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 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.



Check-In, Monday, December 10th

Good morning, County! Happy Monday.

Things are starting to settle down a bit here at the office after a crazy few weeks. Between the new “Unscheduled Instructional Time” (UIT) initiatives, the tripartite agreement (which would see non-NSTU individuals hired to work as substitutes), the ongoing issues of members safety during power outages and the Guarding Minds at Work Survey, December has been nothing if not busy.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have attended a number of meetings which have been held between senior management of the HRCE and the three local presidents to discuss concerns, particularly around teacher wellness and the imposition of the new UIT initiative. We have expressed on multiple occasions that, as far as we are hearing, the new model for student support has not proven to be particularly effective. The teachers who have reached out to us have expressed confusion and frustration at the way the model has been implemented, and have expressed a wide gamut of concerns.

The local presidents have brought these concerns to the HRCE. One of the key messages that we are trying to get across to the employer is that teachers’ use of UIT should remain within the purview of their own professional judgement. It could be that a teacher may, indeed, have the capacity to go into another classroom and offer support during their UIT, but the effectiveness of that intervention will depend, to a great extent, upon how that particular teacher is feeling about their own classroom. It could very well be that a teacher using their UIT to focus on their own students, as opposed to someone else’s, would be in everyone’s best interest.

For the time being, the UIT model remains very much a work in progress, and the subject of ongoing conversations. Although we recognize that there may be an increased impetus for teachers to be accountable for the time for which they are being paid, we also feel there is a balance which must be achieved. Again, I go back to my airline analogy from last week. There is a very good reason why flight attendants advise putting on your own oxygen mask first.

As educators, we must first put ourselves in a situation where the needs of our own students are being met before we can offer help to others.

That’s it for this week, all. And for those of you who do celebrate the holiday, here’s hoping that the rapidly approaching season does not prove overly stressful.

Check-In, Monday, November 26th

Good morning, County! Happy Monday.

It’s rather hard to believe, but only 3 more Check-Ins until the Holiday. The year has rather flown by, for sure.

Last Monday evening, the HRRC met to discuss a variety of issues common across all three locals. Topics of note included the Tripartite agreement, Tier-two support, and the Guarding Minds at Work Survey results. There was a great deal of discussion (as you can well imagine) around how to best communicate to the HRCE the struggles that teachers are having with the “Tier-two” model as it exists, concerns around the tripartite agreement, and how to best now utilize the data received through the Guarding Minds at Work Survey. Read more

Check-In, Monday, November 19th.

Hello County.

I sit to pen this Monday Check-In with a very heavy heart.

Last Thursday, our local lost a tremendous champion, mentor and friend with the sudden passing of long time NSTU member Susan Noiles.

For those of you who did not know her, Susan was an amazing educator whose career spanned 3 decades. Most recently, she held a guidance position at Lockview High School where she had worked for 18 years. She was also a wife, a mother, sister and a very proud Nana. As an avid unionist, Susan held a number of positions, both locally and provincially, including serving on the Insurance Trustees, and on the Provincial Executive and had long been an active member for Halifax County.

For those of us who did know Susan, however, we understand that her involvement ran much deeper than the positions she held. She had a passion for fairness and a way of seeing issues through a very objective lens that made her someone to be reckoned with. You knew at the meetings that when Susan approached the microphone, you should probably pay attention. She was never anything but professional, and she exuded this calm sense of assurance, but when she wanted you to hear a message, I can tell from personal experience, you heard exactly what was on her mind.

She attended our local meeting last Wednesday night, the day before she died, and as always, was involved in the discussion and the debate. In her last act of Unionism, she remained well after the meeting had adjourned, wishing to bend the ear of her local President on an issue, as she did so often. In typical Susan style, she apologized for taking my time, but felt compelled to speak to how something that had come up that evening was so important to our members.

And that was what she was like; naturally wired to put others’ needs before her own.

To paraphrase a line from Julius Caesar, I owe Susan more words than you will see me write today. She was nothing short of an inspiration, and she will be deeply, deeply missed.

Have a good week, County, and reach out with any questions or concerns.