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HomeNewsHigh school teachers rally outside Near North board office to protest layoffs

High school teachers rally outside Near North board office to protest layoffs

Glen Hodgson, the District 4 President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation with the Near North District School Board, continues to challenge why 30 teachers continue to face layoffs.

At a rally outside the board’s office Tuesday afternoon before trustees met for their regular meeting, Hodgson spoke to local media that questions why the number of educators losing their jobs is so high.

The board is citing declining enrolment as one factor and the elimination of education grants as another.

However, Hodgson is disputing the enrolment factor.

“There is no way 156 fewer students equals 30 job losses,” he said.

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“And we do know those cuts are related to cuts in public education.”

Hodgson says even in years of declining enrolment there are teachers who retire which means each year layoffs are avoided for the most part.

He says some teachers are retiring this year so that should have helped reduce the layoff number but adds that doesn’t appear to be the case.

For Hodgson, the culprits for why this hasn’t happened are cuts in education grants and increasing class sizes to an average of 28 students per class.

Hodgson says what needs to happen is for the Ford government to reverse its education cuts so that the board can recall the remaining teachers in time for next September.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” he said.

Hodgson says by this time in the school year teachers are planning out the next school year, but the board and the Tories have made their work hard to complete.

“We don’t know who are teaching staff are going to be and we still don’t know if there are going to be more recalls,” he said.

On top of that, with some teachers recently recalled Hodgson says some teachers from Parry Sound will be teaching in North Bay, some from North Bay are heading to Almaguin and some Almaguin educators will be facing students in Parry Sound.

Hodgson says for teachers in this group it’s a two-hour commute to work each day.

Hodgson says the risk of lost programs remains real and cites a shop class as an example.

He says if a shop teacher retires, the board can’t just put anyone in the class as a replacement because of the specialized nature of the program.

Hodgson believes the likely outcome is cancelling the program under this scenario.

Hodgson has been predicting the job losses for months when the Ford government announced education cuts.

He says both Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli and board chair Jay Aspin accused him of fearmongering and added no one would lose their job.

Following Tuesday’s rally, which had about two dozen participants, Jay Aspin arrived for the regular school board meeting.

Rather than answer media questions Aspin said he was late for a meeting but issued a prepared statement.

In the statement, Aspin says “Hodgson continues to lie to the public”.

“I have never, repeat NEVER accused this union leader of fearmongering,” the statement reads.

“I have a great deal of respect for our teachers.  I have very little respect for a union leader who continues to lie.”

Aspin says at the June 18th budget meeting, the board’s Superintendent of Business, Liz Therrien was correct when she said no teacher would lose their job as a result of class size changes.

Aspin says Therrien stated other factors like declining enrollment and school capacity were the reason “in staffing reductions identified in this budget”.

Aspin says following the meeting the local media quoted the Business Superintendent as saying “blame fewer students and elimination of education grants for Near North teachers losing their jobs.”

Later in an email to Aspin said “the government’s guarantee was to protect boards as a result of the class size changes. They can’t protect boards from declining enrolment…the public won’t and shouldn’t allow it!”

“We have lost $2 million in funding and 252 students with declining enrolment,” states the email.

“Why do these union leaders think the public can continue to foot the bill when we are losing so many kids and government grants (which are tied to enrolment).  In the last 8 years we have gone from 13,000 students to 9,800. We have to cut the cloth to fit the table….it’s as simple as that.

But while Hodgson and the board may be on the same page that education cuts are major reasons in the layoffs, he remains unconvinced that declining enrolment is the factor the board makes it out to be for why 30 teachers won’t be in the classroom this September.

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