Over 160 employees out of a job after UCDSB passes balanced budget

*Note* This story was updated at 5:55 p.m. to include more detailed job loss numbers from the UCDSB.

BROCKVILLE – Over 160 employees with the Upper Canada District School Board, including over 50 from the Special Education department, will be out of a job next year after the trustee board passed its 2019-20 budget on June 19th.

Faced with multiple levels of cuts and a looming $11.7 million deficit, trustees sided with the administration to slash the Upper Canada District School Board budget, loading more cuts than planned on special education at its June 12th planning meeting. Those cuts were approved at the June 19th meeting by trustees.

Trustees were given an overview of the budget by board consultant Roger Richard which outlined three levels of cuts to the budget, excluding special education, and three levels of cuts to special education. The board presently overspends in special education, receiving $41 million from the province in funding but spending $49 million.

Just before 6 p.m. June 21st, the UCDSB issued a release with a breakdown of the job reductions. Those numbers include:

  • 1 Superintendent position
  • 2 central office support staff positions
  • 5 system and school principal and vice-principal positions
  • 42.33 full time equivalent teacher positions
  • 30.3 educational assistant, early childhood educator, English language learner instructor, and instructional assistant positions
  • 22 school office support staff positions
  • 22 learning commons informationist positions
  • 24 student support partner positions
  • 11 speech language assistant positions
  • 1 psychological associate position

According to the board, a total of 162.66 full time equivalent positions were eliminated. The board’s release does not indicate how many positions were eliminated through attrition (retirement, voluntary leave) and how many were actual job losses.

OSSTF Local 26 issued a release June 21st stating that all 25 Child and Youth Worker and Behaviourist (SSP) positions within the UCDSB’s Special Education department will be eliminated at the end of the 2018-19 school year. SSP’s work in schools directly with students supporting mental health, student engagement with their peers, and suicide prevention.

“This is a shattering number of para-professionals at the UCDSB who are losing their jobs,” said Jim Mulville, PSSP bargaining unit president with OSSTF District 26. “With the provincial priorities around violence in the schools and the rise of student mental health crises, these frontline workers are critical in empowering youth and resolving violent incidents.”

“While the Ford government is partly to blame for cutting education funding to frontline workers and student supports, we are shocked and dismayed that the UCDSB would make such deep cuts to vital services for students,” said Adrienne McEwan, district officer for OSSTF District 26 in a media release.

Cuts to special education funding were originally set by board administration to $816,000 in previous budget presentations. At the June 12th meeting, trustee David McDonald (Ward 8 – Cornwall) proposed an amendment to the budget plan to retain the Student Success Teacher positions at the board. The change would be offset with an identical reduction in funding to the Special Education department. Student Success Teachers are teachers assigned to a secondary school, who work with students at risk of not passing their courses, but are not necessarily identified as needing an individual education plan or help from the special education department.

“I have heard from a number of principals about the value and benefit of student success teachers and the support they provide to students,” McDonald told the other trustees at the meeting. “I think there is value in having those teachers in the schools.”

Board vice-chair Bill MacPherson disagreed at that meeting with cutting special education further.

“I am a bit concerned here,” he said “This doubles the reduction in spec ed to about $1.6 million. As previously stated, spec-ed serves to get a lot of kids across that [graduation] line.”

MacPherson is also chair of the board’s special education advisory committee. Trustees voted to support the change at the June 12th meeting and adopt all other recommendations.

The budget that was approved at the June 19th meeting includes job cuts to board administration and in the schools above the SSP positions. One superintendent position, one position in finance and communications were eliminated and 10 system teacher positions were eliminated. Superintendent of District Alignment Phil Dawes is retiring at the end of the school year, his position will not be replaced. However, most of the position cuts in the board office publicly known are positions that are already vacant or involve employees that can move to other positions within the board.

In the schools, it was revealed at the June 19th meeting that 28 Learning Commons Informationalist positions (librarian) were part of the job losses, however, an initiative after the budget was approved may save some of those positions.

Trustee Lisa Swan proposed a motion to use Learning Opportunities Grant funding for elementary librarians to keep some of those positions. The board had placed in special reserves previous allocations. That money, plus the 2019-20 grant funding will mean that six of the 28 positions will be funded for 2019-20.

During previous budget presentations, Richard had said he estimated that 35 permanent secondary school teacher positions would be eliminated. When asked after the June 19th trustee meeting, board chair John McAllister told The Leader that the job loss numbers have been known to trustees, but would not be released publicly until this Friday to allow time for the board to notify the employees affected and receive support from the unions which represent affected employees.

Approved cuts to the approved $364.5 million budget include $1.3 million from the programming department including the $704K cut to Learning Commons. Schools will share resource people on a wider scale in the restructuring. There will be over $1 million in cuts to T.R. Leger thanks to a restructuring plan that will consolidate campuses and programming. Currently, there are two TR Leger offices serving Dundas County, a small office in Morrisburg, while the main TR programming is available at North Dundas District High School.

The rural guidance councillor pilot project that saw a second full-time guidance councillor added to high schools like Seaway District High School and NDDHS will end at the end of the month. Funded by the Rural and Northern Education Program, the $1.9 million in funding will be used to support the 64 identified schools the UCDSB receives funding for McAllister said.

“On a go-forward basis, the funding will be used to address other priorities of the board for schools that qualify as recipients of this funding.”

Cuts to Grade 4-8 classroom teachers ($1.2 million) and Early Childhood Educators ($925K) are based on changes in the funding formula from the province. The larger impact of cuts to Grade 9-12 classroom teachers has not been released by the board. The UCDSB sent out redundancy notices to 100 teachers last month. Under the collective bargaining agreements with the two teachers unions, Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario and Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, job bidding for classroom positions started mid-June. System teachers who were cut from the board office are eligible in this process.

In addition to the main budget, $46.9 million in capital projects were approved for the 2019-20 school year. Those projects are funded directly by the Ministry of Education, and cannot be used for operational or instructional budgets.

Budgets must be approved by school boards before a June 30th deadline from the Ministry of Education. This year, the UCDSB must submit a balanced budget in order to remain in compliance with ministry guidelines.

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