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October 27, 2017 6:41 pm

Substitute Teacher Shortage in SD57

Friday, March 3, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

PGDTA president Richard Giroday addresses the TTOC shortage at this week’s Prince George School Board meeting – photo 250News

Prince George, B.C. – The president of the Prince George and District Teachers’ Association says a shortage of Teachers Teaching on Call (commonly known as substitute teachers) in School District 57 has created “a crisis.”

Richard Giroday says it stems from the $1.26 million the District received as part of January’s interim agreement between the BCTF and the provincial government whereby Victoria provided school districts $50 million as a first step to addressing the union’s victory in the Supreme Court of Canada regarding class size and composition in November.

Though he’s glad to see that action is being taken to ensure the union’s contract language is being restored (it was illegally stripped in 2002), he says it’s led to a shortage of TTOCs.

Giroday points out that the $1.26 million created 67 job postings in the District. He says 32 of those were filled internally and says 19 of the remaining 35 have been filled taking about 25 TTOCs out of the bank they already had.

“The filling of those positions has created a crisis – a shortage of TTOCs. And this shortage has created constraints on our system that have serious repercussions.”

He notes the shortage has forced the District to “claw back all teacher leaves that are non-contractual.”

“Contractual leaves are leaves such as bereavement leave, sick leave, family responsibility leave. Non-contractual leaves are things like professional development, unpaid leave requests, sports tournaments,” says Giroday.

He says one of the consequences of clawing back non-contractual leave is that teachers who coach sports can no longer travel with their teams if there is no TTOC to fill in.

“That’s going to really affect sports programs. I know as a math teacher myself, I would take students to a math contest at CNC but those types of things won’t be taking place anymore because there’s no TTOCs to cover classes.”

He says another side effect is that some districts are looking to hire uncertified teachers.

“When you have a problem and you can’t get certified teachers – often times we’ll consider somebody who already has some university education – either a four-year degree of three years in university – and use them as TTOCs,” says Giroday. “Now we’re going to have to go back to that. I know in Mackenzie and McBride we use those individuals.”

Prince George School District Superintendent Marilyn Marquis-Forster says this challenge “was predicted” when the District received the new money.

“We knew that we would find ourselves in that position if things rolled out the way we expected them to and indeed that happened,” she says.

“We have posting for TTOC teachers and it’s a difficult time in the year for someone to consider relocating to Prince George. And so, we do continue to advertise and we will continue to hire as appropriate candidates become available for our supply teacher list.”

But over time, Marquis-Forster is hopeful the situation will improve.

“We certainly hope so and we have every intention of recruiting and staffing diligently and keeping at that task.”


There is a great source of TTOCs available right here in town, retired teachers. However, SD57 has a hiring rule that says if you register for TTOC work you have to be available 5 days a week, full-time. Retired teachers often like to work on a part-time or occasional basis, and used to be able to do so before this rule was changed. With the TTOC shortage, this group makes an ideal core group of qualified and experienced extra employees that is being ignored, because they can’t handle the full time availability rules.

In addition, the TTOC job postings are asking for K-12 training and experience. Well, if you graduate from a teacher training program in this province, and many others, you have an area of specialty, eg. Primary, Intermediate or Secondary. You don’t get training in every grade, every subject and if you are a Primary trained teacher, going into Grade 12 Physics is just beyond your scope of experience, for example. Other districts do not use this K-12 requirement when hiring.

As a district with some hiring challenges such as location and ‘desirability’, having such hiring restrictions, which reduces the pool of potential candidates, just makes no sense.

SD57 could improve its access to hiring trained teachers for TTOC work with simple internal policy changes.

At least their not starving.

For every action there is a reaction and consequences.

Most retired teachers receive a very good pension after retiring. For a qualified retired teacher to return to subbing I believe one must apply again, have an interview, write an exam, again become a member of the BCTF, pay union and BCTF dues, again. I wonder if the school district calls up many qualified retired teachers ?

    There are many districts that actively use retired teachers as TTOC staff on a part-time basis. On retirement a teacher can keep their qualifications active and keep membership in BCTF if they choose. There are no exams to write for teaching, other than obtaining a teaching degree from a recognized university as well as a degree in a teachable subject before going into teacher training. If you have worked 30 years for a district, they already know you, if you are wanting to work in a different district, of course they would be interviewed, like all applicants.

    If a retired teacher wants to work, in any field, they would indeed pay any applicable dues, taxes, and other costs of employment, same as anyone else who leaves one full-time career and takes on a part-time job. They pay taxes on the entirety of their annual income to CRA, so not sure why that would worry you too much.

    And no, Bent, retired teachers are not starving. But with our aging population and dropping population numbers, many job fields are experiencing shortage of experienced workers. I know retired workers from the pulp mills who love to go work the shutdowns every year – same type of situation.

    I am aware of many teachers who retire due to health issues that preclude working full time, but who feel they still have skills to offer on a more occasional or part-time basis. This district has decided to not use that resource despite having ongoing TTOC shortages (not just recently, by the way). Flu season is a huge challenge every year. This district is not doing what most do to help resolve this problem, and that is what I am questioning.

lol. as someone that toc’d for about two years after becoming a teacher, this is just SD57’s comeuppance. this is absolutely what was going to happen, considering how poorly toc’s are treated around here. the district didn’t follow its own policies when it came to subbing, and new tocs were treated like garbage. we’d hear the same old complaints, ‘we’re low on tocs, there’s a critical shortage, etc…’, and even then you’d be lucky to get a two days a week. they’d do whatever they could to avoid tocs working 4 days in a row, because at that point the pay would go up. so you might work 3 days, not get a call the next day, and miraculously, ALWAYS get a call the day after that. you reap what you sow, SD57.

    Too true mikmak. I have relatives who are teachers, and what you state is exactly the issue – along with nepotism and cronyism. Even their union treats TTOC’s differently by considering them as “non-internal”. They take their dues, but do not consider them regular teachers. They have no support.

I’m confused on this one. It seems the problem stems from getting 1.26 million new dollars. So, more cash created more openings, but we never heard about a problem before the new cash, so how did they survive before they had money for the positions. Maybe I missed it, but no one complained about a sub shortage when there was no money to hire them? So why now with actually more subs available because of the new cash, are teacher’s restricting what they’ll do to contractual only?

Does it mean if we pulled the 1.26 million back, the new positions would disappear, and things would get better? Seriously, someone explain this to me because I must be particularly dense today.

    No, ski51, the problem stems from the Liberal government trashing parts of the teachers’ contract years ago. Since then they have restricted funding so that the teachers actually needed could not be hired. Now that the courts have ordered the restoration of the contracts and stipul;ated that reparations must be paid, there are just not enough teachers in the system to fill all the jobs. Couple that with all the insults, degrading comments and outright lies about teaching and teachers and you have the present situation. Removing the money is not an option because it comes as part of the court ordered reparations intended to restore services to the students.

    ski51, as a result of the court case that the BCTF won, the BCTF and government are now bargaining from the restored language in the teacher’s contract. There would be a number of changes, assuming that they go with the class size maximums in the old contract (which would be 20 instead 22 for kindergarten, 22 instead of 24 for grades 1 to 3, for example). That’s still under negotiation. There’s also contractual language around specialist support teachers, and class composition. This may look different than the original contract did, but we’ll have to see.

    There has been $50 million released to districts right now, to start getting more positions in place.

    So – that means that all across BC, districts are creating positions and hiring teachers. We were short of teachers on call before (this definitely an existing issue), and at this point, teachers are being removed from the teachers on call list both due to them getting new positions, and existing teachers moving to more temperate climates.

    There will be more issues with not being able to fill teaching positions to come.

    If you know of teachers in other provinces – or elsewhere in the world – tell them to come to BC, preferable to this district!

      Okay, that makes sense to me. Subs are now getting full-time jobs hence, now no subs. Thanks

    And the shortage is compounded when those used-to-be-subs become contract teachers, who sometimes need subs…

So, if there is a shortage of TOC’s or if the shortage becomes greater than it currently is, will this create problems for the teachers that have been in the habit of calling in sick on Friday’s in order to add an extra day to long weekends?

Before you all get uppity with me, let’s be honest here! Not all teachers are guilty of this, but there are definitely some that use or abuse their “sick day” or “personal leave days”.

I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again, how many sick days are called in on a Friday or Monday, versus Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday?

Might be harder to get a convenient day off, if there isn’t a bunch of TOC’s waiting for a day of work!

Cue the condemnation of me and my comment!

    All managers know that there are occasional dishonest people who do this. In my experience as a manager over 40 years I saw one or two in both management and labour. So yes, let’s be honest.

    Part of a manager’s duties are to track the information you ask for, usually informally, and talk to the person about it when it becomes apparent that it is happening. That usually brings it to an end.

    If you are suggesting that it is rampant, my experience is that it is not. It is occasional and quite limited in scope. Certainly it is not common enough to have a significant impact on operations. In my experience, most employees do not abuse sick time, they use it for its intended purpose. It was also apparent that employees were committed to their work and often did not want to take sick time because they were in the middle of a project and wanted to see it through, but felt compelled to do so for practical reasons (throwing up at work, sneezing in other peoples’ faces, etc.).

    So, no condemnation, just a suggestion that you are making it sound far more of a problem than managers actually experience it.

      Many studies have confirmed that public sector employees take more leave time and sick time than their private sector counterparts. Hart guy asks a fair question. I would love to see statistcs comparing public teachers with private.

    First, you don’t need an apostrophe to pluralise Friday, and second, planning for a sub is often more work for a teacher than just going to work usually is…

Well, you know. Statistically speaking, 40% of all sick days are taken on either a Friday or a Monday.

Also, a new teacher can go to Alberta and earn at least $15k more per year. In addition, teaching is no longer that attractive a job. To many bad vibes from government has reduced the numbers of teachers being trained.

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