment for twenty years has been as the WTA Business Agent. He has been at the Bargaining Table with our Negotiations Committee, supported countless individual members through difficult personnel issues, taken a lead role in shaping the Health and Dental programs provided by the WTA and has provide wise counsel through his work with the Executive and WTA Council. I would like to acknowledge and thank Henry on behalf of the membership for his commitment to our organization.
Glenda Shepherd, the WTA Administrative Assistant, announced her retirement effective May 30, 2014 after twenty-five years of exemplary service to the WTA. Glenda has been the voice you hear on the other end of the phone when you have called our office. Her knowledge, expertise and understanding of how our organization operates is second to none. Presidents have come and Presidents have gone, but Glenda has remained as the voice of experience throughout. Beyond the day-to-day operation of the WTA, Glenda has also taken on the complex role of Plan Administrator for Manulife Retirees in our Extended Health Plan and worked with the Group Benefits Committee to help ensure our programs are meeting member needs. As the office has expanded through numerous renovations, it has also been Glenda’s good taste and sense of colour that has shaped our work environment. On behalf of the membership, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you. Your service and commitment to the organization has been very much appreciated and you will be missed.
On a personal note, Henry, Glenda and I have been with the WTA through some challenging and difficult times. Whether it be the WSD threatening to fire an entire Executive for speaking out about an important educational issue or supporting each other through the untimely illness and death of a former President. We have also celebrated the birth of children and grandchildren together. We have helped each other mourn the passing of loved ones. To both Glenda and Henry I would like to say a special thank you for your support and encouragement throughout my various terms in the WTA Office.
To this year’s Executive, thank you for your service on behalf of the membership. It has not always been exciting, but it is work that needs to be done and your efforts have been very much appreciated. To the incoming Table Officers and Executive, good luck. As always there is still much to do. Next year will bring with it a unique set of challenges and opportunities for the WTA.
To the new WTA President, Nathan Martindale, good luck. I have enjoyed working with you over the last three years and look forward to serving as your Past President. As always, the WTA is facing many issues in the coming year and your plate will be full.
To all of you who have offered me support and words of encouragement over the years, thank you. I truly have enjoyed the phone calls, emails, school visits and personal conversations that have occurred.
To my family must go the final thank you. Without your love, support and patience I would never have been able to do the work I have done. I hope to be spending a little more time at home and less time at meetings.
David Najduch, President
Reasonable and Customary Charges
Reasonable and Customary (R&C) guidelines are reviewed annually by each group insurance carrier. The terms “reasonable and customary” refer to charges made by your health insurance provider (group insurance carrier) for a given medical service. A charge is considered R&C if it matches the general (usual) prevailing cost of that service within your geographic area, which is based on benchmarking data held by your insurance company. The insurance company then uses this information to determine the R&C charge that will be paid for a given service in your area. This means that if the provider charges above the R&C charge, you are responsible for the remainder. Your policy reimburses expenses based on your insurer’s R&C charges within the province in which your eligible expense occurs. Many medical services and supplies (including paramedical practitioners) include R&C guidelines for claim payment.
April 27-29, 2014 ~ Charlottetown, PEI
First of all I want to thank the WTA for the great opportunity they have afforded me in sponsoring my attendance at the conference.
The conference started on Sunday, April 27th. The keynote speaker was Wayne MacKay. Wayne is an author and has had a much respected career as an administrator, legal scholar, esteemed teacher and constitutional and human rights expert. He has written four books and over 100 articles on constitutional law and human rights. He spoke about bullying, cyber bullying, the “rape culture”, and the importance of language as it pertains to these issues. He spoke briefly on teachers’ and parents’ responsibilities in regard to these issues. One particular point he made was how a person’s “web presence” was very important because prospective employers use internet searches to check out employees; once you put something on the web it is there forever.
I also attended the session on “Healthier Safer School: Better outcomes for everyone.” The presenter spoke about how our school buildings are not being kept in good repair. For example, asbestos and radon gas are of real concern especially in buildings built before the 1980’s. In Ontario one in five students has asthma and the very poor air quality in older buildings adversely affects their health.
Workplace violence was addressed in the “Live Safe Work Smart” session. Teachers’ safety in the classroom becomes a real issue when we are afraid to report acts of student violence against us. Teachers under-report because they feel they are there to protect students and do not wish to have them suspended. The presenter gave compelling reasons for teachers not to hesitate to report acts of violence. For example, documentation on an incident of being pushed at school is important if back pain occurs at a later date. Without documentation the pain may not be attributed to the assault and may be dismissed as being caused by old age.
April 27-29, 2014 ~ Charlottetown, PEI
On April 27- 29, 2014, as an Executive Member of Winnipeg Teacher’s Association, I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law in Education Conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. This was my first time attending such a conference and I gained knowledge from the following sessions:
- Top Ten Education Law Cases in Canada
- What you need to know about human rights: An orientation for Educational Administrators, Managers and Supervisors
- Legal issues in today’s schools
- Mobile Telephones: challenges and legal issues for schools
- Review of Nova Scotia’s new cyber bullying legislation and related educational amendments-what does it mean for principals/teachers and the rest of the country
- Conflicts of rights, public education and children as educational actors
The one session that caught my eye was the Top Ten Education Law Cases in Canada, led by Mr. Eric M. Roher, Lawyer, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. The session addressed a range of important legal issues including:
- The standard of care of educators;
- Search and seizure in a school setting;
- Expectation of a teacher’s off-study conduct;
- Religious accommodation in schools; and
- Protecting the needs of special education students.
The presenter introduced 10 cases and showed a difference between each of those cases. Each case had one thing in common, Civil Rights, the Charter of Rights and the Supreme Court of Canada. The lesson I gained from this session was to know your rights and the law a well as to educate others about it. Our administrators, teachers, trustees, board members and colleagues need to be aware of school policies and the enforcement of school discipline both at work and away from work sites.
All these cases represent an important precedent for the future decisions of courts and tribunals across the country. It is a lesson that should be discussed and studied by all, including students, administrations, trustees, parents and others. Canada is a country with a strong tradition of democracy and Human Rights including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That being said, we all need to learn, understand, respect and obey these rights. As educators we are here to maintain a positive and safe school environment where all rights should be protected. Roher`s (2014) factors to be considered:
- Teachers and principals are authorised to conduct searches in appropriate circumstances.
- The search must be carried out in a reasonable manner.
- It should be conducted in a sensitive manner and be minimally intrusive.
- All surrounding circumstances will be considered to determine if the search was reasonable.
Our duty is to make education successful and productive, along with being able to implement the provincial legislation related to violence and bullying in the workplace. Before making any decisions as administrators, teachers or trustees, it is essential to be familiar with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Winnipeg School Division policy and regulations.
One of the most striking features contained within the text of the Top Ten Education Law Cases in Canada was the following: “A teacher`s conduct is evaluated on the basis of his or her position, rather than whether the conduct occurs within or outside the classroom” (E.M.Roher, 2014). How many teachers are aware of this?
April 27-29, 2014 ~ Charlottetown, PEI
It was many years ago that I came face to face with the concept that “A teacher that is a teacher is ALWAYS a teacher.” It was a simple situation of being in a social setting with a friend on a weekend evening. By chance I met a parent of one of the students in my class. At that moment I was no longer Paulette, or my friend’s dinner partner, or even my children’s mom. I (and the parent of my student) immediately defined me as her child’s teacher. I became aware that there is no occasion in a public setting that I was not “a teacher”. Would I ever have a personal life again?
As teachers we are seen as role models. That model may differ from community to community but we are identified as “a teacher” 24/7 in whichever one we may be employed. We are seen as the models of “human dignity, spiritual values, cultural values, and social justice”. To add to the depth of the role that we have chosen as our career path, this is further complicated by the fact that “perspectives of these often vary from community to community.” During the hours that I attend to my personal life, if I enter an establishment to purchase a bottle of wine, the perspective may vary considerably if I teach in an urban public school or in a community defined by cultural and religious values that discourage the use of alcohol at any time. In this era of social media, everyone is open to scrutiny by friends, employers, and people we may not even know. However, as teachers, our personal conduct is readily available as well and the smallest insignificant comment or seemingly meaningless photo is subject to interpretation and judgement. There is a delicate balance between teachers’ rights and the values of the community.
Freedom of expression is a right that is guaranteed by The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Teachers are the “medium” of the educational message. We are often evaluated on the impact of the message we relay. “A key component of evaluating the impact of the expression is the disruption that it initiates in the school community. Community disruption often links to the school community evaluating their confidence in the teacher’s ability to teach.”
As I write this, I am aware that many of my colleagues have entered our profession with the best of intentions, enthusiasm, and the desire to impact future generations. I found this forum interesting and worth sharing because it reminded ME that we are teachers, and we do make an impact. However, we are viewed as teachers first in our communities, and possibly just everyday people second. May our personal lives be judged for our commitment and not by disruption.
April 27-29, 2014 ~ Charlottetown, PEI
On May 13 of this year, the CBC reported that a 16-year old Ottawa high school student was arrested and charged with 60 counts of public mischief because he used his Twitter account to solicit requests to call in fake emergencies, a practice known as “swatting.” Police charged the teen after at least 30 fake emergencies were called into police forces across North America, sometimes requiring a SWAT team response. This news report reminds me that the uses of technology and social media are a challenge for all social services, including the public education system. It does beg the question for us as educators to reflect on whether digital technology in schools is a friend or a foe.
This past April, I was honoured to represent the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association at the CAPSLE Conference in Charlottetown. I attended a variety of sessions on the relationship between education and the law, but many were on the legal ramifications of digital technology and cyber-speech in the education system. The reality is that youth today live in a wired world. One presenter, Brenda Stokes Verworn stated, “The internet is not just an electronic tool; for youth today it is an extension of their social lives and public identities. Going online to connect and interact with friends, and even strangers, is a natural and integral part of the daily lives of young people today.”
We all recognize the potential benefits to the delivery of curriculum and assessment with the introduction of digital technology into the classroom. But despite the potential benefits of this powerful new medium, educators need to recognize it is creating a wide range of issues with ethical uses, privacy concerns, and inappropriate behaviour by students and adults. Since our students live on line, educators must adapt and change how we interact with youth. As the following list indicates, schools are facing a number of complex issues and situations involving digital technology. A few real-world examples from Canada include:
- Former students or students who have graduated creating derogatory Facebook sites that are linked to school websites or that use the school logos.
- Third parties and disgruntled citizens who create malicious Facebook pages.
- Staff joining students in chat rooms or being friends on Facebook.
- Parents and members of the public making defamatory posts or blogging.
- School boards having Facebook and Twitter and keeping their wall open.
- Students posting fights or embarrassing moments to YouTube.
- Students cyber-bullying or sexting.
- Students in lockdown text messaging parents or posting tweets about bomb threats.
In order to craft appropriate responses to possible situations created by digital technology, Brenda Stokes Verworn recommends that educators recognize the four key features common to users of digital technology. First, we have to remember there is a sense of “dis-inhibition” where the users say and post things they would never say face-to-face. With the ability to post anonymously, accountability has been lost. So we hear students claim it was no “big deal” or “just a joke.” I am left wondering if that teenager in Ottawa thinks false 911 calls are no “big deal.”
Second, confusion reigns about what is public and what is private. We have all probably experienced students who think that what happens inside their home is private, but everything outside their home is public. This translates into problematic actions in the schools. They believe they can post things they see at school, on campus, or in the classroom because it is “public” regardless of how embarrassing or hurtful the content. Students are generally unsure about these boundaries.
Third, there is a perceived anonymity. Another presenter at CAPSLE, lawyer Sarni Wiens, suggested that the anonymity of online postings results in people sharing intimate details of themselves on the web. Further, users will anonymously post hurtful comments and even threats towards one another. Wiens says that users don’t recognize that technological advances today often allow for the tracing of their postings as part of any investigative process. And the distribution of intimate pictures of themselves or others could be viewed as the distribution of pornography. In this regard, we cannot forget the destructive force of this fact when remembering the Rehtaeh Parsons or Amanda Todd cases.
Lastly, users mistakenly believe there are limited legal consequences to wrongdoing, especially if you are a minor under the age of 18. CAPSLE presenter Verworn said, “…the Youth Criminal Justice Act actually says that if you are under age 18 when you commit a crime your records are sealed. But if someone over the age of 18 with an “open youth record” commits another crime as an adult, the youth record will become part of the person’s adult record….Therefore, any person convicted of an offence committed after he or she turns 18, needs to consider that in situations where the access period for their youth offence is still open, the youth record will be treated as part of the adult record. This means the immature actions of your youth may actually haunt you in your adult years.”
So what are some of the legal suggestions for teachers, school administrations and teacher associations? First, just as we need to teach students good character traits to function in a democratic society, we need to teach students the rules and etiquette of digital citizenship. Second, teachers and support staff need continuing professional development on technology and social media issues, especially about cyberbullying. Third, school divisions need to create policies and administrative procedures and guidelines on how Principals and teachers should use Facebook and Twitter accounts. In addition teachers need to balance connecting with students while respecting professional boundaries. Finally, due to the fact professional boundaries can blur and unintentional mistakes can occur, teacher associations need to prepare resources to offer advice and support for the members to avoid the minefields that digital technology presents.
WTA Workplace Safety and Health Committee Annual Report
During the past year the WTA shifted its focus from a local WTA WPSH Committee to increased participation on the WSD Central WPSH Committee. This shift was a result of the major changes made to provincial WSH legislation and the fairly new WSD policies on Violence and Harassment.
The following is a selection of the concerns raised with the WSD during the past school year:
- NVCI Training of Educational Assistants
- School Crisis Response Plan for Violent Incidents
- Joint investigations for incidents of Violence or Harassment
- Centralized call-in system for reporting WSH concerns
- Release of information to staff regarding potentially violent students
- Training of staff on WSD Violence and Harassment Policies
This year I attended five WSD Central Committee Co-Chairs meetings and five WSD Central Committee meetings. I would like to thank the WTA members who served on this Central Committee: Kristin Insull, Chris Pammenter, Jennie Matteis and Gord Crook.
I would like to thank Dave Najduch for presenting a mini-PD on the WTA checklists for filing WSH concerns on my behalf before the October Council meeting when I was ill.
I would also like to thank Jennie Matteis for serving on the MTS Workplace Safety and Health Standing Committee and providing information for the WTA Newsletter and keeping me up to date on the work of MTS. The standing committee presented a seminar in November 2013 that myself along with two other members attended. I also attended a Metro Regional meeting in November. Dave also attended the MTS WSH Seminar in February 2014 in my place so that I could attend the Education Finance Seminar.
Next year, the WTA will continue to bring WSH concerns to the WSD via the Central Committee but will also form a local committee to assist in monitoring concerns in workplaces as well as educating members and encouraging them to report incidents of violence and harassment. If these types of incidents are not reported then the Division is not aware of problems and the WTA cannot provide members with the appropriate support.
WTA Negotiations Committee Annual Report
The Negotiations Committee was extremely busy this past year, meeting frequently in the fall of 2013 to draft, edit and revise the opening package document. As per Council Policy, a form was posted on the website that invited members to submit formal negotiations proposals. A number of proposals were submitted by members and were reviewed by the committee.
The opening package was then reviewed at the WTA Executive meeting in January as per Executive policy. A presentation of the summary of negotiations proposals took place before the February Council meeting along with a questions and answer session. Council Representatives then took a one page summary of the negotiations proposals back to their worksites to share with members. At the March Council meeting the opening package was formally approved and a letter was sent to the Division in April indicating that the WTA is ready to open the new round of Collective Bargaining.
Thank you to all the members of the committee who contributed to the writing of the opening negotiations package. You assistance and input was much appreciated. I would also like to thank committee members for volunteering their personal time to join me in attending the Fall and Spring Collective Bargaining Seminars hosted by MTS as well as the Summer Bargaining School in August of 2013.
Thank you to Henry Shyka, the WTA Business Agent and our MTS Staff Officer. Your knowledge and experience in the realm of collective bargaining is invaluable and I appreciate your advice and patience over the past year we prepared the opening negotiations package. Thank you to Dave Najduch, WTA President, who also bring many years of bargaining experience to the committee. Even though you are returning to the classroom in the fall, I know you will continue to serve the membership by sitting on the Negotiations Committee. I also wish to extend a big thank-you to Glenda Shepherd, WTA Administrative Assistant, for the extensive amount of help, advice, answers and reminders that you provide on a daily basis!
- Kristin Insull
- Jennie Matteis
- Pat Lewicki
- Dave Najduch
- Chris Pammenter
- David Harack (guest)
- Henry Shyka