Letter to the Editor
It has been my observation that the media frequently neglect to mention support staff in coverage of the current education labour dispute, and I would like to rectify this ongoing omission for you and your readers.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation represents the entire education team. Provincially, OSSTF represents members in over 150 different job classes from junior kindergarten to post-secondary. Locally, OSSTF District 7 represents over 1,000 employees of the Bluewater District School Board. We are comprised of five bargaining units:
Office Professionals and Technicians and occasional support staff;
Education Support Professionals, representing education assistants, early childhood educators, outdoor education specialists, child and youth workers, and many other supporting positions including occasional support staff;
Professional Student Services Personnel, representing attendance counsellors, mental health workers, psychologists, psychometrists, and speech and language pathologists;
secondary teachers; and
secondary occasional teachers.
Support staff contribute to our students’ success every step along the way. As the government’s attack on public education continues, I believe it is important to address the work that support staff do in our local schools.
Over several years, funding has been cut, and therefore we have fewer support staff in our schools. Workload has increased, however, in large part due to ministry requirements and initiatives. Many support staff come to work early and leave late and receive no pay for that extra time. Many are expected, daily, to do more with less. In addition, many of these workers are physically injured due to the increased violence that we now see in our schools.
Some members of the public may not realize that the school environment has changed over the years, and our schools are no longer like they were 20 or 30 years ago. Everyone who has attended school has a perception of what the school environment is like but the reality is in some cases very different. Just take the time to talk and listen to a person who works in education today and they will tell you that the government’s recent cuts to education have compounded these issues.
In closing, I have a few questions for our MPPs, Lisa Thompson and Bill Walker:
What happened to the two individuals who wrote letters and spoke in the legislature about how cuts to funding negatively impact students and staff in rural Ontario, and specifically in Bluewater? How are you taking their concerns, and those of others impacted by the cuts, into consideration?
Why does it seem that you no longer support the need for a fully-funded public education system for our students?
How is it acceptable to ignore the low salaries of support staff and the importance of their role in supporting students?
Why is it acceptable to allow the violence in our schools to increase so that it becomes the norm to be both physically and verbally abused while at work?
I would like the public to be aware of these issues as well, and to ask these questions of their elected representatives.
Penny Huettlin, President
Office Professionals and Technicians’ Bargaining Unit
District 7, Bluewater