. TDSB Trustee Howard Goodman, Eglinton-Lawrence .
My Commitments as Your Trustee
What happens in our Public schools matters.
Our Public schools do much more than help guide children to become knowledgeable, caring, skilled, creative adults. Our Public schools also build the foundation of a civil, prosperous, and democratic society.Similarly, my job as Trustee on the Toronto District School Board has two distinct parts: the individual and the societal. Both are grounded in the primary duty imposed on Trustees by the Education Act - "To promote student achievement and well-being".
On the "individual" side I commit to do my best to guide individual families or school communities to maximize the education outcomes for their children.
On the "societal" side I commit to do my best to maximize the value that our Public schools deliver to society as a whole.
And I commit to provide you with the most accurate information as well as the best advice that I have, without spin or regard to political consequences, and to listen to your thoughts with the same degree of openness.
I welcome all the comments, questions, challenges, and insights that you can provide me in achieving these goals.
My response to OECTA letters re Reg274
Yesterday, I received a personal letter from Kevin O'Dwyer, the President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, about Reg274's Seniority-Hiring provisions. He also included a letter that he sent to all MPP's and a brochure that OECTA uses to promote their position in support of seniority hiring.
Many thanks for your letter and also for including your letter to MPPs as well as the OECTA brochure on Reg274 Seniority Hiring process. I have found them to be very informative. This material gives us an opportunity to exchange views on this important matter.
You make a number of points that I find that I cannot agree with, but let me start off with the one point where we do agree.
Point of Agreement - The Importance of “Fair and Transparent” Hiring
We agree completely on the need for "Fair and Transparent" hiring practices that avoid nepotism. At TDSB, a number of such practices are already in place (e.g., mandatory job postings, diversity hiring practices and reporting, conflict of interest policies). Indeed, as improvements are always possible, a motion to further strengthen our hiring practices is coming to Board even now.
If OECTA’s primary goal in supporting Reg274 is to ensure fair and transparent hiring practices (and has nothing to do with expanding seniority based hiring as you say), would you not best achieve your goal by working with school boards, principals, parents and students across Ontario to embrace hiring processes have none of the objectionable premises or outcomes of Reg274?
Flawed Premises -
The Character of Our Principals - Your position rests on the flawed assumption that the majority of our Principals place the interests of friends and relatives above those of their students by practicing nepotism at the expense of effective schools, quality education, and student achievement and well-being. This implies that parents and school boards are placing their children in the hands of unprincipled scoundrels who lack moral fibre and professional integrity. This has certainly never been my experience as a TDSB parent and Trustee, nor can I believe it has been yours. I ask you, if we can't trust their ability to hire appropriate staff, how can we trust their ability to look after our children?
Teachers are not interchangeable – You seem to believe that, like cogs in a machine or robots on an assembly line, teachers are inherently interchangeable. At a time when calls for "differentiated instruction" and "student engagement" are heard from School Boards, the Ministry, unions, and researchers, it is baffling to me that anyone still thinks student needs are better served by a rigid hiring protocol. Rigid Reg274 rules limit hiring to the five most senior teachers, rather than choosing the properly credentialed teacher who is best suited to the specific classroom. Yes, every teacher must have the basic credentials. But surely, beyond that, the single most valuable "qualification" to be considered is an ability to reach and teach the specific students of a specific school community. The quality of the match between teacher and school has very little, if any, correlation with the number of years a person has been an occasional teacher.
What’s Best for Students – Nowhere in your letters or flyers, or in Reg274 itself, are the needs of students mentioned. Similarly, there is no mention of the primary duty under the Education Act for School Boards to promote student achievement and well-being. In fact, student needs appear to be quite irrelevant to OECTA and under Reg274. Student needs should be central to all decisions made about our schools and our education system. When Reg274 is examined through a students-first lens, its potential to actually harm students, school communities and the quality of public education becomes immediately clear.
Comments on Statements in your letters and your brochure
“Credentials” don't equal “Qualifications” - I stand by my statement that Reg274 imposes on Principals seniority as the first and foremost criterion in hiring. You use "qualifications” as in “certificate of qualification and registration,” which is the minimum credential needed by every teacher in Ontario. As such, this basic credential is the fundamental legal requirement to be considered for a job. But the common meaning of "qualification” is different. It includes: relevant life experience and hobbies, understanding of the home culture of the students, maturity risk-taking, motivation, relationship building – all of which are critically important to building a culture of creativity, compassion, and achievement in a school.
No data to support "nepotism" claim - Despite your constant repetition that "nepotism" and "cronyism" are pervasive, you have yet to produce any data that would support this provocative claim.
Misrepresentation of the Peel Board policy change - Contrary to your brochure, the Peel Board policy you cite in your brochure was not adopted to combat "nepotism and cronyism." Rather, Peel's goal as stated on their web-site is to increase the diversity of teaching staff in their schools in order to provide greater support for students. This is in line with Peel’s obligations under PPM119 and the Ontario Human Rights Code. In fact, the Peel policy mirrors long-standing and successful TDSB practice. Both Peel and TDSB use non-seniority methods to achieve diversity, since the younger cohort of teachers includes a greater diversity of culture, language, and background than can typically be found among more senior teachers. By focusing purely on seniority, Reg274 thoroughly undermines the ability of Boards and schools to add diversity to our teaching staff. It seems, then, to violate commitments to promote diversity in hiring, made by the Ministry to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Statistics offered without citations - You cite no source for your statement that "99% of teachers ... don't have connections or relatives in a school board." I suspect that you have no basis for this number. But the real issue isn't the number of graduating teachers with family connections, it is whether these teachers are being unfairly and preferentially hired based on these connections. You present no evidence for this assertion.
Extremely narrow use of words - You state that Reg274 "ensures hiring based on qualifications and experience, not who you know!" Let us be clear: by "qualifications" you mean "credentials”, and by "experience" you mean "seniority". I, and most other people, do not use such narrow definitions for these terms.
Reg274 Stifles innovation - You state that Reg274 "ensures that the same procedures are employed by all boards" as if this is a good thing. Our schools are facing unprecedented changes in the next few years. To promote student achievement and well-being, and to promote public confidence (board's primary duties under the Education Act), we will need to change many practices. But Reg274 enforces a static uniformity that kills innovation. How does this inflexible rigidity help students? How does this help your members?
Reg274 is not "fair to everyone" - It certainly isn't fair to the students who will be far less likely to see their life experiences reflected, or understood, by their teachers. It certainly isn't fair to those teachers (many of whom are OECTA members) who have written to the Minister and other MPPs and copied me. They are concerned that their school will not get the teachers that they need to innovate, improve, and meet the needs of their students. I do grant you that Reg274 is more than “fair" to those who believe that seniority equals excellence.
I look forward to continuing this exchange of thoughts with you, and with any of the MPPs who have received both this email and your earlier email with attachments.
Reg274 Update May31
Emails re Reg274
Our Goal and Our Next steps
Post-script: The History of Reg274
This is our last chance to fix a regulation that was ill-conceived from the start and that is bad for students. Please let the your MPP, the Minister of Education and the Premier know that you support the elimination of Reg274seniority-hiring rules. This is our best, and possibly our last, chance to set hiring rules that remain fair for students.