Secondary school teachers vote to renew participation in extracurricular activities

TORONTO—The Provincial Council of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) has voted to recommend to members to suspend their political action related to extracurricular and voluntary activities.

The Provincial Council is the legislative body of OSSTF/FEESO and is responsible for the determination of interim policy and approval of political action. It consists of over 150 local leaders from across the province.

“We expect that this sign of good will from our members will prompt the government to have genuine discussions that can lead to a fair resolution to this current impasse,” said Ken Coran, president of OSSTF/FEESO, in a release. “We still maintain that voluntary activities are just that: voluntary. We encourage members to review recent information and decide if they are willing to return to participating in the activities we know they feel so passionately about.”

Norm Blaseg, director of the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) said, “I certainly hope the teachers come back. A lot of them are still upset, but it’s my understanding that the (Provincial Council) vote was unanimous.”

Mr. Blaseg pointed out during the teachers’ boycott, “we’ve had 95 percent of our teacher’s still take part in extracurricular sports activities. It has been through the goodwill of staff members and community members we’ve been able to keep the sports running. Although we appreciate the goodwill of community staff, who also have been wonderful through all of this, there is a natural connection between teachers and students that we hope will now be reinstated. Students see teachers as a part of a natural component of the entire educational experience. The teachers know the students the best and there is a natural extension there, so we are thrilled that we will probably see this reflected as teachers return to more natural roles in helping and advocating for their students.”

James Clyke, OSSTF District 3 Rainbow president, who represents high school teachers with the Rainbow District School Board, could not be reached for comment prior to this week’s press deadline.

Mr. Coran said in a February 25 press conference that he estimates 20 percent of teachers will probably not return to extra-curriculars because they’re too upset with the province. Another 20 percent didn’t support the boycott originally, while 60 percent of OSSTF members are waiting for concrete and tangible results from talks between the OSSTF and the province that have been taking place over the past several weeks.

Mr. Coran also outlined in the press conference that the talks will continue, looking at existing contract terms and new contracts set to take effect in the fall of 2014.

In a written statement on February 22, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she is happy to hear the news that the OSSTF decided to end the extracurricular boycott. “I’m so glad that teachers, support staff and students across the province will once again enjoy the extracurricular activities and programs that mean so much to them.”

Ms. Wynne said she has been engaging in frank and collaborative discussions with the union for the last few weeks. “Today’s news is a great indicator of the hard work all parties are putting into the repair of this valued relationship. It shows our willingness to find common ground on which we can rebuild a foundation of trust.” She added the issue needs to be addressed “within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework.”