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Questions and Answers
for Vice-Presidential Candidates

QUESTION 1 from Thomas Sheppard 

What strategies should the NLTA pursue to deal with the working conditions for teachers that are negatively impacting them?

ANSWERS to Question 1

Throughout our province teachers have returned to the classroom after responding to one of the greatest disruptions to our educational system in living memory.  The routines and practices that we had in place were changed and overhauled in a very short time. The Global Pandemic saw us adhering to Public Health Measures while trying to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning in our schools. The Pandemic put the roles and responsibility of teachers in the spotlight.  New and emergent demands, and pressures of work highlighted a job that was already hanging by a thread for some. The Pandemic instilled in us that the world cannot function without the school system being fully operational.

To be prepared and meet challenges in the future, strategies cannot just be dropped in the laps of individuals and the expectation be that we make it work.  Teachers need support and strategies to aid in meeting these ever-changing demands, so that teachers can continue to do what we love and are trained to do – Teach. I have often read that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions, so we must ensure that we take care of ourselves before going to work!  How do we do that one asks? The NLTA needs to continue to educate its members on their rights and responsibilities. Members need to know that they have an avenue to go for advice, support, and direction. The NLTA also needs to educate the membership more on the rights and responsibilities of the employer. Often, members are afraid to speak up. I truly believe that when we all know our professional rights and know the responsibilities of the employer we will have confidence in questioning more, saying “No” more and being proactive in our own well-being. Over the course of my teaching career, I have availed of the many services offered through NLTA. I will admit, services and avenues of help, I didn’t know existed until I really needed them.  The NLTA has provided me with valuable knowledge to be informed, confident and proactive in my teaching career.

A work environment that is unhealthy can lead to diminished performance and poor employee morale. I will continue to advocate for more professional development, encourage more collaboration and advocate for more district personnel to enter our classrooms and help out! Talking the talk is one thing but walking the walk is another!

Working conditions have been worsening on a number of fronts. While the pandemic has exacerbated the strain upon our teachers, a concerted effort is needed to rejuvenate our current teachers and teaching and learning assistants, while recruiting prospective young people into this beautiful profession. For three academic years we have been shifting and changing the way by which we perform our craft. In most professions people may experience two to three changes over their career. Nature has forced that number of transitions in one year.

Strategically speaking, as an Association, health and safety conditions are best addressed by continuous application of occupational health and safety legislation and ensuring that our employer fulfills their obligation in providing a safe, working environment. Given the professional aim of the NLTA, most of these objectives can be attained by working directly with the employer through the Administrative Officers. Should this approach not be successful, public advocacy and support for our professionals is paramount.

As it appears that we are on the tail end of this Pandemic, it is vital for NLTA to return to Personal Well-Being Professional Development in our schools. We need to learn how to take care of ourselves, so we are not ‘pouring from an empty cup’. Personal Well Being should be a mandatory paid professional development from the Employer. We need to advocate that it is the responsibility of the employer to provide a Healthy and Safe workplace that has a healthy amount of manageable stress and support.

We have a Collective Agreement that gives us certain rights and privileges. It also protects us in our time of need. It is important for teachers to know vital parts of the Collective Agreement. NLTA needs to reach out to our teachers in order to educate them about our rights and protections. I cannot stress enough that our Collective Agreement is only as strong as we are willing to stand up for ourselves when needed. Teachers need to call NLTA when they have a question or concern. The more we help ourselves the better we can help one another. All teachers need to speak up about their concerns to NLTA for advice and possible action and solutions. Remember, there is strength in numbers.

Teaching conditions are our students’ learning environments. Under the NL Schools Act (1997, cS-12.2 s20) it states, “A parent of a student attending school may request that a teacher or the director consult with him or her with respect to the student’s education program and that teacher or director shall comply with that request unless the request is unreasonable in terms of frequency or other circumstances.” We need to be truthful and realistic as to our student’s education programs. Are there any positive changes in our education system since the 2017 CBC release of “Inside the Classroom “series? Possibly it is time for a five year follow up series.

One of the most stressful times for our teachers is the start and the end of the school year. Some questions and concerns that come into our Administration Officers at NLTA are due to miscommunication or misinformation circulating. Please encourage colleagues to make the call to NLTA in order to ask questions or seek answers.  Many directives for teaching and learning vary from one part of the province to another. Teachers want consistency where everyone receives the same information and understanding. Relationships are crucial for positive change. Teachers need to feel supported in order to give support and have the confidence to face daily challenges.

We currently are in a crisis in education in this province. From my experience, it seems that the only way to get positive change from our employer is to gain support from the public. I believe that we need to seek out an ally in the Federation of School Councils, the voice of parents and the public in this province, and highlight for them the many issues facing teachers, and consequently students, in this province. The “hidden” issues, such as internal coverage, incomplete staffing, and the combining of classes in the absence of teachers, must be brought to their attention. The negative impacts of these practices for students are obvious to our members but may not be noticed by parents who only know that their school is open and ready for business each day. Further to this point, I would like to see the NLTA, and the Federation of School Councils, jointly organize legal protests after school hours outside community schools to deliver the message that these practices are having a negative impact on our workplaces and our students’ education.

Secondly, I would like to see time allotted during all meetings of Association members (including Branch, Special Interest Councils, Provincial Executive, Joint Council, and BGM) to brainstorm possible strategies/initiatives which the Association could undertake to help with advocacy efforts around on-going areas of concern for members which could then be brought forward by way of a motion and debated upon their merits. This would afford all members a greater say in the direction of the Association. Over the years, I have found that we have always done a great job of identifying our issues, but I do not think that we have always tapped the knowledge and creativity of our members to help us find means addressing our members’ concerns.

Next, I would like to see the NLTA conduct exit interviews for retirees and for those who choose to leave the profession early. During these interviews, members could be asked if there were any workplace factors that caused them to leave the profession. This anecdotal data could be used by the Association to lobby our employer to make positive changes in our workplace which could help with member retention.

Finally, I feel that we need to create a public awareness campaign (similar to Teachers Change Lives) which highlights the working/learning conditions in our schools. It could focus on class size, lack of staffing, SmartFind issues, internal coverage, and doubling up of classes among others. This, and an increased media presence, should drive home the point that schools, students, and our members, are suffering.

QUESTION 2 from Thomas Sheppard 

What can be done during the bargaining process to stop the contract stripping for younger members?

ANSWERS to Question 2

When any bargaining process begins it is the intention that both sides bargain in good faith and make every reasonable effort to conclude with the best collective agreement possible for the membership. When contract stripping occurs, it creates much discontent among the membership. The members feel devalued, powerless and feel that the union has been undermined. As current Chair of the Negotiating Team I am committed to work hard and fight for the membership and especially the newer teachers. The exchange of proposals will happen in the near future and both sides must be at the table for the betterment of all. For our Association to be unified and strong it has to be all for one and one for all.  Much work and research has been put into every bargaining process and we need to stand unified or our membership will continue to be fractured. We cannot do this! At the Executive table I have seen firsthand the highs and the lows of the process and some of the outcomes. We must continue to strive for the betterment of the teaching profession.  We need to make our profession better for potential, new and seasoned teachers.

It is always important to remember that our union plays an important role in protecting the rights of teachers in the overall context. The history of teacher unions in Canada and indeed, in Newfoundland and Labrador has shown that unions have had varying levels of success in collective bargaining. Our greatest power is in numbers, we must stick together and educate all members on the ramifications of our decision for all members. It is unfortunate that, over time we have seen some of our benefits erode with collective bargaining in Newfoundland and Labrador, but we have seen some gains as well. But collectively our members vote, and it is essential that each of us is educated in what we are voting for.  Changes are hard to make after the process has come to fruition.

We understand the complexities of our province, but the cost of continuing to do business or even trying to balance the financial books should not come at the expense of teachers and especially not our newer teachers. Young teachers have demonstrated their commitment to education, to the province and to the profession-they are here and want to stay here.  Now is not the time to be stripping anything if anything we should be engaging new teachers with retention and retaining bonus to stay in this great province. In our last round of Collective Bargaining, we successfully secured three family leave days. It was accomplished when most said it would not. It is important for our employer to realize that our residents need to stay in our province and grow our economy, not drive them away. If different ways and means can be found to entice and retain other workers in other sectors, then young teachers deserve this too.

The collective bargaining process is one that should represent the collective needs of our members. Having said that, labour relations history and political climate sometimes play a role in how we have ratified contracts in the past. These factors can result in perceptions amongst a group that lacks context. In response to the essence of your question, my commitment to our membership would be strong vocal advocacy for recruitment and retention in our profession. Our Association has a reputation for soliciting opinions from our members through active committees and providing transparency through the Collective Bargaining Briefs. Should I be successful in garnering your vote, strategies for enticing and retaining educators will require creativity. The bargaining process and solicitation of collective voice should surely not be focused on “stripping” benefits at this point in time. Moving forward we need to look at how we are going to make this profession a positive one that endorses wellness for all members.

I am beyond concerned for our young teachers and the future of the teaching profession in Newfoundland Labrador.  The Government needs a Recruitment and Retention Plan to keep our highly qualified teachers here. This has been done with other professions and teachers must have opportunities to gain from incentives also. Contract stripping cannot be a part of this plan.  It is time that we do everything we can as an Association to protect everyone’s rights and privileges under the Collective Agreement. It is unfortunate that in the past bargaining round our young teachers have lost sick benefits. This has caused a divide among members and a great deal of stress for many young teachers since they have to borrow from the next year due to illness. Any suggestions by the Government Bargaining Team that will divide our rights and privileges to the detriment of our young teachers must not be entertained. It is the decision of our Bargaining Team whether to bring a contract proposal to the Provincial Executive table for a vote to bring to all members, but everyone has their own decision to make regarding their vote for a contract.

During the bargaining process, the Association tries to ensure equity of representation of the various positions/demographics contained therein. If we are to try and protect contract rights for younger members, it might be necessary to change the policy on the make-up of the negotiating team itself. It may be time to consider trying to cover all the various positions in our profession (classroom teacher, administrator, specialist, TLA, etc.) while ensuring that the age demographic is given top priority. In other words, if 25% of our total membership has 10 years or less experience, then 25% of the negotiating team should be made up of individuals with 10 years or less experience. (I would be open to exploring this idea.) However, members of negotiating teams are not asked to negotiate for themselves. They are tasked with representing the interests of the entire membership and negotiating the best contract available at the given time.

At the end of the day, the ultimate decision on a contract offer goes back to the entire membership, and the Association has no control over how individuals vote. That being said, I feel that members should never feel pressured to vote one way or the other but should consider all the implications for the entire membership, and future members, before voting on any contract offer.

QUESTION 3 from Thomas Sheppard 

How can we address the serious issues of mental health amongst our members? How can we improve measures and make Teacher Health and Wellness more of a priority?

ANSWERS to Question 3

It is without question that teacher stress and anxiety levels have increased while morale and contentment have decreased in the workplace. This is a terrible combination that often leads to teacher burnout and teachers exciting the profession early.  Some say that the Pandemic heightened the increased issues with mental health. I believe that teacher mental and emotional wellbeing was on the decline prior to the Pandemic. The Pandemic only highlighted and acknowledged it. Currently the NLTA has resources and people dedicated to EAP, but this is not enough. Changing dynamics in the workplace call for changing dynamic solutions. We need more EAP Counselors, an in-house counselor, Mental Health/Wellness Days, time built into the workday for mindfulness and exercise.  We need professional development sessions that focus on specific strategies at the beginning of each year so that teachers have known strategies for dealing with everyday stressors. We need to make our health our priority. We need to take that bathroom break and have our non-interrupted lunch break! We need to exercise our rights so we can continue to do our job.

If we don’t take care of ourselves, who will?

All sectors of the public are facing serious issues with mental health and well-being. The pandemic has been taxing for all of us. If you add our current economic condition, a war with constant coverage, and all of us witnessing the impact of climate change employees need to be cared for and supported. The current NLTA Executive have made great strides in making mental health one of their priorities. In the role of SAC President, this issue has been a focal point for our meetings and advocacy efforts. Should I be successful in becoming Vice President of the NLTA this important topic will be made a priority. Special Interest Councils and NLTA Executive will put concerted efforts into offering professional learning opportunities for our members around topics concerning wellness. Endorsement and awareness of our Employee Assistance Program will continue to be important. Finally, some of our thinking around how to address this needs to involve all stakeholders, including the employer. Positive working relationships will work in our favour if we are to take on this issue successfully.

Teacher Mental Health and Wellness has been a priority for the current Provincial Executive as they are supporting a President’s Ad Hoc committee on Mental Health and Wellness. Survey results are currently being studied by the committee and recommendations will be forthcoming this spring in order to be actioned. Here is a list of strategies I feel would help with Mental Health and Wellness for our Teachers:

  • Mandatory paid Health and Wellness Professional Development. There needs to be a focus on daily strategies that can help all teachers deal with the daily stress within our schools. We need to have a safe and caring environment for all, including teachers.
  • As we know, teaching has evolved far beyond the three R’s. With the complexities of today’s society, teachers are challenged daily to provide our students with social emotional learning first and then the curriculum. As we have learned, “SEL is the plate”. With all the daily demands and stressors, teachers are concerned about their wellness.  The Health and Wellness of our teachers need to be “on the plate”. Teachers need to feel supported in their own Wellness in order to support our children with strong, positive relationships that many so desperately need. The Employer needs to address the Social Emotional Needs of teachers, especially due to the change in society challenges.  A strategic plan is needed for Teacher Mental Health and Wellness with all stakeholders involved.
  • Our teachers’ mental health and wellbeing will improve when teachers feel they have support and the proper resources. The amount of students coming to school with personal care needs, anxiety and various other learning concerns is at an alarming, increasing rate. We need early detection for our students with specific needs in order to have the correct resources. For many years, the Public Health Nurse came to our schools and would discuss the needs of each child coming into Kindergarten. This has ended for some time now. However, we need this back, so we know the support each child needs coming into the school setting. We need more Education Psychologists in our schools to support our Program Planning Teams with the best possible plan for student’s complex needs. Guidance Counselors play a key part of the team approach for all our students. Our students seek out help from Guidance whether its relationship issues or mental health. Guidance allocation for our schools should be a ratio of 1:250 and 4:1000. Guidance Counselors also has a heavy load of assessments to complete and have meetings for in a year.
  • The increase in use of the Employee Assistance Program has been tremendous. The EAP Program is cost shared with the employer. We need a third EAP coordinator to be dedicated to Health and Wellness PD for teachers. We need more outreach to check on our teachers so they can feel they are supported and that someone is available to answer questions about how they can help themselves.
  • Teachers need mandatory uninterrupted daily breaks so they can practice mindfulness and have the opportunity to take care of personal needs. Mandatory prep periods need to be a focus and addressed in our Collective Agreement.
  • Many teachers and students are exposed to Traumatic events and sometimes this happens on a daily basis. The Fight vs. Flight mechanism is in use quite often and is having a negative effect on our teacher’s and student’s mental wellbeing. How can we teach and students learn in these situations? Debriefing and support is needed for all involved. We need a Traumatic event protocol developed and implemented for these situations. This is causing many to feel that they are not safe in our schools and adds to overall anxiety. We have a Safe and Caring School Policy but we need stronger language in the Collective Agreement that will support our teachers in dealing with such incidents.
  • The need for non-discretionary paid leave days are crucial due to the many challenges of our profession today. The rigorous daily challenges wear on our Mental Health. It is important to have a break away from school and the school environment.

Recently, our Group Insurance Managers increased the maximum benefit to $1,600 for sessions with Psychologists/Registered Social Workers. I view this as a positive step for members in addressing their own mental health issues, but there may be more that we can do.

First of all, I would support examining the feasibility of hiring two additional EAP Co-ordinators (for a total of four) which have been historically cost-shared with the employer. This would bring the total to four and would afford them the opportunity to jumpstart the outreach programs for members across the province which remained dormant for much of the pandemic. Taking preventative measures through these outreach programs would hopefully result in better mental health outcomes for our members.

Secondly, our workplaces have never been more stressful. As such, there is a need for improved leave provisions in our collective agreement to allow our members to address mental health issues. In the next round of negotiations, I would certainly support any proposal which improved sick leave provisions or even created a new clause under “Leaves” to allow members leave with pay to address/receive treatment for mental health concerns.

Finally, I would like our Association, more specifically our EAP Co-ordinators, to create, develop, and pilot a mentorship program with the Retired Teachers’ Association of Newfoundland Labrador (RTANL) and their members. This program could offer current members a “sounding board” for their workplace issues, like classroom organization and management, which they may not be comfortable discussing with school colleagues. A program such as this would give retirees an opportunity to share best practices, from their own careers, with current members, and, hopefully, decrease work-related stress for those who choose to listen to the experienced voices.

QUESTION 4 from Matthew Sheppard 

As we all know, the hiring process is very detailed and complicated. Teachers often find themselves not getting jobs because they lack a double major, or a job is advertised for a major/minor combo when they may have the opposite of that. The way we are hiring in Newfoundland and Labrador is unimaginably different from other Canadian provinces and territories. As a specific example, the employer only advertises special education positions for candidates who graduated from MUN’s special education program, when in fact they do also accept several other programs (they just don’t publicly state this), yet those who have credentials for special education from different universities are told that they need to email HR every single time they apply to a position to remind them and their qualifications are equivalent and acceptable. What is your plan to advocate and ensure change in the hiring process to ensure it is more realistic, reasonable, rational, fair, and transparent?

ANSWERS to Question 4

The hiring process for teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador is oftentimes, problematic. Qualified teachers who want to work are often faced with insurmountable obstacles. It should not be this way. There is a shortage of teachers in many areas around the world, and Newfoundland and Labrador is no exception. We have classes with no teachers, yet there are teachers out there waiting to get through the red tape. We have to pressure our employer to make every reasonable effort to ensure that hiring is streamlined, efficient and timely. What is happening in our schools is wrong and teachers need to be voicing their concerns more and more. Teachers do feel insecure about speaking up, the fear of being negatively impacted is real! The human aspect to hiring appears to be lost, rapport between employer – employee needs to be better.

In order to ensure that hiring is better in the future I will continue to advocate that the NLTA ensure that the employer is adhering to the Collective Agreement. We have to continue to work with the employer and ensure that the lines of communication are open and mutual respect is given. If this isn’t happening, action on correcting it needs to happen sooner rather than later. Being efficient in the hiring process, jobs need to be posted and awarded in a reasonable amount of time. Timelines and dates need to be adhered to.  Ensuring that the hiring staff have the skills, experience and tools to do the hiring in an efficient, timely and fair manner is no big ask! I would advocate that the selection process be fully documented, and the process include the rationale for the decisions made. I strongly believe that a committee be formed with representatives on both sides whereby hiring reviews be conducted on a regular basis to ensure best practices were conducted.  I would also advocate that the employer collect and share data on the hiring processes that they have in place so that the hiring framework, policy and procedure could be reviewed so that improvements could be made.

It is my firm belief that elected members of the NLTA Executive need to be in constant communication with the Administrative Officers to support members and verbally advocate for change if certain employer interpretations are preventing one from gaining employment that they should be entitled to.  My daily practice as a school Principal helps me maintain a close connection to the hiring process.  This would be advantageous to all levels of governance within the NLTA structure.  My ability to professionally question decisions, when necessary, in order to help achieve clarity and fairness would add to the leadership of our current team.

The answer to advocating for change in the hiring process begins through the insurance of clear collective bargaining language in future agreements.  Mutually agreed upon terms and conditions need to be explicit and limited to clear and concise interpretations.  Attention to details is critical in working towards an agreement with the employer. My current role on the collective bargaining team will provide an excellent experience in developing a skill set that would serve all our members well from 2023-25.

There is a great deal of frustration from our teachers regarding the current Substitute, Replacement and Permanent Teacher Hiring process and practices. This is adding to the lifelong stress of teachers who are applying yearly for positions. I suggest that a Hiring Protocol Committee be formed between NLTA and the Employer to discuss the issues and find solutions, as open communication and transparency is crucial. The following is a list of issues and possible solutions to address many teacher’s concerns:

  1. Earlier start to the hiring season with a clear outline to the hiring process. Hiring during the first week of school leads to chaos for everyone.
  2. We have many qualified teachers in our province. During the past hiring season, the employer has been advertising for double major credentials. The list of teachers qualified with double major credentials for the past 3 years can be counted on two hands. Some teachers are then denied a permanent position because they don’t meet the requirements. Double majors are not a requirement for Education degrees in this province.  Permanent positions should be awarded based on the predominant subject area for the advertisement.
  3. The Hiring Process needs to be inclusive. We should respect teachers’ credentials from other universities. The employer needs to make a list of places where they find it acceptable to receive credentials and make this known to all.
  4. We need to explore ways in which permanent status can be awarded. There are many qualified and experienced teachers who deserve to have permanent teacher status. Permanent Teaching status needs to be studied across Canada and see if we can create a similar model. A suggestion could be to have permanent status after 5 years of Replacement experience. I will be bringing this forward to the Canadian Teachers Federation through the Advisory Committee on the Teaching Profession this Fall.
  5. In the last round of negotiations, we were able to secure seniority hiring for our Permanent Teachers. We have to respect the qualifications and experiences of all teachers during the hiring process.

Over the years, the hiring process for all NLTA members has become quite convoluted. This statement is true whether we are discussing the hiring of our members for permanent or term contracts. The statement is also true whether you are applying for teaching, TLA, or administrative positions. It has even become more pronounced for the hiring of substitute teachers since the province-wide implementation of SmartFind.

For many years, our members felt that nepotism was rampant, and the general consensus was that getting a permanent position in the most “desirable areas” of this province often required members to “know” someone involved in the hiring process. Hence, the desire for a seniority hiring provision (6.11a) in our collective agreement which was achieved several years ago. However, with the reduction of school districts to two, competition for many vacant jobs amongst members in continuing contracts increased significantly. I feel that, since then, our employer has begun to narrow the prospective applicant pools by imposing qualification restrictions like “double-majors,” unique major-minor combinations, restrictive special education requirements, and, one could argue, the exclusivity of DELF requirements for French positions. Given that the districts remain in control of qualifications for positions in this province through clause 6.03a, “The basic criteria for the selection of teachers shall be competence, suitability and qualifications as assessed by the School Board,” we are always trying to “catch up” to imposed practices when it comes time to collective bargaining, only to see more changes created shortly thereafter. I feel that it is imperative that all stakeholders sit down and openly discuss the problems which currently exist, for there is no sense in schools continuously opening each September without their full complement of professional staff in place, as has become the norm in recent years. This practice benefits no one! Furthermore, the changing of position statuses from permanent to term because no candidates could be found to meet the “unicorn qualifications,” is disingenuous, and does not serve anybody well. It only contributes to continuous staff turnover in our schools and decreases the trust and morale of our membership. Common sense must prevail!

In terms of a plan to advocate for changes to hiring practices, I see the broadening of the seniority clause (6.11a) as a focal point to obtaining a fair and transparent process which provides hope to all members of, eventually, securing a permanent full-time position. Our members need to feel that their time worked at perfecting their craft is valued by the employer and is creating a clearer pathway to permanency. I would be open (but not limited) to discussing any of the following with our employer:

  1. All hiring (except in unforeseen circumstances) for the upcoming school year completed prior to the end of the current school year. (This would involve starting the hiring process earlier.)
  2. For all vacant permanent teaching positions, all things being equal, I would be in support of a broadening of the seniority provision to include all time worked as an NLTA member in this province.
  3. For term/replacement positions, all things being equal, I would suggest a broadening of the seniority provision to include all time worked as an NLTA member in this province.
  4. If the expansion of the seniority provision could not be achieved, as another option, I would seek, as part of the hiring process, the use of a more holistic scoring system which includes scores/rankings for each of the following areas: qualifications, seniority, references, school evaluations by administrators, and interviews. (I would be open to discussing the percentages attached to each category provided the interview had the lowest and seniority the highest.)
  5. The inclusion of school administrators in the seniority provision for hiring based upon years of service in this province in the advertised position. (Time as a principal would count for either principal or assistant principal positions.)
  6. The inclusion of the seniority provision for hiring of regular substitutes (not retirees) based on job specifications/qualifications.
  7. For those members in permanent contracts, “suitability” should include subjects/courses taught in the past 5 years.
  8. The immediate suspension of SmartFind for the hiring of substitutes until all technical support errors are corrected and all members have been properly trained in its usage.
  9. The removal of all “unicorn” qualifications from job postings.
  10. The ability of the employer to offer a “conditional permanent job status” until members could upgrade (2 year maximum time limit) to the desired qualifications. (DELF certification, as an example)
  11. Meaningful consultations between the employer and the NLTA to address the impact of any proposed changes to job qualification requirements.

I know that this question asked for a plan to ensure a “more realistic, reasonable, rational, fair, and transparent” process, but, as a candidate for Vice-President of this Association, I will not make promises that are dependent on the co-operation of our employer. However, I will ensure, if elected, that our position on hiring is clearly stated to our own membership and it will be understood by those seated at the other side of the table.

QUESTION 5 from Matthew Sheppard

The partial positions we have here in NL are unheard of in other provinces and territories (especially less conventional percentages). Do you think part time teaching positions should be abolished altogether? Explain why or why not.

ANSWERS to Question 5

It is common to have some part time positions in an educational system. In fact, some teachers seek and accept part time teaching assignments because it fits them best, maybe for them it’s a better balance with work and home life. However, for teachers who want to teach full time but can’t find full time work these partial positions prove to be troublesome on various levels. I have voiced my concerns about positions being advertised that are less than 50%. Living on half a salary is hard enough but when the percentage goes below 50% it’s extremely difficult. I believe no position should be less than 50%, and furthermore, the employer should do all that’s possible to top up these positions as close to 100% as possible through substitute time.  However, with the recent Memo regarding Smartfind, it seems this is even more problematic now. Smartfind issues have to be addressed ASAP!  Concerns with pensionable service, costs for insured benefits, unreasonable work expectations, scheduling, supervision duties, preparation time and travel time are very real issues that partial teachers have to face.  When I returned to teaching, I accepted a 15% permanent position and I advocated for myself that I should be called in prior to someone from the substitute list with no connection to the school.  It was difficult then and it is still difficult today for newer teachers. This should not be this way. I made my way into the system, but I have been ever since in catch up mode.

I have advocated and will continue to advocate for full time educational floaters. Localized areas have teachers that can be shared. If our employer wants us to be creative with our teaching, they need to be creative with hiring and maintaining staff. Teachers deserve full time jobs, and the system can definitely use them. No question!.

I am hopeful that recommendations from the Teacher Allocation Review provides a model that separates us from the rest of the country and eliminates partial teaching units. In conversing with the other Administrators that serve on the Canadian Association of Principals with me, the partial teaching situation is not unique to Newfoundland and Labrador.  This problem is quite prevalent in other provinces and territories, and it is something that we must explore thoroughly to support our national colleagues and students.

In my role as SAC President, I took on a very active role in soliciting viewpoints from all stakeholders in the educational field so that the Teacher Allocation Review Committee received valid and authentic data to help us move forward as a province.  I regularly contacted fellow Administrators directly to make sure they completed surveys and got involved in focus groups.  I took the lead on producing a written report, along with my SAC Provincial Executive Team.  I was also very vocal with the members of the committee in sharing insight I had gained through these processes.  I am hopeful that the findings of this team will help alleviate some of the struggles associated with partial teaching units.  A shift from a population-based allocation scheme to one that addresses complex student needs would help offset some of the partial unit challenges.  At the very least a needs-based model should provide numbers that create more manageable schedules so that teachers can earn a decent living as a full-time teacher and have a work life balance that meets the needs of their family.

Over the years, we have seen an increasing amount of partial positions. We enter this profession because we want to make a positive impact with children on a daily basis in our schools. Both teachers and students need consistency, routine, and positive relationships to thrive. Partial positions in a Profession such as Education is a detriment to everyone. It is difficult to build positive and caring relationships within the time limit of a .15 position and students cannot benefit.

Teachers cannot financially support a family on a partial position salary. Hence, this is another reason why we have our qualified teachers either leaving this province to teach elsewhere or leaving the profession. There are no incentives anymore to accept a partial position. Due to SmartFind, most partial positions are no longer being topped up within the school. Partial positions are a waste of a teacher’s potential in serving our children in our communities..

Given the new “realities” of SmartFind usage in this province, and the refusal of our employer to “top-up” partial positions with substitute time, I feel that partial positions should be abolished altogether. If an employee can not earn a reasonable income from their job, why would they want to apply for these positions anyway? Just because I work in a part-time position, does not mean that I have fractional expenses such as rent, utility bills, and grocery costs, as compared to a full-time employee. Furthermore, in many rural parts of this province, where part-time positions are becoming more and more prevalent, the opportunities for our members to subsidize their income with other part-time employment outside of education are minuscule, at best.

I do not take this position on partial positions lightly, coming from a small school where any extra allocation was always appreciated. However, in light of the recent refusal to “top-up” our members who hold partial positions, I can not support any employer practice that ensures nothing but poverty for some of our members.

QUESTION 6 from Speech Language Pathologists SIC 

Research shows that individuals with speech and language exceptionalities have an increased chance of developing mental health disorders as well as an increased chance of incarceration. With adequate intervention, SLPs can make a long-term impact on individual lives. How would you advocate the government to increase the allocation of SLPs assigned to the schools in this province?

It is important to recognize, emphasize and always promote that our schools are communities of people working towards the betterment of the students in our charge. Within our school communities many play a role, and the SLP’s play a very important role.  Many students need and avail of the much needed support and services of the SLP’s. There has never been any doubt that more children could avail of more services if they were allocated. Research has shown that early intervention is a key component in the ability to overcome speech barriers and this is often possible only with the ongoing support of an SLP.

I will continue to advocate the government for services provided by the SLP’s in our schools. Educating government officials is something that I strongly believe in. The decision makers  need to be continuously aware of what is happening in our buildings, with our staff and with our students. They need to hear about the issues such as the need for more specialized services and they need to see and hear the deficits teachers and students face. I have taken many opportunities to educate those in government and anyone else who will listen. I feel it is important that the government, school staff and the general public be made aware of the consequences that speech language development delays have on not only academics but their ability to navigate through their lives in terms of community living, overall involvement and their ability to interact with their family and friends.

Some individuals who have communication disorders act out are often misunderstood and punished wrongly in school and beyond. Oftentimes it is an SLP who can get to the root of the problem and assist the student, their families and the school. SLP’s can provide the much needed services to students but also educate many people on the unique behaviors and needs  of children with communication disorders.  SLP’s  could be very influential in policy and legislative changes that may be needed for all to understand the overall complexities of dealing with individuals with communication disorders.

It is also important to have like minded stakeholders and interested parties on the side of advocacy.  Each school is required to have a School Council. Having School Council members educated on the role of SLP’s would be another great avenue for advocacy. Connecting and forming alliances with other non-profit organizations such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Stuttering Association, the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador,  the Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canadian Association for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing- just to name a few. By forming alliances and advocating together we could pool our resources and lobby the government as a collective group that has similar goals. It is also important to remember that as an advocate for more SLP’s in the system we are advocating for services for children/families who are often the most vulnerable and sometimes cannot advocate for themselves.

The last six years has shown an intensification of the level of SLP services required in this province.

Advocacy with the government for an increase in SLP allocations will necessitate the achievement of a thorough understanding of work and caseload issues amongst our current employees.  This will involve intense conversations with the Speech Language Pathologist Special Interest Council, Department of Education and studies of the most current trends that are impacting our young people.  Revisiting previous work by your Special Interest Council on helping achieve an understanding of the role from 2020 will provide the terms of reference and guidelines for these consultations.  Moving forward the NLTA needs to remain active in the area of SLP advocacy as the areas of reevaluating financial remuneration in light of training and qualifications has to be explored.  Furthermore, the implementation of caps needs to be explored on case and workloads.  In an effort to recruit we need to allow for extended advertisement time for jobs which extends beyond the Job Opportunities website.  We have to look closely at this specialized role and the function that it serves on early literacy development for our young people.

The Speech Language Pathologists role in our schools are vital to early diagnosis and continuing support for some of our most vulnerable students. Speech and Language Assessments are vital in order to evaluate student needs in this area. I suggest every student at the beginning of each primary school year should have a Language and Speech Assessment completed. This will help provide data to the team for any needed Responsive Teaching and Learning that is needed for students. Students can receive early interventions that can support early success of speech and language skills. I truly believe in early interventions in all areas of a child’s education.  If we can “catch” an issue early, we can address it. A team approach including parents/guardians is a necessity for successful interventions.

The new Teacher Allocation Review has recommended that the Department of Education emphasize oral language development in English Language Arts instructional time for kindergarten children and recommend that at least 50% of the kindergarten English Language Arts instructional time be dedicated to oral language development. The SLP can work closely with teachers to develop appropriate oral language activities for all children and targeting students with specific needs. However, for this to happen the workload of SLPs will be increased and they will not have the time to service students in other grades.  This will be one of the main reasons why we need more SLP support in our schools. Government has acknowledged the importance of oral language, now they need a plan for SLPs to work closely with teachers to implement a Professional Development Plan that will reflect students’ needs. We need to educate our decision makers and point out some of their own data and recommendations that will be needed to help in oral language development throughout our education system.

The lifelong implications of speech-language exceptionalities can be devastating to the individual including their mental health and wellness and the ability to be the best they can be in our communities. We need confident and positive citizens who will contribute to the lives of people they care about. Having early and consistent support throughout the school years will help to address the speech and language needs of our students. We need to share stories of successful Speech Language support stories with everyone and especially the decision makers who allocate resources.

To be honest, I (and probably many others) was not aware of the high correlation between speech-language disorders and the increased probability of both the development of mental health disorders or the increased chance of incarceration. I certainly do appreciate this information from the Speech Language Pathologists SIC, and feel that it, and any other similar research, could certainly assist in building a strong case for an increased SLP allocation. As Vice President, I would be very much interested in meeting with the leadership of the SLP SIC to develop the case for an increase in allocations which could be presented to our own Collective Bargaining Committee for consideration in the next round of negotiations. As well, information, such as mentioned above, could certainly be presented in one of our Teachers Change Lives campaign videos, to highlight the importance of these positions for the general public, and to advocate for improved SLP allocations in this province.

As a former elementary classroom teacher, I often completed the referral process for my students who encountered problems in Language Arts due to speech-language deficits in areas like articulation, only to be frustrated by a lack of contact time for my student with an SLP. In my current role, as a part-time administrator, I have been an active member of our Service Delivery Team, and have continued to find that “consistent” access to SLP services for students in remote areas of the province is challenging. This is in no way a condemnation of Speech Language Pathologists in this province, but it does speak directly to the need to increase the allocation for SLP’s in Newfoundland and Labrador. I can certainly bring a “rural school” perspective to the table in terms of the Service Delivery Model to justify an increase in allocations for our SLP’s.

According to the recent Teacher Allocation Review Committee Report (2022), there are 45 SLP’s providing support to over 3 700 students in our province. Given the events of the past few years, with schools operating in the midst of a global pandemic, this need has undoubtedly risen. While the TARC report seeks to maintain the current allocation at 45, “to allow time to develop a different service delivery model.” (p. 132) I feel that an increase in SLP’s is justified right now to address the growing demand for their services. While waiting for the creation of another service delivery model, more students will continue to go under-serviced, thus exacerbating the caseload problem. As Vice President, I would seek the assistance of the Federation of School Councils to aid in a joint lobbying effort directed towards all government members for an additional five SLP’s, in the interim, to decrease case load size and ensure that students receive regular visitations. Of the five additional SLP’s, I would advocate for two of these positions, to have virtual consult responsibilities which would be provincial in nature, and these individuals could also be called upon to provide in-person services to students in the absence of any of the other 48 SLP’s. (This would ensure continuity of service for students when SLP’s are absent for valid reasons; a feature lacking in our current system.) According to the TARC report, there appears to be a desire to integrate more technology as an attempt to decrease transportation issues; such as cost to the employer and member fatigue. While this idea may prove useful for consults with teachers and other professionals, I would caution its use as a means of service delivery for students in rural areas, as many approaches require in-person sessions, and could lead to program ineffectiveness for students.

Along with decreasing the case load numbers, there must be an allowance within the numbers to account for the significant travel that many SLP’s will continue to endure based on the geography of this province, as this also has a negative impact on contact time with students; not to mention a direct impact on the mental health and wellness of our SLP members. For this reason, I would strongly advocate for a “leave in lieu clause for work-related travel” which would be applied to situations in which extensive travel time is required. (It should be noted that I would seek this “work-related travel clause” for all NLTA members, as well). Above all, contact time with students must improve significantly, for, just as class size matters for teachers, case load size matters for SLP’s.