TORONTO, Sept. 16, 2013 /CNW/ - Over the past several months, the problems associated with Regulation 274 have been raised by many stakeholders in the education community. For more than a year now, the Ontario Principals' Council, representing over 5,000 elementary and secondary school principals and vice-principals in the province's public schools, has been telling the government that hiring based on seniority is not in the best interest of students.
The Regulation, mandating hiring based on seniority, came about during bargaining between OECTA - the Catholic teachers' union - and the government. In an effort to reach an agreement with this union during a difficult labour dispute, the government agreed to introduce an amendment that would prevent the practice of hiring based on nepotism or personal relationships, a claim put forth by OECTA. That allegation by the union has never been proven, and has not been noted in the public system.
Public school boards have policies and protocols in place to ensure equitable, fair and transparent hiring practices. Such procedures are meant to balance fair hiring practices with what is best for students. For the most part, boards consider multiple perspectives, including those of unions, but also parent communities and, of course, the best interests of students. Unfortunately, the requirements of this new regulation do not allow such considerations and, as a result, have had a detrimental effect in schools across Ontario.
It is significant to note that opposition to this regulation has come from students, the public sector teacher unions, school board associations, Directors of Education, trustees, individual teachers, principal associations and parents. No effort was made to consult with any other group in the education sector before unilaterally moving ahead with a regulation that shuts so many good candidates out of applying for permanent positions.
At the end of the day, only one thing matters - that the best teacher is in front of the classroom. That is the one and only criterion principals should use during the hiring process. It is inevitable that principals will know certain teachers who would be better in some classes, as we work with occasional (supply) teachers and teacher candidates (students) all the time. We use our best judgment when hiring, seeking the best fit between students and teachers. And seniority does not always equate with a good fit.
There have been many media stories highlighting rookie teachers who are exceptional and competent. This regulation prevents any new teacher from applying for a permanent position for a minimum of 16 months. In boards with long seniority lists, the wait will be much longer. Not only are we ignoring talented young people, but we also fear that it will cause many of them to leave the profession or the province to look for permanent work elsewhere.
Teachers who decide to move from one board to another for family or financial reasons will lose all seniority rights. They will have to apply to start the process all over again. To lose their experience, talent and expertise is a huge loss for students. Hiring teachers based solely on in-board supply teacher seniority is unfair to those teachers and to their students.
Principals support fair and transparent hiring practices. We need to be able to do what has been standard: consider many factors such as the age, learning needs and fit of the students; the cultural diversity of the school; the program requirements; the unique talents of each teacher on the school's team; the culture of the school; the specialized skills of the teacher that are not recognized by qualification and seniority alone; and the voices of parents and the larger community.
In our view, the fallout from this regulation has proved counterproductive to the government's stated goal of ensuring a high quality education for our kids. When we don't place the needs of students first, we cannot ensure that the result will be a positive outcome for them. The government needs to consider the multitude of voices that are opposed to Regulation 274, rescind it as soon as possible and replace it with fair guidelines for employers. To do so, it need look no further for help than the very good policies and procedures that public school boards in Ontario have developed.
SOURCE: Ontario Principals' Council
For further information:
Ontario Principals' Council
180 Dundas St. W., 25th Floor