Check-In, January 8th, 2018

Hello County! Welcome Back.

That was certainly an interesting start to 2018. Here’s hoping that you managed ok in the power outages.

Just before the break, a message was sent out to principals from HRSB in regards to the sub-shortage and a series of steps that HRSB was undertaking to help alleviate the problem. These steps included:

  • All non-mandatory professional development offered by the HRSB will be postponed.  We will continue limited PD which is mandatory such as WHMIS, First Aid, etc.;
  • Grade level restrictions on AESOP will be lifted. Principals can hire substitutes to teach at any grade level;
  • The use of substitutes to provide PLC time will be discontinued;
  • Unpaid leave will only be approved for exceptional circumstances and if operationally feasible. This will continue to be at the Principal’s discretion;
  • Unpaid leaves tied to Article 60 conference grants will not be approved. Teachers are eligible for up to three (3) days per conference and must have pre-approval from the Principal, in accordance with the Article 60 Guidelines;
  • Continue to not fill vacant positions at Central Office requiring an NSTU licence unless operationally required

It should be noted that any leave already approved is not going to be withdrawn. As well, teachers may still apply for their article 60 sub days (3 days per event up to 6 per year) as they have in the past. These days may not be “unreasonably denied”. To clarify, the message from HRSB does not impact article 60, outside of the granting of unpaid days.

As far as increasing the supply of subs, HRSB has stated they will be (or already have):

  • Considering placement of “permanent subs” in schools with the greatest need;
  • Coordinating interviews with upcoming B.Ed. graduates and continued outreach to Nova Scotia universities with B.Ed. programs;
  • Securing a tri-partite agreement with the NSTU and EECD to broaden the substitute pool beyond certified teachers (i.e. non-licensed second year B.Ed. students, and possibly others) in limited circumstances when qualified teachers are unavailable;
  • Reviewing of substitute application process to expedite applicants;
  • Sending direct email to B.Ed. students in other provinces including New Brunswick to highlight the availability of full-time hours as a substitute teacher with HRSB;
  • Promoting contract potential with HRSB for teachers considering relocation;
  • Ongoing analysis of AESOP data to maximize the potential of all substitute assignments regardless of level/specialty; (Please continue to use AESOP to obtain/record sub usage at your school to ensure data is accurate.)
  • Attendance at the Toronto Education Job Fair in November to promote HRSB positions;
  • Participating in upcoming Job Fairs, including Moncton, Fredericton and Newfoundland; and
  • Twitter campaign and social media outreach.

It is our understanding that all these measures are meant to be “short-term”, however, this does not change the severity of the situation in which we find ourselves. The reassurance of short-term solutions does little to alleviate the concerns of a teacher shortage becoming a long-term problem. I am working very closely with the other two local presidents to monitor this situation, and we have approached HRSB with a number of suggestions as to how we can all work together on this issue.

In other, “Big Ticket” news, we are still waiting to hear anything from the government on the report from Dr. Avis Glaze. I mention this here because this report may very well change some of the structural norms of all Nova Scotia’s boards, HRSB included. It is doubtful the Dr. Glaze has come all this way to not enact some fairly significant changes; changes which could certainly impact the dealings we currently have with the board. Again, that is something we are carefully monitoring, and will advise, as best we can, when we know more.

Finally, on a point of personal privilege, just a quick shout out to HRSB for the way that they handled the storm of last week. I heard lots of favourable comments supporting the decision to keep schools closed on Friday in order to ensure that all our buildings (and thus all of you and the kids) were safe. I know as both a parent and as local president, I appreciated the decision, and thought that the new web page which provided rationale for the closure on the HRSB website (and a comment section) was a fantastic way to stop some of the rather predictable public furor in its tracks.

That is it for this Monday, County. Have a great 1st full week back.

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