TORONTO - The International Languages Extended-Day Program (ILP) is safe, sort of, for another year. No thanks to the short-sighted leadership at the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT) union. Nor to the tepid, flaccid guidance of the Senior Staff – not to be confused with Trustees, at least not all of them - at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).
At its core, the ILP is a great instructional tool: use the child’s mother tongue or heritage language to convey, teach or enforce instructional goals and social-civic skills.
An immersion program capable of imparting languages (grammar), mathematical skills that are part of the instructional curriculum mandated by the Provincial authorities.
It can have the added benefit of validating the dignity associated with the cultural value structure of the child’s home environment.
Sound arguments underpinning the rationale behind the programs since they were introduced as a part of the co-curricular studies in the precursor of the TCDSB.
Indeed, they have been “accepted” as part of the “instructional day” since 1990.
A funding mechanism under Continuing Education and Special Education made possible the financing of those classes.
Foreign authorities (Italian primarily) supplemented the program with dollars and classroom resources. Teachers were, in the main, certified abroad but their qualifications were/are not recognized by the Ontario College of Teachers.
But Education is a competitive environment for public dollars. Teachers want their jobs, secure and well-paid.
Senior Staff want lucrative compensation packages. Resources are finite and determined by Provincial governments.
It is easier to cut, tinker, cannibalize and “justify” than it is to lobby and make a case for expansion and growth.
Three years ago, seemingly constrained by the “shortfall” in Spec. Ed. and the overall deficit ($20 million) in the TCDSB’s budget, leaders like the Chair, Mike Del Grande, and the Director Angela Gauthier, advanced the elimination of the ILP citing untenable costs.
The Board had just entered an agreement to purchase the Columbus Centre for $22.5 million.
This year, the rationale is based on a grievance lodged by the TECT’s president, Patricia Minnan-Wong.
She claimed that the TCDSB was in breach of the Collective Agreement by scheduling the Extended Day ILP.
Elementary school teachers at 44 schools were thus compelled to stay a half hour longer than their colleagues at the other 119 elementary schools.
Since the Education Act requires teachers to be on the school premises 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the end of the school day, this is akin to complaining that they were being asked to stick around for 15 minutes longer.
An Arbitrator, whose Report will be made public sometime in August, sided with them.
TECT did not offer that the TCDSB institute a punch clock system to verify that their teachers obey the law.
Instead they demanded their money ($ 3-4 Million). They also did not offer to pay for the parking they currently enjoy for free. $5 dollars a day per elementary teacher would seem more than fair and would more than cover both the costs of the ILP and the “compensation” to the “aggrieved teachers”.
What is egregious on their part is that they also claim that any “learning” that takes place in an ILP classroom cannot be counted as instructional time, because THEY aren’t the ones providing it.
Worse, they claim it deprives children of precious minutes of learning they might receive from certified teachers – provided they show up with their lesson plans in order.
Very well-paid Senior Staff, former teachers themselves, argued that their “hands were tied”. The Act and the Arbitrator really dictate the agenda, they said. The current director Rory McGuckin claims he has no choice: “it’s an either or” situation. Oh Boy!
But they are paid to lead, implement and supervise. Did they ask their “boss” at the Ministry for input?
Some Trustees, conscious of their obligations to parents and electorate, chose to propose a solution that would take into consideration potential Provincial Government interest in the issue. Sal Piccininni, supported by Ann Andrachuk, Frank D’Amico and Joe Martino decided to check if their “solution” would be palatable to the Ministry.
And respect curriculum, the law and current practice.
People should be lining up to say thank you.