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'Seniority does not always equate with a good fit'
to the editor,
September 16, 2013
Over the past several months,
the problems associated with Regulation 274 have been raised by many
stakeholders in the education community. For more than a year now, the
Ontario Principals' Council, representing over 5,000 elementary and
secondary school principals and vice-principals in the province's
public schools, has been telling the government that hiring based on
seniority is not in the best interest of students.
The Regulation, mandating hiring based on seniority, came about during
bargaining between OECTA - the Catholic teachers' union - and the
government. In an effort to reach an agreement with this union during a
difficult labour dispute, the government agreed to introduce an
amendment that would prevent the practice of hiring based on nepotism
or personal relationships, a claim put forth by OECTA. That allegation
by the union has never been proven, and has not been noted in the
Public school boards have policies and protocols in place to ensure
equitable, fair and transparent hiring practices. Such procedures are
meant to balance fair hiring practices with what is best for students.
For the most part, boards consider multiple perspectives, including
those of unions, but also parent communities and, of course, the best
interests of students. Unfortunately, the requirements of this new
regulation do not allow such considerations and, as a result, have had
a detrimental effect in schools across Ontario.
It is significant to note that opposition to this regulation has come
from students, the public sector teacher unions, school board
associations, Directors of Education, trustees, individual teachers,
principal associations and parents. No effort was made to consult with
any other group in the education sector before unilaterally moving
ahead with a regulation that shuts so many good candidates out of
applying for permanent positions.
At the end of the day, only one thing matters - that the best teacher
is in front of the classroom. That is the one and only criterion
principals should use during the hiring process. It is inevitable that
principals will know certain teachers who would be better in some
classes, as we work with occasional (supply) teachers and teacher
candidates (students) all the time. We use our best judgment when
hiring, seeking the best fit between students and teachers. And
seniority does not always equate with a good fit.
There have been many media stories highlighting rookie teachers who are
exceptional and competent. This regulation prevents any new teacher
from applying for a permanent position for a minimum of 16 months. In
boards with long seniority lists, the wait will be much longer. Not
only are we ignoring talented young people, but we also fear that it
will cause many of them to leave the profession or the province to look
for permanent work elsewhere.
Teachers who decide to move from one board to another for family or
financial reasons will lose all seniority rights. They will have to
apply to start the process all over again. To lose their experience,
talent and expertise is a huge loss for students. Hiring teachers based
solely on in-board supply teacher seniority is unfair to those teachers
and to their students.
Principals support fair and transparent hiring practices. We need to be
able to do what has been standard: consider many factors such as the
age, learning needs and fit of the students; the cultural diversity of
the school; the program requirements; the unique talents of each
teacher on the school's team; the culture of the school; the
specialized skills of the teacher that are not recognized by
qualification and seniority alone; and the voices of parents and the
In our view, the fallout from this regulation has proved
counterproductive to the government's stated goal of ensuring a high
quality education for our kids. When we don't place the needs of
students first, we cannot ensure that the result will be a positive
outcome for them. The government needs to consider the multitude of
voices that are opposed to Regulation 274, rescind it as soon as
possible and replace it with fair guidelines for employers. To do so,
it need look no further for help than the very good policies and
procedures that public school boards in Ontario have developed.