Report of the Secretary-Treasurer to the Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, August 25, 2020
Good morning Governors, and welcome to a brave new world as things evolve and begin to reopen . . .
These past six months have tested all of us in how we work and how we engage with others, while keeping ourselves, our families, and our communities safe and healthy. Because of the pandemic, we have found new ways to stay in touch with family and friends, and to engage with colleagues in connected and productive ways, while a new sense of normalcy continues to emerge.
The following report reflects the many activities that have kept OTF busy during the past year, and I wish to begin by thanking my OTF and Affiliate colleagues for their collective and creative efforts throughout. Since we shut down the OTF office on March 16, 2020 our work has continued in many different ways, absent the social interaction that we all normally enjoy working together.
As Governors are well aware, OTF and the Affiliates have collaborated with the Ministry of Education over many years to champion professional learning ‘by teachers for teachers’, to provide thoughtful input and guidance towards revised curricula, to administer subsidies for various AQ courses, and to work in partnership with the Ministry to support teacher professionalism through initiatives such as the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP).
Unfortunately, the past year has been characterized by the absence of such collaborative professionalism, and many educational missteps by the current Ford Government: legislative efforts to pre-empt the collective bargaining process, an absence of funding towards teacher professional development, revised curricula without meaningful opportunities for input from educational stakeholders, and an ill-conceived effort to improve student success in mathematics by imposing a standardized math proficiency test on new teacher candidates (Associate Members of OTF).
Throughout the winter months, we supported our Affiliate colleagues wherever we could – on the picket lines and on social media – in their collective efforts to force the government to back down on its damaging proposals for the education system regarding class sizes, e-learning and funding cuts. And we were proud to join tens of thousands of OTF/Affiliate members as they marched on Queen’s Park on February 21, 2020 in an historic show of protest against this government’s policies.
Following the release of an OTF/Affiliate position paper against the government’s proposed Math Proficiency Test (MPT) for beginning teachers late last year, we provided support (in-kind and financial) to the new Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council (OTCC) as it developed its governance structure, and then focused its efforts on challenging the MPT through the courts. Governors had the opportunity to hear directly from OTCC leadership at our Spring Board meeting in April.
In late spring, OTF provided input towards CTF’s survey of Canadian teachers on the impact of COVID-19 on their professional activities, their students and the teachers themselves. During this challenging period of distance teaching, OTF provided professional learning support for Ontario’s teachers through a seven- week webinar series – What Works for ME Might Work for YOU! – in which 1,200+ teachers participated.
During this Annual Meeting, Governors will hear from Steve McGirr (OTPP Chair) and Jo Taylor (President & CEO) on how the Plan is faring so far during the pandemic. Hopefully, the mid-year results (as of June 30th) will be available by the time of our meeting (or shortly thereafter), but there is no question that the Plan Partners’ decision to file a 2020 valuation for the Plan, and to allocate the surplus to a contingency reserve once again, was prudent. The next valuation will not be due now until 2023.
Unfortunately, given the evolving pandemic and the online format necessary for this Annual Meeting, we have had to postpone the celebratory elements of our gathering – the President’s Banquet and the awarding of OTF Fellowships and our new OTF Special Recognition Award – until next spring. As the pandemic continues to evolve, we look forward to a time when we might gather once again in person as things reach a “new normal”.
As we approach the uncertainty of this next school year, OTF will continue to support Ontario’s teachers and to defend publicly funded education, while also working towards further engagement with our Ministry colleagues and, hopefully, a return to collaborative professionalism at some point in the future.
In the meantime, I encourage everyone to continue heeding public health warnings, while supporting your families and your communities in staying safe and healthy.
Scott Perkin, Secretary-Treasurer
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