Check-In, Monday, April 1st

Good Morning County, happy April Fool’s Day.

I want to start off today with the announcement that most of you received on Friday about retired teachers. In an effort to help curb the sub-crises, retired teachers can now work 99.5 days, as opposed to the traditional 69.5. This change is effective today, and will extend into the 2019-2020 school year. This move will hopefully relieve some of the pressure being felt by teachers and, with some luck, reduce the number of classes you are being asked to cover.

It is also that time of year when teachers are looking forward to next year and thinking about what they would like to teach. Please note that under your new collective agreement, Principals are expected to consider your requests when making up your notice of assignment. As well, if your notice of assignment changes significantly, or if you feel your requests were not considered, you may now ask for the reason in writing from your administration. Teachers are encouraged to clearly indicate their preferences for their NOA to their admin team, and have conversations early in the process about those preferences. Please note that this does not mean that your NOA can not change, but rather that a rationale must be provided upon request.

It has come to my attention that there is still a great deal of confusion swirling around the running records issue. With as much clarity as I can muster, I will reiterate that teachers can not be required to do running records with their students unless they are provided with a substitute. They can also not be required to submit data specific to running records unless: 1) they have been provided with the substitute days to do the records in the first place, or 2) they have chosen to do the running records as a professional preference.

If you have any communication from your admin that seems to indicate otherwise, please forward it to me and I will get clarification.

Finally, we have a few upcoming sessions that may be of interest to our members. On April 25th, there will be an information session for teachers who want to find out more about the ins and outs of securing a contract with the HRCE. On April 29th, new (or soon to be new) parents are welcome to attend an information session on parental leave and benefits. Click on the links to find out more.

That’s it for this week, County. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns, and consider inviting me by for a lunch-hour/ after school visit.

Check-In, Monday,March 25th.

Good Morning County, and welcome back. I hope that you had a wonderful and restful March break.

A few items on the agenda today, but mostly informational. First, just a quick reminder of the voting for our Provincial Executive position is coming up this Thursday, March 28th. Reps, please ensure that you have sufficient voting cards, and please remember that your administrators are not eligible to cast a ballot. Subs may vote if they are working in your school that day. If you have any questions, e-mail me or hfxconominations@nstu.ca. If you would like to find out more about the candidates, simply click the links directly to the right of this post.

Speaking of elections, I want to take the opportunity to congratulate our newest executive member, Desirée Daniele on being acclaimed in the position of our Equity and Reps chair. She will fill this seat on a temporary basis, and we are very much looking forward to having her as part of our team.

For those of you who may be closing in on the professional finish line, the NSTU will be hosting a session for retiring teachers on Tuesday, April 2nd at the main NSTU office on Joe Howe drive. Please click this link to find out more information.

If you have any interest in getting involved in your NSTU at a higher level, applications are now open for spots on a variety of Provincial NSTU committees. This is a great opportunity to network with other members from all over the Province and to bring your own unique voice to a variety of NSTU issues and events. Please click here to find out more.

On a final note, the movie is completely booked. Please let us know if you can not make it by e-mailing hfxcowellness@nstu.ca.

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

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!