The Upper Canada District School Board continues to show blatant disregard for the services all kids need for success. School Board Trustee Chair, John McAllister, adamantly argued that funding from the Ontario Government falls short and cuts to frontline workers were necessary. However, UCDSB continues to advertise jobs that have little to no direct involvement with students and come with a considerable salary, contradicting the chair’s comments.
On Thursday, September 5, Upper Canada DSB posted 6 additional special assignment teacher positions, referred to as Learning Partners in UCDSB, bringing the total up to 11 Learning Partners plus two System Principals. Teachers in a Learning Partner position work directly with Principals and teachers on Ministry of Education initiatives and schools’ improvement plans and have little to no personal influence on the day to day lives of students within the system. Upper Canada DSB is choosing to spend over $2 million dollars in salary and benefits alone to employ these non-frontline workers; however, supposedly cannot afford to provide in-school mental health counsellors to at risk students or adequately staff Behaviourists or Educational Assistants to meet the needs of students with behaviour or cognitive difficulties. “It’s a sad day for Education in Upper Canada when our school board seemingly prioritizes increasing EQAO scores, over the health and safety of all students,” states Tanya Crosbie, District Officer for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) of Upper Canada.
This school year, Upper Canada DSB terminated well–trained frontline mental health workers, referred to as Student Support Partners, that work daily with students who struggle with mental health, anxiety, and behaviour issues. Already, we have heard, “Day 4 of a new school year and a youth in my care was sent to the hospital for a panic attack, because there is no longer a mental health support person in the school to have walked her through breathing and grounding techniques. This shows how the choices of the UCDSB are hurting students,” states M. Steele, Parent/Guardian of 3 UCDSB students.
Student Support Partners were well-trained mental health professionals that worked daily, one-on-one with at-risk youth. These workers provided assistance to students struggling with anxiety, depression, various disorders, and behaviour issues. They were a critical part of the regional team that created and maintained safety plans. They also provided special in-school training to groups of students on behaviour management techniques, self-care and coping strategies. These support and services are either gone from Upper Canada DSB or not providing the same level of service from prior years.
According to Adrienne McEwen, Teacher Bargaining Unit President for the Upper Canada area, “Teachers already feel the recoil from the brutal cuts our Student Support Partners and Speech Language Assistants. It is only a matter of time before the system of supports for students breaks – who will be there to pick up the pieces?”
“For less than half of what they are paying to employ Learning Partners and System Principals, all 25 Student Support Partners could be re-instated and be directly impacting, and in some cases potentially saving the lives of hundreds of students a day. It makes no sense that when youth mental health rates are at an all-time high, that UCDSB chooses to terminate highly trained mental health support workers and instead fund board positions. Parents and guardians are urged to speak up and reach out to the school board and their trustees to demand change to UCDSB priorities,” states Jim Mulville, OSSTF President representing the Student Support Partners.
The first public UCDSB board meeting for the 2019 – 2020 school year will take place on Wednesday, September 11th at 6:30 pm. This is the first meeting since the trustees approved the devastating budget that resulted in 100s of front-line workers being removed from schools.
OSSTF/FEESO District 26 represents Teachers, Occasional Teachers and Professional Student Services Personnel at the Upper Canada District School Board.