In what a union has called a “devastating blow,” the Upper Canada District School Board has laid off 155 employees as it struggles to cope with a huge deficit.
The staffing reductions include 42 teachers, 30 educational assistants, early childhood educators, English-language learner instructors and instructional assistant positions, 22 school office support staff jobs, 22 Learning Commons Informationist posts, 24 student support partner positions, 11 speech language assistants, a psychological associate, one superintendent, two central office support staff, five system and school principal/vice-principal positions.
“The UCDSB dealt a devastating blow to all students in Upper Canada,” declares the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. “Trustees cut all child and youth worker and behaviourist (SSP) positions, decimating the para-professionals work group by 53 per cent.”
“These front-line workers provided services that were critical in student suicide prevention, student mental health, student engagement strategies, and facilitating connections between families and outside agencies to support students,” states the OSSTF.
‘Shocked and dismayed’
Funding for para-professionals was pared by $1.3 million as trustees were faced with a $11.7 million deficit.
“We are aware that people may be upset by some of the decisions that we as a board have had to make. With many former educators sitting around the trustee table, we are obviously empathetic to the situation,” says chairman John McAllister. “However, we are also obligated to deliver public education within the funding that has been allocated to us by the Ministry of Education and to deliver budgets that are compliant with government regulations,” he adds. “We have endeavored to do this with the least possible impact on the classroom. Although the actual delivery of some programs may look different in the upcoming year, we are confident that the Upper Canada District School Board will be able to provide students with a quality education that meets their needs and prepares them for a successful life.”
But OSSTF District Officer Adrienne McEwen charges: “Despite government claims that it will be business as usual at Ontario school boards, there is absolutely nothing routine about the alarming number of para-professionals declared redundant today.” She comments, “While the Ford government is partly to blame for cutting education funding to frontline workers and student supports, we are shocked and dismayed” the UCDSB “would make such deep cuts to vital services for students.”