Check-In, Monday, March 11

Good Morning, County. Hard to believe we are on the verge of our March Break.

Mostly informational items to pass along today. Please remember to vote on Wednesday, March 13th (this Wednesday) on the Regional Tentative Agreement. If your school does not its package yet, do not worry, I will be delivering the final few today. Reps, please make sure you have enough voting cards for your school.

Speaking of voting, I am very excited to introduce you to the three candidates vying for our Provincial Executive Position. They are Terry Ryan, Paul Boudreau and Andrew Fournier. Voting for that position will take place on Thursday, March 28th. The three candidates will be addressing the members at the the meeting this Wednesday, as well as having a chance to answer some questions, time permitting. I would encourage all members to reach out to the candidates prior to the 28th to ask about their various platforms.

As well, we have a temporary position that has opened up at the local executive level for a member at large position for equity and reps. This position is to fill out the rest of a term, and will be filled at the meeting on Wednesday night as well. If you are interested, please contact hfxconominations@nstu.ca.

Don’t forget about the three information sessions that are coming up next month. The first is a retirement information session on April 2nd, the second is a term teacher contract session on April 25th, and the final one is a maternity & parental information session on April 29th. Please check the NSTU bulletin board in your staff room for more information, or click on the links provided.

And, finally, the Social Wellness committee is pleased to announce that they will be hosting a movie night on April 6th, at the Dartmouth Cineplex. The movie is Captain Marvel, and tickets are available for members and their families. Doors open at 9:30 am for a 10:00 am showtime. Please note that the tickets are limited, and the movie is already half filled. (Click here)

That’s it for today, County. Have a great week, and I will see you all back here after a well deserved March Break.

Check-In, Tuesday, March 5

Good Morning County! I hope that you had a chance to get caught up on some marking and preparation during yesterday’s storm day!

To start with, just a quick word that the regional bargaining team has reached a deal in principle with the HRCE on the regional contract. This contract covers such things as how contracts are awarded, teacher placement process, and various types of leave. We will be holding two information sessions on Wednesday, March 6th (tomorrow), one at the main NSTU building on Joseph Howe Drive at 4:30 pm and one at Auburn Drive High School at 7:00 pm. Teachers can feel free to attend either session (or both, should they choose) to hear the details of this contract. The ratification vote will be held on Wednesday, March 13th. All members are encouraged to attend.

Speaking of voting, we have three candidates who will be vying for the honour of representing Halifax County at the Provincial Executive table. This will be a two year position, and will begin on August 1st, 2019. Obviously, with provincial contract negotiations on the horizon, this position is one of tremendous importance. The campaign has officially opened, and I would like to thank Andrew Fournier, Terry Ryan and Paul Boudreau for putting their names forward. We will be publishing a brief “candidate bio” next week for each of these individuals, and they will be speaking at the next local meeting on March 13th, with an election date of March 28th. Good luck to all.

As well, we have a temporary position that has opened up at the local executive level for a member at large position for equity and reps. This position is to fill out the rest of a term, and would be a great way for individuals to “test the waters” of a local executive position. If you are interested, please contact hfxconominations@nstu.ca.

There is still time for members of the local to nominate a deserving Halifax County Local member for the local service award. This award is given out each year at Annual Council to members who have provided leadership and service at the local level to education, the teaching profession, or to the local itself. If you wish to put someone forward for consideration, simply send an email to halifaxcountylocal@nstu.ca to find out more.

There are three upcoming information sessions of which I want to make you aware. The first is a Retirement information session on April 2nd, the second is a term teacher contract session on April 25th, and the final one is a maternity & parental information session on April 29th. Please check the NSTU bulletin board in your staff room for more information, or click on the links provided.

And, finally, the Social Wellness committee is pleased to announce that they will be hosting a movie night on April 6th, at the Dartmouth Cineplex. The movie is Captain Marvel, and tickets are available for members and their families. Doors open at 9:30 am for a 10:00 am showtime. Please note that the tickets are limited, so if you could make sure you can attend prior to reserving seats that would be great. As well, if for some reason your plans change, please let us know. (Click here)

That’s it for today County! Have a good one.

Check-In, Tuesday, February 26th

Good morning County, happy Tuesday!

First off, apologies for not putting out something yesterday. I was waiting on confirmation (and now have it) around our regional contract. The HRRC team has reached a deal in principle with the HRCE, and now will be presenting the information to the members at two sessions on Monday, March 4th. The first will be held at the main NSTU building at 3106 Joseph Howe Drive, from 4:30 to 6:00 pm, and the second will be held at Dartmouth High School from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.

At those meetings the membership will have a chance to see the new regional agreement and ask questions of the bargaining team. The date for the ratification vote is Wednesday, March 13th.

Speaking of dates, nominations for our Provincial Executive elections are now closed, and I would like to thank Paul Boudreau, Andrew Fournier and Terry Ryan for putting their names forward for this important position. Watch the up-coming weekly Check-In starting next week for information about both candidates. That election will be held on March 28th.

We also have a spot open on our local executive for the position of Member at Large, Equity and Reps. If you are interested in that position, please see the candidate form that is available on this page.

While I have you, I would like to take a moment to clear up some confusion around the issue of “doctor’s notes” that I have been hearing about. Please note that the provision in our contract around presenting of medical information is VERY specific. The article reads like this:

3.02 Teachers may be required to present a medical certificate in the Form attached, if the illness is more than five (5) consecutive days, or if there is a pattern of illness. Teachers who do not return the Form with complete information by the deadline provided may have their sick leave inactivated until such time as the form is satisfactorily completed, after a review of the individual circumstances.

Pay particular attention to the wording “form attached”, “5 consecutive days” and “pattern”. The form that the contract refers to is called the “Request for Functional Information” form, which is on page 38 and 39 of your contract. This information can only be requested after five consecutive days, or if there is a pattern of illness. In either case, the form is not automatically required, but “may” be required by the HRCE.

Now, your admin team may remind you of this requirement, but if they do, your responsibility is to provide the documentation to the HRCE, not your admin team. As well, it is the employer’s responsibility to pay any associated costs charged for this service by your physician.

If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Finally, since we are on the topic of health, the HRCE’s health and abilities team is hosting a second wellness fair today at Spectacle Lake from 3:00 pm to 6:00pm. Although this one is not specifically geared towards NSTU members, there will still be a wide number of presenters in attendance. Feel free to drop by and check it out.

That’s it for this week, County. Have a good one, and I hope to see many of you at the information sessions next Monday.

Check-In, Tuesday, February 19th

Hello there County! Happy Tuesday.

I want to start off today with reminder that we are currently accepting nominations for a seat representing Halifax County at the Provincial Executive table.

This will be a two year term with an option to re-offer in 2021 for a second two years. The Provincial Executive is the main decision making body of the NSTU and it is one of the most important roles in our organization. If you wish to put your name forward for consideration, please contact hfxconominations@nstu.ca for more information. Please note that nominations close this Friday, February 22nd, at 4:00 pm. The PE position will be filled by electronic voting on March 28th.

Speaking of elections, we also have a temporary spot available on our local executive for the chairperson of the Equity and Reps committee. This position will be an acting position until May, when it will be open for the next two year term. The election for this position will take place at our next local meeting on March 13th. Interested members are asked to contact hfxconominations@nstu.ca for an expression of interest form. However, unlike the PE election, we will be taking nominations from the floor for that position at the March 13th meeting as well.

Next, I just want to advise you that there is still time to nominate a member for the NSTU local service award, which is to recognize teachers from our local for displaying a consistent and continuing involvement in Local leadership, professional development or long-term service to education or the teaching profession. If you have someone in mind, or want to find out more, email me at halifaxcountylocal@nstu.ca.

Finally, don’t forget that today between 3:30 and 6:30 pm, the HRCE will be hosting a wellness fair at the office at Spectacle Lake which will feature a wide variety of presenters offering information on everything from personal fitness to Yoga to nutrition, all with an eye to promoting employee wellness. There will be some light snacks and refreshments provided, and everyone is welcome to attend.

That’s it for today, County. Enjoy the week!

Check-In, Monday, Febrrrrruary 11th

Good Morning County! Happy chilly Monday.

Mostly light news to cover today. To start with, I want to remind everyone that the nominations for the local service awards are now open. The local service award is meant to allow locals to recognize someone from their ranks who has “displayed a consistent and continuing involvement in local leadership, professional development or long term service to education or the teaching profession“.

Any NSTU member can put forth a name for consideration. If you have someone in mind, simply send me an e-mail and I will walk you through the process. Those who are chosen will be honoured at a luncheon at Annual Council.

Next, our two Provincial Executive members, Paul Boudreau and Shaun Doyle, will be hosting another “Ask Me Anything” Facebook event on Monday, February 25nd at 7:00 pm. This is a great chance for those of you who may not be able to attend our regular meetings to chat with your Provincial Executive and bring up any questions or concerns.

Speaking of Provincial Executive, you may not be aware the current member Paul Boudreau has been occupying the seat vacated by the election of Paul Wozney to the President’s chair. That means that the PE position is once again, up for election. Any member who wishes to put their name forward for consideration may do so by emailing our nominations chair, Jason Jennings, at hfxconominations@nstu.ca.

One item of business that is a bit heavier is the recent announcement of the NSTU’s successful grievance on running records. Essentially, teachers are now welcome to use them, if they wish, but can not be required to do so without being provided a substitute.

For clarification, if you are being required to use running records, a substitute teacher must be provided. Note that “substitute teacher” is the language used here, meaning it would be our expectation that a teacher would be hired to cover that time.

Finally, don’t forget about the inaugural HRCE wellness fair being held on February 19th at Spectacle Lake. This event will feature a number of service providers to from a variety of sectors and is designed to educate members about resources that are available for them to access. Check out the Short Snappers page for more details,

That’s it for today, County. Have a great week, and stay warm.

Check-In, Monday, February 4th, 2018

Hello there County! Happy Monday.

Well, February has arrived, and as we enter into the final few weeks of winter, we mark the first full week of our Winter Wellness Challenge. Best of luck to all those hearty souls who signed up to take part this year!

Speaking of wellness, the HRCE is hosting a first of its kind Wellness Fair on Tuesday, February 19th from 3:30 to 6:30pm at the Regional Center’s offices at Spectacle Lake. The purpose will be to let all HRCE employees gather information on a wide variety of resources that are available to help individuals manage their overall personal wellness.

There are expected to be approximately 15-20 presenters there, including everything from Nordic Walking NS and Good Life Fitness to HRCE’s Health and Abilities team and NSTU providers. This would be a great opportunity for members to not only learn about some services they may not be aware exist, but also potentially “scout” some great offerings that could perhaps be brought back to your schools at a later date, say during a professional development day.

Conversations around individual health are always valuable, of course, but at the same time we aware of added stress that has been placed on some teachers by UIT (Unassigned Instructional Time). I want to encourage members to continue to look for ways of exercising some professional judgment on how this time is used. If what you are currently being asked to do in schools is not working for your students (or if you are struggling) you are encouraged to propose an alternative to your administration. These may not automatically receive approval, but will hopefully start a much broader conversation around UIT in your school.

Finally, I would be ignoring the elephant in the room if I did not a spend a moment or two on our pension. The recent declarations from our Premier about this issue have obviously been upsetting to all NSTU members. As much as your NSTU leadership is attempting to work through this, it must be recognized that we all are impacted by this uncertainty. Comments like those made publicly by the Premier last week only serve to exacerbate feelings of under-appreciation, and cause stress levels to rise.

Thus, as much as we are trying to promote wellness among our members, we are keenly aware how much of what is causing stress is outside of their individual control. However, when it comes to being able to deal with that stress, looking after the wellness of not just yourself, but the people you work with, can go a long way.

We are once again in a bit of a tussle with our government. Now, more than ever, it is important that we continue to look out for each other.

Have a great week, and reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

Check-In, Monday January 28th

Hello there County! Happy Monday! Sorry for the length of this, but I have a lot to cover today 🙂

The office has been hopping over the past few days, and I want to bring you up to date on some files that I have been working on.

To start off with, my self and former 1st VP turned Provincial Executive member Paul Boudreau were part of a six person team who met with representatives of the HRCE last week for conciliation talks. The results of those two days will be announced shortly, but I wanted you to know that the team worked extremely hard on this, meeting all day on Monday and Tuesday, with discussions going past 10pm on Tuesday evening. Just a quick nod of thanks to the members of the team who had to get up and teach on Wednesday morning!

The “tier-two” file has also been eating up a great deal of energy, as we work with the HRCE to try to navigate this new directive. There is new language around this initiative which you will start hearing, which is that of “Unscheduled Instructional Time” (UIT). This acronym may change again before the dust settles on this one, but we should all be aware that the term “Tier two support” has a very specific definition as per the Inclusion Report.

Regardless of what it is called, UIT is essentially looking to identity ways for teachers to use their time outside of the contractual 30 minutes of marking and prep to support students. We are starting to see some autonomy being granted to schools as far as what that looks like. The essential message is this: If what you are doing in your school to support kids is not working, see if you can propose something that will, keeping in mind that “support” does not always mean “academic” support.

Speaking of support, the three local presidents had a chance to meet with representatives of the HRCE to discuss the results of the Guarding Minds at Work survey, and we are starting to feel quite positive about where this is heading. One of the areas that was shown as a key “stressor” if you will was our members ability to strike a healthy work-life balance. As if on cue, the HRCE is currently organizing a wellness fair for the evening of February 19th at Spectacle Lake. This is being organized by the employer, and is designed to educate members on a wide variety of services and supports they may be able to access to help them with their individual wellness. This is meant to be for all HRCE employees, but we are hoping to have some NSTU specific booths set up as well.

We will be sending out details as they become finalized, but we are feeling somewhat optimistic that this is a good sign that teacher wellness is becoming part of the broader conversation. We are looking forward to continuing conversations with HRCE around the issue of teacher wellness, and thank you again for your input on the Guarding Minds at Work Survey.

Along the same lines, it is also that time of year when we launch our Winter Wellness Challenge! This is a great way to get your staff involved and talking about how to work towards a more healthy lifestyle! Check out https://www.nstu.ca/nstu-members/group-insurance/winter-wellness-challenge/ for more details!

Finally, it is that time of year when our minds at the local office turn to our annual Local Service Award. This award, given out at Annual Council, is:

(ii) awarded for displaying at the Local level a consistent and continuing involvement in Local leadership, professional development or long term service to education or the teaching profession;

(iii) awarded for a particular outstanding service to the Local, to education or to the teaching profession;

Any active or retired-within-the-past-two-years member can be nominated. For more specific information, have a look at our short snappers page!

That’s it for this week County! Have a great one!

Check-In, Monday, January 14th

Good morning County! Happy Monday!

2019 is off to a fairly busy start, and as we settle into the new year, I would like to give a few short updates on some ongoing issues.

I have been fielding a fair number of questions about unpaid leaves, and although we have tried to get this message out, I feel it may need repeating. Unpaid leaves are granted at the discretion of the employer, and HRCE has been fairly specific about the conditions under which they will be granted. Please remember that it will be more difficult to be granted unpaid leave if your absence has a negative impact on the operation of the school, or if your request shoulders on a holiday, (think March break).

However, it is also the expectation that no aspect of your contract should be “unreasonably denied.” So, if it happens that your daughter has decided to bet married in Cuba over the March break, you may very well have your leave request for the Friday before granted.

The challenge I am hearing that is being faced in some schools are cases where one member is granted a leave, and another is denied. This is bound to happen from time to time whenever a discretionary decision is made. If you are denied a leave, you are within your rights to ask your administration for an explanation as to why that has happened. If you feel the response is not reasonable, give me a call.

I have also received a number of questions about reimbursement from the October Conference day. I can not say when, exactly, those payments will arrive, but I can say that they will be paid out at one-hundred percent. As I understand it, those monies will be directly deposited.

Finally, your local executive is meeting on Tuesday of this week, and the local rep meeting is being held on Wednesday. If you wish to have any concerns of have any questions you would like answered, take a moment to find your school rep and ask them to bring then forward.

That’s it for this week, all. Have a great one!

Check-In, Monday, January 7

Good morning, County! Happy Monday.

Welcome to the first full week of school. I hope that the break and the shorter, two day start up has allowed you to get some rest and to ease back into the daily grind.

The office was fairly quiet leading up to the break, so I don’t have a great deal to share with you as far as updates are concerned. As 2019 opens, however, I did want to let you know that there are a few ongoing concerns that we are continuing to work on.

To start with, negotiation of the regional contract is still on-going, and we have moved on to conciliation, which is scheduled for January 21st and 22nd. Your bargaining team will be meeting with the HRCE and the conciliator in an effort to hammer out the final details of our new regional contract on these dates. At this point, we do not see the conciliation being particularly onerous, and will hopefully be able to lock down a contract at that time.

Second, we are continuing to bring forward concerns to the HRCE around the use of unscheduled instructional time (formerly ‘tier 2’). We are keenly aware that this new initiative has placed a great deal of stress on some members at a time when demands on classroom teachers only seem to be increasing. This is an evolving process, and we are doing our best to raise your concerns at every opportunity.

Finally, the substitute teacher crises continues to be a major concern for our members. I have been getting a large number of questions about this, and want to clarify a few things:

  1. It has come to our attention that there are some rumours circulating about unpaid leaves being universally denied by HRCE. We have been assured by HRCE on numerous occasions that this is not the case. There is no obligation on the employer to grant the leave, but they must consider each application individually. We are continuing to monitor this situation, and please reach out if you have any specific concerns.
  2. Please remember that if you are required to give up your scheduled marking and preparation time to fill in when a sub can not be found, you are entitled to have that time rescheduled within ten days.

That’s it for this week folks. Here’s hoping you have had a great start to 2019.

Check-In, Monday, December 17

Well, folks, it looks like we have almost made it to the Christmas break.

This will be my last message to you of the year, and, perhaps not surprisingly, this is often a time in the calendar when I find myself looking back on the year that was. 

And I have to admit, it is not a pretty picture.

2018 was, yet again, a year of incredible strain and tension between the employer and its teachers. With the release of the Glaze report and the subsequent adoption of so many of its recommendations, the educational landscape of our province has been fundamentally changed, perhaps forever. Even now, as the year closes, some of the victories that we were able to claim around Bill 72, such as the prevention of the creation of a College of Teachers, appear to perhaps be in jeopardy.

As pressure continues to be applied by those who would adopt a private enterprise, made-in-Ontario model for our schools, we see teachers remaining a favourite target. This can be evidenced by the recent media declaration that the government is drafting legislation to have teachers under go criminal record checks every five years. There are many things wrong with the way this issue was dealt with, not the least of which involves scope and sequence. That this legislation appears, at least as far as I can tell, to be only designed for NSTU members and not any of the other bargaining units within our schools seems to smack of public placation rather than of sound educational practice.

With the loss of our administrators, the abolition of elected school boards, and the continued lack of meaningful consultation with teachers, things do seem rather bleak.

However, I for one, have not given up hope.

The reason for that is quite simple, really. I believe in teachers.

Not from any pie in the sky vision of “the teacher as martyr” stereotype that I have been accused of so often promoting in my writing, nor from any glassy eyed reminiscence of teachers who may have helped me along my own individual journey.

Rather, I believe in them because of what I see when I visit schools, where the walls are still dripping proudly with student work. I believe in them because of how, even after all that has happened, I still hear the honest joy in their voices when they talk about their students. I believe in them because when they call me, often in their darkest times, they still speak of an abject love of the profession, even when the demands of that profession have taken a tremendous personal toll. Perhaps most importantly, I have seen, through my own experience as a dad, their capacity to help students navigate challenging circumstances, giving up of their own time and energy even when so many have so little left to give.

It could be that Frank Magazine was right about me; maybe I do see teachers through some heavily rose tinted glasses. But every day that I sit as your Local President, through every phone call and through every crises one thing remains perfectly clear.

Ours is a noble profession. Everyday we get up and go to a job that allows us to to something good for somebody’s child. Teaching is an altruistic act that sees us spending whatever energy and experience and passion we have in the pursuit of a common, all encompassing goal; the betterment of others. We may not always do the right thing or say the right thing or serve all of our students’ needs all of the time, but we spend every moment of our professional lives, and often a considerable chunk of or personal ones, trying to do just that.

And there has never been, nor ever will be, a piece of legislation that can take that away.

All the best to you and yours in 2019.

Grant