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October 27, 2017 11:04 pm

Substitute Shortage Harming Students says Teachers Rep

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 @ 6:00 AM
PGDTA president Richard Giroday - photo 250News

PGDTA president Richard Giroday – photo 250News

Prince George, B.C. – The president of the Prince George District Teachers’ Association is calling on the provincial government to provide some incentives to resolve what he’s calling a “serious shortage of teachers teaching on call (TTOC’s) and educational assistants (EA’s) in northern school districts.”

Richard Giroday says the shortage of TTOC’s (known previously as substitutes) and EA’s, is hurting students.

“For this entire year, almost daily, I receive emails from non enrolling teachers in who have been redeployed from their normal responsibilities of providing support to vulnerable students.”

He says those ‘non enrolling’ teachers sometimes include counselors.

“The impact on vulnerable children is disastrous,” says Giroday, adding it has a major impact on vulnerable learners. “Those elementary learners who need extra help, small study groups, additional learning time, who may have moved forward without the skills necessary.”

Giroday estimates there are approximately 80 TTOC’s in the district but says their availability is an issue.

“TTOC’S can choose their availability. They’re not confined to be at school for a specific amount of time.

“There’s a lot of variables that come into this whole scheme of things. For instance we had 22 maternity leaves and that just decimated the TTOC’s because they are your first line to fill positions.”

He says one incentive he’d like to see tried is extending the rural incentive provided to teachers ($2,300) to TTOC’s.

“One of the problems with being a TTOC is you don’t have benefits. So maybe one of the incentives might be they (the ministry of education) could provide benefits to TTOC’s that are in these districts having serious problems.”

Giroday says school districts should also co-ordinate and share strategies with health authorities considering there’s been shortages of health workers in rural communities too.

“I think there were difficulties in the health authorities when they were trying to get doctors to come. It’s the same kind of thing and I think there might be some experiences that could be used in education.”

Giroday says that doesn’t even take into account the shortage of EA’s.

“And that has a serious impact, the students are being sent home. I mean we have students at all levels of need and you have an educational assistant who is specifically trained on how to feed a student and of course of if that person isn’t there, there’s no one who has that training.”

But is extra money for supports even realistic considering the financial crunch school districts around the province are currently facing?

“If you get right down to the bottom line, what is causing all of this, it is underfunding. What we’re talking about here is support for students and that’s what was stripped out of our contract back in 2003,” says Giroday. “That’s what our Supreme Court case is all about, to have those supports put back.”

He expressed the above concerns at last week’s public school board meeting in McBride. Giroday asked the trustees to write a letter of support to the Ministry of Education.


What was reduced in 2003 was what was added in 2000 when the outgoing NDP threw what even the NDP party thought was unsustainable into the contract. So the question is, what was the state before the 2000 contract? Just how do those private schools do it with half the funding that public schools get? Maybe do a “study” and see where you can change to meet the needs of the students within the current funding levels. There is always waste within any system, just need to fine tune it, some people will not like it who are used to the same old same old – maybe a complete redo is in order

    One advantage that private schools have is that they can choose their students. They don’t have to take all the special needs kids.

      And yet they still do, crazy hey?

    Another advantage private schools have is the ability to charge tuition.

      And even with that get less than the provincial going rate… how do they do it?

How does this shortage fit with the fact that newly trained teachers frequently complain that it is hard to get work as substitutes?

    Newly trained teachers don’t want to work as substitutes. They want full time work with benefits and when they don’t find it, they find work in other professions leaving the school boards scrambling to find TOCs.

      Most newly trained teachers would certainly prefer regular teaching jobs, but they often have to settle for substitute jobs, which they take in the hope of building up experience and making themselves more likely to get the regular jobs. I have known several people in this situation, and they complained about the dearth of sub jobs.

It is simple, guarantee a wage. TOC’s get called at around 6-7a and told IF they have a job for the day. If there isn’t a call, they don’t get paid. So someone with 6-8 years of post secondary education is supposed to HOPE they get a job for a day? How many other professions or jobs or careers operate like this? How can you raise a family? How are they supposed to manage child care? What is worse, often they get called for half a day, which makes them unavailable to a full day position. Would Mr. Giroday stay in his position if that was the case?

    Another really important question one must ask is how many Canadian trained teachers find it easier to find work in their field abroad than here at home . The answer is astonishing .

    There are other professions out there that live like this. Try Northern Health, for instance. Northern Health employs a lot of casuals and some of these people have at least 4 years of post secondary education. Teachers aren’t the only ones in casual/on-call positions and it’s narrow-minded to think that way.

      True, but in each case we should consider both the specifics of the job and whether the use of casuals on short notice is not in fact abusive.

Let’s not talk about the extremely overgenerous sick leave provisions that our teachers enjoy and to some extent abuse!

If we can deal with this “elephant in the room”, then perhaps we wouldn’t need TOC’s so often?

BUT we aren’t allowed to bring that up, are we!

    I have been more sick in the past 8 years having children than ever in my life. Specifically more in the last 3 years while they attend school than the other 5 years, when you spend that much time around children, pretty good chance you are going to be sick more often than the next person. Just saying….

    I would like to talk about the “overgenerous sick leave” that you say teachers “enjoy and to some extent abuse”.

    What are the details of their contract? How many days and under what circumstances? Is medical documentation required?

    I am also interested in the abuse piece. To what extent is the leave abused? and where do your facts on this abuse vs actual sickness come from?

about 7 years ago, I graduated from UNBC with a B.Ed and started TOC’ing right away. In the 2 or 3 months prior to summer holidays, work was good, usually 3-4 days per week. After 2 years of school (having gotten a BA years prior), the money was decent and I was happy to have it. Once September starts, work dries up incredibly fast. I gave it several more months, but after having no luck finding anything more permanent, and with a young family to support, I gave up and started a new career.

TOC’s are treated like sh*t in this district. That’s clear to anyone who has worked the position. And the problem is never the kids.

Staff rooms were always full of retired teachers that had put in 40 years of service, now living off a healthy pension. But they decided to leave their names on the TOC list, so my odds of working were the same as theirs. HR at SD57 says that callouts are done in a fair manner, but this is completely not true and obvious to anyone who has worked in the district. Although teachers aren’t supposed to be able to request certain subs, they do, and these retired teachers, with decades of networking, seemed to have this all wrapped up. The same goes for hiring for limited duration positions, or any positions at all. All hiring in this district is largely in the hands of one woman. Piss her off by questioning the hiring practices and find yourself blacklisted. I know a couple teachers who went years without finding even limited duration jobs because of this. If she likes you, or you’re pals with the principal or teachers at a particular school, your odds of being hired are astronomically higher than other totally qualified teachers. It’s the most nepotistic system I’ve ever encountered and is not based on merit whatsoever.

Also, after 4 days of straight work, your pay goes up, to ‘scale’. HR will do whatever they can to prevent this from happening. So many weeks, I was called out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…no call out for Thursday, then called out again on Friday. Talking to friends, I would find out the teacher I was subbing for on Wednesday was also gone on Thursday, but the call would go to someone else to prevent a TOC from getting scale. This was the norm.

Maybe things have changed in 7 or 8 years.

I miss

    Your point about favouritism in TOC assignments is well taken and consistent with what I have heard from others. However, I have also heard teachers say that they try to get specific substitutes because they know that they are competent. Otherwise, the substitute may serve merely as a babysitter. I certainly saw such cases when I was a student – I remember the day my friend’s mom was called in to teach Analytic Geometry, a subject she had not thought about in 20 years. Latin classes were a problem too since even in those days it was al but impossible to find substitute teachers who knew Latin.

    The problem is not so much that some TOCs are unqualified in a general way but that if they are not up to speed on a particular topic, they will not be able to do a decent job of teaching it on short notice. This especially affects classes on topics like math and languages. Assuming that it is desirable to reduce the influence of the old teachers’ network, I wonder how its benefits can be retained? Perhaps more specific criteria for expertise should be used?

    My wife is a TTOC and her experience mirrors yours exactly. It makes me sick how bad it is. Everything you are saying is true. I have never seen such blatant nepotism and cronyism in my life. Time after time contract jobs are handed to the privileged ones over those who are more experienced and more qualified. It is really unbelievable. There is no oversight or accountability.

Great post Mikmak. An eye opener. Question, were you pro or anti bctf?

ha, Dow7501, when I was a teacher, of course I was pro BCTF. I was like most teachers, believed I was worth every penny and then some. Things changed when I got out of the game and into a new career. I see teachers I know who get summers off with their growing kids, weeks off at Christmas (when I get 3 days off), weeks off at spring break, pro-Ds at least monthly, and my view has changed. I believe teachers are valuable, and praise many of the teachers I know. But come on. In my new career, I will top out at around the same wage that a teacher will top out at…but I get 2 weeks of vacation a year. I just can’t understand the value anymore.

@Mikmak the same thing for me! It was absolutely pathetic trying to make a living as a TTOC. They 100% play games to make sure you don’t get on scale, then they get mad and blacklist you if you refuse a call late in the day (after school starts) because you accepted guaranteed work at your other job for the afternoon. They expect you to wait with baited breath by your phone all day, with fingers crossed you will make money. I gave it a go for 2.5 years, but turn my resignation in and promptly fell into a great full time job. They are always saying how there is a TTOC shortage….really? There are so many starters who would love to have worked but walked away.

It shocked me how many days certain people would book off, I am sure many had legitimate issues. I also experienced, and met colleagues, who were treated like minions. The teachers did not leave adequate plans (if any!) and then would be mad that you did not do as they wanted. I’m sorry, if you wanted x, y, z covered you should have left plans. At least the kids did something all day.

After reading the previous posts, I called a teacher that I know and asked her about mikmak’s posts.
She said the old four day up to scale system was a Vince Ready creation that went out with the last contract.
The call out system is now done at the central office as, under the old system, teachers did book their favourite TOC’s – mainly TOC’s who could control a class and avoid total chaos so that students got their work done.
She did say that TOC’s who couldn’t do that got fewer calls and in fact said that their were cases where principals did request that a particular TOC not be sent to their school.

As for a staffroom full of retired teachers, she said that there are in fact very few retired teachers doing TOC work and that they were hired to cover the specialty subjects such as French, French Immersion, Band, Woodwork, Mechanics.

As for Hart Guy’s statement about the extremely overgenerous sick leave provisions, she said full time teachers get one and a half days per month (fifteen sick days per year). She said that beginning teachers are particularly susceptible to viruses and illness. How many kids cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze?

    karrman, how many TOC’s are used on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday as compared to a Monday or a Friday, particularly when Mondays or Fridays are combined with a Stat Holiday/Long Weekend or a Pro-D Day?

    Somebody somewhere must have those numbers!

    Or perhaps beginning teachers are particularly susceptible to viruses and illnesses on Mondays and Fridays more than they are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays?

    I could be wrong but if I am, show me the numbers!

      @Hart Guy

      You are aking for stats in this post, however your previous post implied you already had facts.

      To save you from scolling back you stated …

      [teachers have]”extremely overgenerous sick leave provisions that our teachers enjoy and to some extent abuse!
      If we can deal with this “elephant in the room”, then perhaps we wouldn’t need TOC’s so often”

      Was this statement that teachers abuse their sick days based on fact, or just an assumption on your part? Do you have any basis to ground this on?

      @ just my opinion, actually I speak from personal experience. I have several friends and relatives who are teachers. I have personally heard some of them state that they were going to use a sick day to extend a weekend, some for shopping trips, some for weekend camping trips, some to get caught up on their yard work! Some of them actually do this quite often!

      That’s my first hand knowledge, no assumption on my part required!

    Karrman, it’s true that the old four day scale system has changed, but everything else that mikmak posted is 100% accurate. Is your friend a TTOC?

I don’t believe for a second that there’s a lack of teachers. What we have is a lack of quality teachers trained in disciplines that are in demand, such as French, the sciences, math, and the trades.

Post-secondary education is cranking out 2700 teachers annually, but only a third actually find meaningful work post-graduation. There should be a pile of them ready for a TOC phone call if that number I quoted is accurate (taken from a news story I read earlier this week).

What we have in this Province is an over abundance of fluff teachers.

    Maybe there are a lot of disenchanted people with teaching degrees that gave it their best, but are now working in other fields. According to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, roughly 30 percent of teachers quit within 5 years.

30%? Is this any different than the rate in any other industry or profession?

Even at 30%, Universities keep churning out more new teachers than we have positions for!

Obviously, the job can’t be that bad!

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