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Catholic teachers' take part in one-day strike

Teachers' spirits are high on the local picket line
2020-01-21 OHS strike MH
Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) members are out of the classrooms for a one-day strike today. There were a lot of supportive honks from drivers passing by teachers outside O'Gorman High School in Timmins. Maija Hoggett/TimminsToday

There were a lot of horns honking in support of local Catholic school teachers today.

Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) members are taking part in a one-day full withdrawal of services today. For the strike, the Northeastern Catholic District School Board's elementary and high schools in Timmins are closed to students. 

At O'Gorman High School (OHS), teachers walked along Jubilee with their signs.

“The reception by the passersby, the vehicles and the people walking, has been great — lots of honks and waves,” said Shannon Michell, who teaches English and history. “Our spirits are high, we’re whistling and singing, so we’ve been very well received so far. We’re hoping that’s an indication of continued support.”

For the OECTA, northeastern unit president Louis Clausi said cuts to special education, increasing class sizes, having fewer caring adults in schools, and eLearning are some of the main issues. 

“Unfortunately the government sees education as an expense,” he said. 

The strike, said Clausi, is a sad day for teachers.

“Because it’s the last thing teachers want to do. We want to be in our classrooms teaching kids, that’s why we got into this,” he said.

Michell said increased class sizes are a big concern.

"A lot of people say well 30 years ago there were classes 30 and 40 large, but we know our students don’t learn the same now. So in order to have more one-on-one and teacher/student time, if they keep expanding the numbers we’re going to lose out on that and the kids are going to lose out on that, and they’re the ones who need that,” she said.

While eLearning could mean the loss of teaching positions, Michell said there is also no research to support that students will learn better with it. 

“We’re doing this for the kids. The cuts that are being proposed by the government are going to be to the detriment of children’s education, that’s why we’re here. I think a lot of people see it to be about the money, and it’s not about the money, it’s about the cuts to education that are going to hurt the children,” she said.

OECTA members started job action Jan. 13. Its members are not completing report cards, participating in EQAO-related activities, and attending or taking part in Ministry of Education initiatives. 

All four of Ontario's teachers' unions negotiating new contracts with the province are now engaged in job action.

Timmins-area public elementary schools will be closed Friday, Jan. 24 for a rotating strike by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which is hitting District School Board Ontario North East (DSB1) schools.

ETFO members upped their job action last week.

Public elementary teachers are no longer supervising extracurricular activities unless scheduled during the regular school day, and not taking part in field trips. Members are also not arriving at work earlier than 30 minutes before the start of the instructional day and are leaving within 15 minutes of the end of classes. They are not planning or participating in assemblies, unless it's to provide supervision to students.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) rotating strikes aren't Timmins-area schools this week, however, its members started new job sanctions Jan. 20.

Teachers and occasional teachers won't be performing on-calls, members won't take on any additional work or responsibilities as the result of an absent members except for if students with special needs are reassigned between educational assistants, members won't assume responsibility for finding replacements for absent employees, and members won't perform the work of another bargaining unit.

Since November, OSSTF members have not been doing standardized testing or prep, completing Ministry of Education Data Reports, participating in school board professional activities, taking part in unpaid staff meetings outside the regular school day, commenting on report cards, or performing work of another bargaining unit. 

French-language teachers at Association des enseignantes et enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) also started the first phase of its administrative job action last week.


Maija Hoggett

About the Author: Maija Hoggett

Maija Hoggett is an experienced journalist who covers Timmins and area
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