“The Devil Made Me Do It” Defence, for TCDSB

di Joe Volpe del July 12, 2018

TORONTO - To suggest that the issue of cancellation of the International Languages Program (Extended Day version, once the signature policy program for integration of ethnicities and minority language groups), has generated anger and frustration among supporters of the Catholic Education system would be a gross understatement.

I had not been at a formal Parent-Teacher Council Meeting for years. This one, organized by concerned parents at St. Fedelis Catholic Elementary School, had the trappings of a serious affair: Trustee, Associate Director of Education, local Superintendent, Principal, Vice Principal, parents, instructors (members of CUPE 3155 - instructors of International Languages). Board officials claimed that they had no choice – the collective agreement forced their hand.

No one identified herself/himself as a “teacher” or as a member of the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teacher’s union (TECT). They appear to be “the bad guy”, the cause of the turmoil and angst provoked by the TCDSB’s cancellation of the ILP. They weren’t present to defend or advance the legitimacy of their initiative.

Their president, Ms. Patricia Minnan-Wong, objected that the Corriere had not reported TECT’s view on the matter, but as of yesterday, our emailed questions were still unanswered.

TECTS’s grievance against the TCDSB for its handling of the Collective Agreement, given the offering of the ILP as a co-curricular instructional exercise, had moved to an arbitrator.
That arbitrator, a Mr. Goodfellow, operating under the stringent parameters outlined for him under the collective agreement, decided on behalf of TECT. He did not take into account the potential consequences of his decision. He was just following the rules, so to speak.

Here are some of those consequences: the extended day ILP in 44 schools would end abruptly; 100 instructors would lose their jobs and livelihood as of June 30, 2018; parents at those 44 schools would have to arrange for alternative delivery methods for those programs by September; bus schedules would be disrupted for all of those schools (there is a shortage of bus drivers so the issue will simmer for months after the start of the new school year); parents will have to make provisions for day care or pick up of their children at different times; negotiations with the high school teachers, unit would become more pointed; approximately 1,000 of the 4,000 elementary school teachers would received a pay-out equivalent to three weeks of additional pay – pre tax.

The other 3,000 teachers may yet put in a claim for a portion of that windfall.

But, for the moment at least, Ms. Minnan-Wong will appear a hero to the 1,000 teachers who will gloat at their new-found fortune.
Ironically, as one parent pointed out, notwithstanding all the confusion TECT will have provoked, all teachers are still required by law to be on the school premises for no less than 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the “official” end of the instructional day.

The safety concerns of the children may compel the “freed” teachers to remain at school anyway.

Staff at the Board claims that their hands are tied by the Arbitrator’s Award. The Arbitrator’s report, available to them and their lawyers, will not be made public until “sometime in August”.

It may be a matter of convenience. TECT and Ms. Minnan-Wong will have to hide from public anger. How many of the approximately 1,000 teachers were petty enough to spur their President to action?

If they think this is a winning strategy to get public support for anything, then they must be savouring advance samples of the soon to be available legal cannabis.

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