Opening Statement

Sunday 29 May 2011

What's This About Credit Rescue?

Perhaps I'm showing my age. As far as credit recovery goes, I just don`t get it. This isn't to insult  our colleagues who think it's a good idea. If you do, maybe you could write to help me understand why. At this time of year a lot of us are being asked, pressured or just told to give our students a list of their missing assignments to hand in before exams. They can still pass and get "sixteen by sixteen" credits; the new educational buzzword phrase. As an experienced professional, the whole notion just strikes me as plain wrong.

First, after we've all ready graded an assignment, a student can get another’s work, slap it together differently, and hand it in for a pass. Duh. Can’t the Ministry of Education or OISIE figure that out? What does this measure? Is this what passes for educational excellence these days? 

Secondly it's like collecting bottle caps to win a prize. Hand in enough missed assignments and you pass. Hooray! Excuse me, but whatever happened to pedagogy? We teach lesson A. We hand out an assignment, to help the students develop their skills and potential to learn lesson B. They then complete another assignment before proceeding to lesson C, and so on. By following such logical sequences and being prepared for class, the students have an opportunity to honestly and effectively master our course and earn a good grade for work well done. Doesn't that count anymore?

Let me reminisce about the so called "bad old days". I 'm sure many of you also remember back then. I often offered "credit recovery" on my own like many other teachers did too. It worked like this. Let's say I was teaching English. A student handed in an essay and failed. They came to me. I didn't chase after them. They would ask what went wrong and how they could do better. If they were earnest, I'd gladly give them a chance. I might suggest different ways they could try to improve the paper.

They had the opportunity to redo it over the weekend. If it was handed in promptly Monday morning, I would look it over, and probably give them a passing grade if a good effort had been made. It offered hope and guidance. It also required some initiative on the students’ behalf. Many students did show improvement over the course of the semester this way.

If it was what was once called a Basic or General class, at the end of the semester I'd often then give them a 50% final mark for effort, no real harm done, even if they otherwise would’ve failed. But with an academic class, well then, I wouldn't want to set them up for later failure at college or university. If they failed or didn’t do well, even with help, they would be told to change levels. There wasn't a whole lot of if ands or buts about it. If the students or their parents didn't get it, then the school would tell them too. No bumping up the marks or redoing the assignments to simply get a passing grade. Quite frankly they would of course be ill prepared for the next grade. If they insisted on repeating the course again and didn't pass then so be it. It was called the school of hard knocks.

Of course I would encourage my students in a positive way, for their own good, to try another course where they could meet with some real success. If they didn't then they suffered the logical consequence of failure, which under the circumstances wasn't a bad lesson to learn at all. Possibly it was even quite necessary.

As a high school student during the early 1970's, if you missed a dozen or so classes you just quite plain and simply had to repeat the course. You might under very rare circumstances be able to provide a doctors note. If you could still satisfactorily complete the work while you were away, you might be able to write and pass the final exam. More often than not, you just had to repeat the course. The Ministry still requires our courses to offer a set amount of instruction time. Is that not because it will reasonably take at least that much time to master the curriculum and skills? Or does that not count anymore either? It doesn’t really seem so. If you missed an assignment, then just hand it in by the end of the year. If you are away a lot, then just hand in a lot of assignments to pass. What gives?

There’s a whole new education mindset these day, and I don’t think it’s always for the better. Please correct me if I'm wrong. A lot of what is expected from our students today is just plain mediocre and misleading. They are being done a disservice. How does this current credit rescue nonsense prepare our students to succeed in the real world outside our school doors?

Would the school board allow you to hand in all your work and reports by the end of the year, if you missed the original deadlines? Would you then be evaluated on that without prejudice in your appraisal? What other jobs or professions would accept this either? None? Then how can anybody think it should be any different for the students whom it’s our duty to teach?

To me, it just doesn't make sense, period. It doesn’t matter whatever short term feel good qualities or hope and encouragement it might seem to provide. Handing out passing, let alone good or excellent grades shouldn’t be like handing out candy. Everybody doesn’t get one. With the new credit rescue policies I believe we are failing our students much more seriously than any bad grade in the past could have ever done. Alas! Sometimes I think the whole word is going crazy. Am I alone in feeling this way?

Friday 27 May 2011

The Politics of School + Office

Nobody likes to admit it. It’s the large unspoken elephant in the room which we often pretend is not there. To put it in the most basic terms, politics can be a blood sport. One participant goes for another’s throat, so to speak, in an attempt to hurt or destroy them. It can happen at school, at the board, and even in our own union activities. It is obviously very stupid, because it can reduce any conversation or activity to the lowest common denominator. One might try to provoke, or put down someone to ridicule. For others who see or hear, it can also have a weird fascination. Politics is also a spectator sport.
In a school context this can be referred to as office politics. An administrator or even a fellow teacher goes after another teacher, and deliberately tries to humiliate them in front of others, to make themselves look better, or get something that they want from them. Most of our own TSU members aren’t like that, but we know it does unfortunately happen, possibly even more than many of us would like to admit.
I am especially surprised when it happens at a union meeting, or in the context of an election. Here we find more elephants in the room, be they sore losers, simply those with oversized egos, or even members with a sense of entitlement, who just want to always come out on top, regardless of the cost. It is very disturbing and ironic because we are supposed to be working together to help the membership. So when this is happening then what are the conversations and activities really all about? Helping the members we serve? I think not.
I have recently been the target of two such attacks. I was with a member who was trying to belittle me in front of our co-workers, and even a board superintendent, I would suppose to make herself look good. There is a name for union people who try to create problems for you with management. I would digress if I laboured that point here, but suffice to say, I had to ask her not to tell “whoppers”, because she was coming up with some very wild and unsubstantiated stories. The member then screamed right in front of our super that I had called her a “wop.” Think of the irony here; my last name is “Chiarelli”, and I am being accused of calling somebody else a “wop”?!? These sort of put downs at either school or the union office are often quite ludicrous, and not in the funny sort of way. Are we not teacher professionals? I am afraid education is not always the antidote for this kind of bullying. I’m sure many of you could tell even worse stories from school.
Even more recently I actually had a member interrupt me on a point of “personal privilege” when I was explaining something very important at a teacher meeting, with about a minute to do it. It was very provocative. They were complaining about my diction! Sometimes when I speak fast I can slur or mispronounce a word, maybe even stutter another word or two. The member was supposedly outraged that I had mispronounced "Woodbridge" as "Woodsbridge". Although they don’t live in Woodbridge they still insisted it was an insult and an attempt to make fun of the town and it's people. Huh?!? Obviously that is an incredibly stupid notion that makes little sense, quite pointless in and of itself, or is it? No doubt it threw me off my chain of thought for a moment, wasted our precious time, and even provoked some snickers from their friends. Now why would anybody really do that? God bless the town of Woodbridge. It’s very Italian so let’s not go there again. Please! God bless Italia! The soccer team anyway.
So what’s my point? Life can often be very political. Political doesn’t just refer to those of us in political office. It can also happen between teachers in the staffroom or department office. It can include bullying, when it involves making fun of somebody, or involves words with a superior be they a principal or a superintendent, or even our co-workers and department heads. Many schools and teacher meets are of course not like this. Most of us aspire for more. But these elephants in the room are often ignored. Should I even write this or admit it happens in my blog where other teachers will read it? Regretfully, I think so! Yes. How can we be leaders, educate our students, or even tell some board members not to bully us, or be simply concerned about their own self interests, if we do that ourselves?
In future posts I will discuss two initiatives we are working on to promote better relations through TSU that could help all of us with these problems. One is the Respectful Workplace Document. The other is Bill 168, the new Health and Safety Act, which also aims to help make our workplaces safe for us at teachers. Are you familiar with these? Do you think they are needed at your school? Or is politics, bullying and spectator sport just human nature, something that can't be changed? I look forward to your constructive feedback as fellow teachers.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Our Members Write No.2: Low Tech?

TSU member AB responds to my "In School Voting Pig in a Poke" post focusing on the pressing need to be able to better use technology to carry out our unit's business, in this case, with our recent TSU election:

Well said, David! I didn't understand very well, though, why we can't pass to the 21st century? More than convenient and fast, it's environmental friendly! Please, what do we have to do to have it done electronically or by phone? It's a right that assists all the members to be able to vote and not be conditioned by a location or with so restricted time frame. As you said, let's dialogue and do the change for better and for everybody!
Since AB wrote, we have indeed approved ballots, telephone and online voting for next year's TSU election. That's a big technological step for TSU, but it is not totally unprecedented. Scroll down to my April blog archive AB . You will find two further blogs "New Wave Social Media" and "Beginning Teachers and TSU Renewal".  They discuss in part how TSU has been catching the new technological wave to improve our services. The TSU "Joint Technology Committee Report"  [JTC] handed out at TSU UAGM also provides many insights and recommendations. I’ll try to get an electronic copy or link to share with you here on my blogspot. Or you could call the TSU office to see if any hardcopies are still available.

Let me summarize briefly some of the tech initiatives TSU has been involved with. President Rene Jansen is very keen on revamping our TSU Website so it is a better resource not only for TSU but also for others to use. Many of our committees are planning their own webpages. Beginning Teachers [BTC] plans to post all their info, documents and materials, as well as a BT Q+A. This could handily replace the quickly out-dated BT binders used in years past. Safe Schools Committee plans
to create a research library page of all the Safe School primary documents, reports and analysis we could possibly want or need. 

All of our huge stacks of TSU office files, often going back decades, are now being copied and filed digitally for reference purpose. This includes our grievance records, meeting notes, committee reports and materials. The new library will be much easier to search and use. It will also create an "institutional memory" for TSU, a complete record of all that we've done. It can be passed on to future generations of TSU'ers, so that all we have accomplished is not someday lost in the past.
Our Joint Technology Committee has prepared a report to submit to the TCDSB about how to improve the board website from a teacher’s perspective. Do you know where the mandatory "Safe School Reports" are on the board site? They are supposed to be completed each time a serious discipline incident happens! JTC has also been monitoring the roll out of the teacher computers each school has received from the board as a part of our Webmarks grievance settlement. The board might argue that a proper computer system for each school is too expensive. The again as a teacher, we can't be told we have to buy a computer for work, Webmarks or otherwise. Unlike a business person we can't then turn around and write it off as a tax expense either. If your school is anything like mine you couldn't give most of the old computers away at a garage sale. So what do we do? For the first time the board is required to provide upgraded teacher only computers that we all must be able to share at work. Granted there aren't a lot, but it’s a start!

Progress is often measured in small steps. Slowly but surely TSU's are getting bigger and bigger, but for the huge technological leap into the 21st century, we really need our younger teachers to help lead the charge. For many teachers in my older age bracket, it is not necessarily something that comes natural to us.

Try to picture the 1950's when I was born. The living room t.v. was a huge piece of furniture with a small screen showing black and white pictures broadcast from two or three stations. They did not broadcast all day or all night! The big technological breakthrough was the first Russian "Sputnik" satellite which orbited the earth for about a month. It contained two radio transmitters that went beep-beep-beep. There were dial telephones, no cells, except later on "Star Trek". Instead of a word processer we used clanky old manual typewriters and "white out". Your Grade 9 option was Typewriting or Art in the early 1970's. The first computer I saw was as large as a gym. The swirling tape reels were managed by scientists with clipboards wearing white lab coats in a sealed dust free environment. We all rushed to the university to watch. It could even played tic tac toe. Get the picture?

Of course that's no excuse for us not to at least try to catch the new technology wave, but it is a very steep learning curve, unlike for our younger teachers who grew up with cellphones, large screen digital t.v. and small personal computers. Even the social media probably is second nature to you. I would strongly urge you, and any of our computer savvy teachers to get involved in our tech projects at TSU by joining the committees I've mentioned. I am the liaison for BTC and Safe Schools but please ask around. There are a lot of other committees riding the wave and if not, maybe you could help get them started. Check the TSU website for an application or visit our office. As AB writes; "...let's dialogue and do the change and do it for everybody." With your help TSU's future is then truly within our reach.

Note: Sometimes a very topical or importance news piece will come along. I may have to change the order of the postings on my blog to make temporary accomodations. A new post will be featured tomorrow and I might start throwing in an appendum of odds and ends, maybe a few times a week or as need be. There should pretty much always be something new to see on this blogspot each day if you look around. Thanks! David

Sunday 22 May 2011

Our Members Write No.1: Election Day Chaos!

In response to my earlier posting "What's This About Sequestered Votes" MT writes about a very unfortunate experience shared by many of our members during TSU's May 11th election; 

 Several days prior to the vote I tried to find out how I could "register" to vote given my status...... I'm all over the city.......When I arrived in the staff room to vote, I was told that not only would my vote be placed in a white envelope, but that I was to put my name on the envelope.  Naturally, in the spirit of TRUE DEMOCRACY, I refused to place my name on the envelope.....Quite a humiliating process, indeed!
MT is of course quite rightfully upset and humiliated with the sequestered vote process. It was a situation faced by many OT's, LTO's, resource and itinerant members from both TSU and TOTL.  Remember the occasional teacher`s union unit TOTL is also a part of our greater OECTA TSU political unit. They can sit on our committees and even be elected to our executive, if they declare themselves as members of the TCDSB secondary and not the elementary panel. So they indeed do have a right to vote, just as do any and all of our TSU members even though they might work at different locations and not always know where the are going to be on any given day.

Many members might not recall when a past TSU executive quickly complied with the OECTA Provincial changes to include the occasional teachers in our broader political unit about 4 years ago. Not every unit across the province did comply, and while provincial wrestles with that, we are now seemingly left adrift to figure out the the details of how to make the constitutional changes work. TSU takes pride in being inclusive of all our members, regardless of their positions, but as MT notes, it's doubtful if having to put your election ballot in an envelop with your name on it is truly democratic. Quit clearly it isn't and her humiliation, as a member of long and dedicated standing is quite palpable, but unless the existing In School Voting By-Law was inclusive this way, it could not be approved.

There has often been an attitude at TSU of just letting somebody else go figure out all the legislative and practical details of our new by-laws, as if this toss off phrase were but a magical wand one could wave in the air to make it be so. Perhaps it was in simpler years past, when we were a much smaller unit with less responsibilities, unlike now where a much larger TSU must get so much more work done quickly and done right. We are now teaching in a vastly larger, and much more complicated milieu. Could TSU, with in school voting now required, even be able to verify that every school voting list would be accurate and complete, when even our own school board is incapable of that? Or could it allow just anybody to walk into a school and say they were a member and vote, without being able to verifying their membership? Clearly not, and as the saying goes, "the devil is in the details" of what had to then be done. 

The In School Voting By-Law rushed through last year's Unit AGM, mandated  a huge change to the previous system of us all gathering to vote together in a union hall.  It had to be implemented with few if any specific technical,  logistical or pricing details provided, in time for this May 11th election.  Please see my A Pig In A Poke posting for more details. The by-law as written up and passed, made no accommodations for our OT`s, LTO, resource or itinerant members. It was as if these members situation was simply shrugged off as something somebody else could go figure out what to do about later.

Most unfortunately, in order for OECTA provincial to approve the by-law, the short term term stop gap sequestering measure MT quite rightfully is upset about, needed to be put in place to at least guarantee everybody the right to vote, however imperfect that still was. Otherwise we simply couldn`t have in school voting this year, which our members were quite clear they wanted, and as your elected executive, it was our required duty to provide.

So you can see can what happen when half thought out by-laws are rushed through TSU UAGM for political reasons without any other considerations being thoughtfully debated or considered, as if somebody else can just go figure it out el pronto like it's no big deal. The voting absolutely had to take place in school. However, many members aren't at just one school and don't always know in advance where they will be, like our short term occasional teachers, LTO`s, OT`s resource and itinerant members. They were all required by the by-law to vote on a paper ballot in a school at the same time as everybody else.  It was a sure recipe for disaster but hey, it sure sounded good when it was just being trumped and sold as a supposedly winning election platform to our members during the 2009 election. For more details on what happened please do go see my Pig In A Poke posting, I explain this all in more detail there. 

As a result of sequestering, the problem gets even worse, for those caught in the middle of the debacle, as MT notes;
Anyway, I am now reading that this is considered a "Sequestered vote" and was not officially counted with the rest. What am I in TSU's eyes?  A non-person?? A non-teacher? I wonder how elections Canada would feel about this method?  Or a CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer? Seriously, David, this process violates everything that I understand ought to make voting stress free, democratic and non-stigmatizing! Your thoughts on this?  How can this process be corrected?
MT, your TSU Election Committees and TSU executive did a lot of consulting and researching last year, but with the existing In School Voting By Law restrictions, this was what had to be done. TSU Executive had been quite keen on approving telephone or online voting to avoid the problems you describe, but quite frankly couldn`t because of the originally poorly worded and cavalier attitude of the new by-law. To correct this problem for next year, our TSU Legislation Committee then developed Resolution 13 to broaden the terms of the by-law for this years UAGM so it now allows the option of balloting, online or telephone voting and will not requiring this abhorrent sequestering practice anymore. My sincerest regrets go out to you and all our other members who had to suffer in the meantime, through no fault of your own.

I`m very glad your Legislation Committee made Resolution 13 a generic no name one because it avoided simply making it become another rather mindless election campaign slogan for this year and next. In short, the resolution was moved beyond purely political grandstanding, even if one wanted to do so at the UAGM. Quite frankly, the UAGM body were very resolute in not approving any hair brained attempts to make political hay with it through any fancy-dancy legislative manoeuvring, or other word play with our assemblies rules of order at the meeting.

Instead the various voting methods had been researched thoroughly by your official TSU election committees, written up thoughtfully by your TSU Legislation Committee, and placed near the top of your UAGM agenda where it clearly would be addressed in a timely manner. This is how our 2010-11 executive likes to do business and one can only hope that such sober thought remains a TSU tradition in the years to come. This may be little consolation for the problems MT and many others experienced, but given a chance, your TSU executive has managed to get it done right for you without any clown show antics.

There still is a TSU problem here that needs to be addressed, if proper decision making is to become the order of the day. Out of a membership of over 2200 members, only 40 to 50 showed up at Wednesday`s UAGM to vote approval for these changes! Without elections happening at UAGM anymore there seems to be even less member interest in it than in years past. Our TSU challenge now must be to figure out how to still provide a proper forum were more members will debate and vote on the unions business, in a thoughtful and meaningful way. I will try to tackle this issue in a future column, and look forward to your feedback.

Please continue to visit my blogsite on a regular basis. I will be coming back to fix up and perhaps even expand on today`s posting, but I wanted to get at least something off to you about this important issue even though it's a beautiful long weekend holiday for all of us. You can reach me by email via my gmail address at the top of my blogsite page. Now, back to some relaxing long weekend fun....


Thursday 19 May 2011

Telephone + Online Voting Approved!

Yes! Resolution #13 passed! First came the usual finagling over who was going to claim responsiblity for bringing you telephone and online voting. Everybody jumped on board championing the cause. I'd suppose it could look good on next year's election flyers and possibly sway those voters who don't know the whole story. Let's face it, some candidates really like these sort of shallow window dressing strategies, and sometimes they even work. Arguments ensued. Whose piece of telephone and online legislation would be voted on first? Sigh! Fortunately most UAGM participants didn't favour any such change of agenda. We managed to get some much needed basic housekeeping resolutions out of the way instead. Then afterwards the well worded Legislation Committee's Resolution #13, thankfully the one with no names attached [see my last post], was approved. Unfortunately there wasn't much if any in depth discussion over the actual pros and cons of online or telephone voting. Alas, mostly just posturing. Still for next May, they can now be an option during the TSU executive election.

Time ran out for Resolution#2 which would've allowed 2 year executive terms in 2012-13. There were endless requests from the floor for clarifications of clarifications of clarifications, friendly and not so friendly amendments, passionate pleas for commas and semi-colons, and ummm....well you get the picture. I counted 40 or maybe 50 members in attendance at this year's UAGM. No need to wonder why!  Anyway, not much reasonable debate on approving or rejecting the actual resolution as written ensued, but at least the idea has been introduced for further consideration, perhaps at next year's TSU UAGM.

What's the most simply foolish part of all this UAGM nonsense?  A lot of the those present had seemingly all ready made up their mind on the issues and votes before they arrived to...ahem....debate. One could be forgiven for thinking there wasn't much focus on winning over minds, as opposed to just scoring political points. And the endless and ultimately futile requests for reconsideration and division definitely only served to further highlight the all ready glaringly obvious battle lines and voting numbers, while wasting more time.

Still, there were also a lot of us there to actually hear all the different arguments and sides on this and that issue. If I heard some new points that challenged my own view, and made a lot of sense, I myself would definitely want to consider that carefully, and vote for what is best for TSU. However that concept seems to have often gotten lost among the partisan politicking at TSU over the past few years, despite claims to the contrary, sometimes by even the worst of offenders.

We all know there are still a lot of good, TSU focused members who run for election and faithfully show up at UAGM every year to openly debate the unit's issues, and work constructively to solve them. Indeed I've had the pleasure of working with many of these members over my 5 years on two quite different TSU executives, but at the same time unfortunately, some things never seem to change!

Action Directive #1 setting up an ad hoc committee to study the feasibility and related costs for creating a 4th TSU release position was passed. The chair focused everyone back on the issue of creating a committee to study the proposal, rather than arguing the merits of releasing a 4th person, without the info and recommendations the new committee could produce, to help us have a proper debate.

The meeting time ended among discussion of whether or not the ballots from the May 11th election should be destroyed asap. A moot point when time ran out, but no doubt you will be hearing more about this one later.

So, how do I grade this year's UAGM? I'd say 6 out of 10. I'm being kind. However the Legislative and UAGM committees tried their best under difficult circumstances. Resolution #13 passed. TSU President Jansen provided an insightful  report on the past executive year at TSU. Ditto OECTA President Ryan, on provincial issues and concerns, most notably the fall provincial election. Most participants didn't join in the clown show aspects of the UAGM with all the grandstanding and so on. It only takes a few to waste a lot of our time, and we still can't seem to get around that entirely, but in the end a lot of important business did get done. This year's chair seemed relatively inexperienced in the fine points of our unit by-laws and Robert's Rules of Order. However she did insist members stick to the process, and discuss the issues being presented, which mustn't have have been very easy. She definitely deserves kudos for this. .

Special thanks to all of you who came up to comment to me on what you liked and disliked about my blog. All of it was very constructive and much appreciated.  I will stick to the high road here, but politics is a blood sport to some, so there will be some not so nice things I will have to address from time to time. I will be fairly blunt and to the point, as is my way. I won't toe any TSU party line but I won't go rogue, and I am certainly considering all your member input, as my blog site continues to grow.

Please come back later. I will fix the typos etc. and maybe expand on my comments further. The photos are posted in the slideshow top screen left. Not all of them, as it only shows 20 at a time, but I am always changing the shots. Anyway, school and union duties beckon, and then -the long weekend!!! Bye for now!

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Telephone + Online Voting: Yay or Nay?

At Wednesday TSU UAGM you can vote for online or telephone voting. The resolution reads:

TSU UAGM RESOLUTION #13:  "Elections for Unit Executive officers, whenever they are subject to election, may be conducted by a) telephone voting; b) internet voting, or c) paper ballot in each secondary school or designated/ declared site. The method of balloting shall be as determined and announced by the executive by Jan. 31."

Rationale Given:   "Permits alternate methods of balloting."

During this year's TSU executive election a lot of our members could not vote. Some teachers were at track and field, as well as at other coached meets. Others took students to a candlelight vigil on Parliament Hill. The CLC and other meetings couldn't be rescheduled. Members were sick on code 10's. There was confusion with OT's , LTO's, resource staff, and incomplete school lists. I heard about these problems from members as a candidate on election day. I suspect there may be many more.

Paper balloting was often a nightmare too. Ballots, boxes, scrutineers, voting areas, timelines, spoiled ballots -all are very 19th century. The Election Committee tried it's very best but results weren't available until approximately 1:30 am. Scrutineers and the Election Committee had to return next day to decide the 2nd VP race. On and on the list of problems goes.

The in school voting by-laws were approved "in block" at UAGM 10. The distributed minutes state;

"There was a discussion around in-school voting. Some felt there were concerns with the overall proposal and some members needed to have the process explained in greater and clearer detail. Those in favour of passing the motions about in-school voting stated that this idea was always being postponed and that members pass it as is and leave it to the executive to iron out the details prior to next year's UAGM."

Majority rules of course. UAGM is a "general meeting" open to all our members. The by-law was approved, as written, by those there. Good enough. However, little to no direction was included for the logistical questions of how in school voting could be orderly, fairly, and securely implemented. And any other options besides paper balloting were not allowed.

Your 2010-11 executive created election committees to consult with our members.It's not fair to blame the problems on the executive, the election committees, or the consultation process. TSU had to deliver a comprehensive plan which met OECTA provincial's approval, so we could act on your instructions to have in school voting this May. Everyone tried their best, but there was the clear stipulation that we needed to use paper ballots only, and that you needed to vote at your school, no if, ands, or buts.

You can change that at Wednesday's UAGM by approving Resolution #13 to allow telephone or online voting for next year. Expect a very interesting debate. One can argue that all of our members could now vote at school, on the school computers and phones, or anywhere else they might be, as long as they were available. We could have more time to vote during the day by using more updated and efficient methods of voting that can also provide instant computerized results. On and on the list of pros can go!

Online or telephone voting companys charge $3-5000 each year. Is that okay? The original by-laws weren't costed. There aren't any fixed financial terms to refer too. The companys provide voter identification codes. What about all the unused codes? Could candidates collect these as proxy votes? Can we control that whether it is allowed or not? What other voter identification could be used, even if the various available systems can use them? Would you want your employee number, SIN number, or OCT number used? If not, what then? Also what happens if the system crashes as electronic systems are apt to do? On and on the list of cons can go too!

What do we do? Please look at the TSU UAGM Resolutions booklet. Your staff rep was sent copies of these. Consider carefully Resolution #13. Check out the related resolutions, related and unrelated, as well. Come listen, debate and vote. It's your unit, your by-law and your TSU executive. It's up to you to decide what happens next year. I hope to see you on Wednesday night!

Monday 16 May 2011

TSU UAGM: 3 Very Important Resolutions!!!

Our TSU UAGM [Unit Annual General Meeting] is this Wednesday after school at the Ontario Federation of Labour building in the east end. Mapquest directions will be included in the bottom left side of this blogsite screen. It's a bit of a drive for some members but  is very important. This is your chance as a TSU member to hear reports from your committees and executive. You will also vote on important resolutions, yay or nay, which determine how TSU, your teachers union, is run.

Your staff rep should have copies of the resolutions to share. There are a few especially important and controversial ones that I would like to draw your attention to:

TSU UAGM BU Resolution #2: This would provide for 2 year terms for all positions on your executive except the councillors. This is good because 1 year is often to short to realistically implement any changes we may run on. It would put a damper on the permanent state of election campaigning which seems to go on year round detracting from the business of the day, and making everything so political. The down side is if an executive turn out to be total nincompoops, TSU will be stuck for another year before you can vote them out. Except of course for the councillors. They each have one equal vote on executive, and there are three of them, still with 1 year terms, to restore some balance and develop new talent.You decide.

TSU Action Directive #1: This would create an ad hoc committee to study the feasibility and related costs of creating a fulltime 4th TSU release officer position. This is good because they could just handle your grievances, LTD, WSIB accomodations and other related contractual matters, which are a fulltime job themselves, as our unit grows and becomes more pro-active. This might not be desirable depending on how much it would cost, and where the money will come from. However, this action directive is only asking for an investigative report to be done and presented to the members. None of the recommendations would be binding, pending your future approval. Yay or nay? You decide.

TSU UAGM Resolution #13: This would allow the options of telephone and internet voting in our TSU elections. The methods of balloting would be determined and announced by executive by Jan 31, 2012. This is good because many members couldn't vote in this years election if they were away. It could avoid confusion with the OT voting locations and school lists. The results could be quickly and accurately computed and reported back to the members. This year, with paper balloting and boxes, the counting dragged on until 2am. Paper balloting was a logistical nightmare but the downside might be whether these other systems are really reliable and secure. Could we be switching one set of problems for another?  Do we want to move ahead on this now so it's in place for next May's TSU election? You decide.

Please look through the resolutions book carefully. There are many that warrant your consideration. TSU is your teacher's unit, and these are your by-laws. It's important you hear the debates, get involved too, and vote. In each case there are a lot important issues to consider and decide upon. As a member you need to be heard! Hope to see you there!

Friday 13 May 2011

Very Tight Race -2nd VP by 1 Vote!!

Our Elections Committee has declared a winner in the very close election race for TSU 2rd VP! Final Results: Frank Bruno [560] Teresa Placha [559]. Frank won by one vote! Official results were sent out by email today. 

Last night, the sequestered votes had to be opened and confirmed because the final results in the race had been so close. There aren't any existing provisions in the new school voting by-law for OT's , LTO's, or anybody else who didn't appear on the available polling station member lists at each school. OECTA Provincial therefore has required a sequestering procedure, to guarantee all our members their right to vote, while trying to safe guard the integrity of our election process. [see my posting below] Otherwise TSU wouldn't have been able to proceed with in school voting this year, as per the terms or lack thereof of the by-law as written up and the passed at TSU UAGM 2010. [See my next posting below that]

The Elections Committee and candidate scrutineers met yesterday for another recount. They would then have also opened and verified the sequestered ballots for 2nd VP since it was so close. The Elections Committee would have had to rule on accepting any disputed ballots, without doubt a contentious issue few members have paid mind to until now. The committee then would have declared a winner. In the end, as we have learned it came down to a one vote difference.

There has been a one vote win in past TSU elections. This is rare, but our elections have often been quite close. Allegations fly. Therewasa tie even once. In this case, our procedure then as it is now, is for the winner to be determined by a name draw from a hat, in the presence of both candidates. The hat draw seems pretty rinky-dink to me, but what else can we do? It's written into our by-laws! TSU election reform often was, and remains, a contentious issue. How can we better deal with all the many issues that can arise in a professional manner? There aren't any easy answers. We are of course bound by our current election by-laws and the decisions of our local TSU Election committee for this year at least.

Kudos must go out to our Election Committee for all their hard work under these most difficult of circumstances. They had to deal with a lot of uncertain issues that arose throughout the election process this year. There are  some interesting school voting resolutions in the UAGM [Unit Annual General Meeting] booklet provided to your staff rep. One concerns online and telephone voting. These will be debated and voted upon Wednesday May 18. All of our members are encouraged to attend. The resolutions warrant your consideration. We all need to work together to better deal with  the problems we have faced with in school voting this year. Please take a look at the resolutions booklet and plan to attend!

So then, we now have a declared TSU 2010-11 Executive as indicated with the stars;

President: Rene Jansen [Completing 2 Year Term]*

1st VP: Gerarrd Ardanaz [589] *      Antonella Dicarlo[530]
2nd VP: Frank Bruno[560]*              Teresa Placha [559]
3rd VP: David Chiarelli [536] *         Sheila MacMillan[529]
Secretary: Gillia Vivona [570] *          Eva Lipinski [502]
Treasurer: Rosemary Lavery [Acclaimed]*

Three Councillors:

Dave Szollosy [677]*
Bianka Hudek [627]*
Luigi Martelli [525]*
Darin Sciberras [490]

What's my opinion? This executive lineup could work if everybody can put aside their personal ambitions until next May's TSU presidential year election, and just focus on serving our member's best interests. Most will. Others will jockey for position. Odds the executive will work it out? Low, but I will hope I'm wrong.

The most immediate concern for me is that everyone involved in this year's election maintain a professional demeanor, regardless of whether they or their chosen candidates won or lost. Otherwise we end up with a toxic work environment. Any lack of professionalism undermines the most important TSU duty of all  -providing the best service possible for you, our members.

What's This About Sequestered Votes?

Here's how it basically works; if a person claiming membership in TSU or TOTL showed up at a poll to vote, and there was no record of them available, their ballot had to be put aside in a separate envelop to be verified later.

OT's at the school for a day, LTO's, and possibly new hires or transfers provide a case in point. Sometimes the schools own official staff lists are not complete or up to date. The member in question could have called TSU to verify their membership and polling site in advance, but for whatever reason, that often might not have happened.

These sequestered votes are put in separate envelopes to be later verified and counted, when the number of sequestered votes outnumbers the difference in votes between the two candidates who are running for the same position. It's not the best solution perhaps, but the in school voting by-law passed at UAGM last year, did not provide for this situation. So OECTA provincial insisted out of fairness, in a difficult bind like we found ourselves in, that such a measure must be taken, before they would approve in school voting for this current calendar year.

Our sympathies go out to Teresa and Frank who must wait until their scrutineers meet with the elections crew to verify their sequestered ballots after school today, to determine the winner. As the ballot counting was still going on at 2am I would think the teacher volunteers who were helping out had to call it a night as they had to go to class this morning. Also, the board might need to be contacted if there are no other reliable records of the member's secondary school employment. All the other TSU positions have been declared, so we wait with bated breath to find out who will be our 2nd VP next year. Will it be Teresa Placha or Frank Bruno? Only the sequestered votes can determine this for sure!

I will keep you updated. I plan to keep this site up for important info and analysis that comes across my desk as your TSU 3rd VP in the 2011-12 school year. I'd like to keep you better informed and to discuss important issues as they arise. There will also be the TSU photo slideshow and other various interesting things to see and do. So please, keep checking my blogsite and pass on the news to our other members. I am hoping it will be well worth our while. And once again, thanks for your votes!


Tuesday 10 May 2011

The In School Voting By-Law: A Pig in a Poke?

Finally! We can vote in school on May 11th! I am a long time supporter of TSU electoral reform. Still, I am very concerned that we might have bought a pig in a poke. The in school voting by-law that was approved at UAGM last year is very seriously flawed!

Can online or telephone voting also be used? Under the by-law this isn't possible! What if May 11th isn't always a good date for many of our members? Too bad, that's the day set from now on! How about four geographically accessible polls across the city? Advance polls? Nope! They could be more practical and cost effective. Not allowed!  Since the TSU election isn't during UAGM anymore, how can our members hear all the candidates speeches and ask questions, practically speaking? How many members will even go to vote on our all important by-laws at UAGM now? The by-law doesn't consider that! Let me explain.

In school voting was passed with great excitement at last year's TSU UAGM. During the election a lot of the candidates suddenly jumped on board. What if they'd been against it in the past? No matter! Now it was a catchy if not over simplified election slogan. Our TSU members liked the idea, of course. Who wouldn't in theory?

Unfortunately, the in school voting by-law was written without much thoughtful investigation or prudent consideration. It all happened so fast. Very flawed, ill conceived and incomplete, it suddenly came flying out of the blue dressed up with a fancy election slogan. Instead of involving a reasoned debate about how to best improve our voting system, it seems to have been little more than an ill conceived attempt of just trying to get a lot of members out to vote for whoever used the slogan. UAGM 2010 approved it in haste amongst all the yelling and excitement that pushed it through. So what have we got now?

In school voting as it stands left our poor election committees holding an empty bag. There's so many very important and potentially quite dire logistical issues that the by-law writers did not consider. Also many more modern and practical options for in school voting aren't allowed because of it's limited scope.

Our highest respect must go to this year's election committees. They've had to work out all the missing logistical pieces so in school voting can be fairly, efficiently and securely implemented. Proper ballot boxes must go to and be returned quickly and securely from each school. Accurate updated voter lists for full time staff, LTO's and even OT's are needed for each one too. Everything must be carefully supervised to provide accuracy and accountability.

A virtual army of election workers and scrutineers, both at the voting sites, and later when the ballots are being tallied is required. A large crew of drivers and in some cases even taxis carrying the boxes back and forth across the city will also be necessary. On and on the list goes! When will everybody not be in class or all over the place? How can reasonable consistency, accountability, and security be assured when we can't afford coverage for all the election workers and scrutineers? What if you can't stay after school? Should there be much chaos and confusion on voting day, please don't blame the election committees for being impractical. They have certainly tried their best!

Since the by-law sets a fixed election date of May 11, that can't be changed. Teachers taking our students to the pro-life candlelight vigil on parliament hill won't be able to vote. Nor the coaches stuck with many games and tournaments they can't change. Any flexibility in scheduling an election date for practical reasons has now also been eliminated  by the flawed by-law that was passed!

Perhaps there isn't any date or location  that won't inconvenience some members or deny them the right to vote. Or is there? We have another big problem with the way the by-law was written. I suggested the election committees allow telephone or online voting. That way wherever you are, as long as you are near a phone or computer, at school or elsewhere, you can vote. It could be anytime during election day, and the tally could be computed instantly afterwards. Sound practical?

The by-law doesn't allow this. You must go to school, fill out paper ballots, and stick them in a box. Everybody must run around all day. Then the ballots need to be counted and recounted one by one. Lists need to be endlessly check and rechecked and so on and so forth. How nineteenth century!

Can't we hire Elections Canada? Many other large groups like ourselves do. They provide the service with great accuracy and expertise! Nope. They charge $10,000. How about a smaller honorarium to other third party union workers from the Toronto York Region Labour Council? We are a  member. They have great experience and can staff the election for us. Nope, still too much! Telephone or online voting which cost $3000 to $5000 wouldn't be affordable even if the by-law allowed it. Why?

Our flawed in school voting by-law was forwarded without any costing whatsoever! So now we are stuck with a large, modern organization like OECTA TSU carrying it out on the fly. Let's hope that none of the voting boxes are lost, misplaced or tampered with. What if the process breaks down or is questioned anywhere along the line? It might be a long time before you learn the results, and know they are fair and accurate!

I'm very glad that many more members will be able to vote this election. That's democracy in action! Still if I was responsible in anyway for this by-law I wouldn't be bragging about it on my election flyer this year. It's many flaws, oversights and limitations have simply exchanged one set of problems for another. Often the by-law, as it was written, is just very impractical, and even outdated in addressing the needs of a large, modern unit like ours. Last year at UAGM I tried to make some friendly amendments to address these concerns. Unfortunately, the push for in school voting seems to have been more political than practical and reasonably charged. Let's all try our best to have a good election despite the by-laws many flaws. Let's dialogue aferwards about how we can move forward and fix it during the year ahead. I will consider it an honour if you vote for me, David Chiarelli so I can help us get the job done right, in serving as your 3rd VP.

Monday 9 May 2011

My Team TSU "A+" List Candidates Report Card

I 've found the following candidates work together best. Please vote for them and myself on May 11th. You will get a strong, member focused, action based, TSU executive team:

1st Vice President: Gerard Ardanaz! Gerard earns top marks for his thoughtful consideration and tireless dedication to serving our members. You can disagree with him and know you will get a well reasoned response. He's always open to suggestions, and focused upon moving forward effectively on TSU issues. He doesn't drift, get lost, or off topic. Gerard knows what he's talking about. He's not just talking to be heard. You won't find him glad handing you or just campaigning for re-election. He's way above that. Never missing in action, Gerard is always at TSU, the schools, or the CEC working hard for you.

2nd VP: Teresa Placha! Teresa is a real go getter. Tightly focused on your interests and needs, she works at a problem until she gets to the bottom of it for you. Polite but direct, she won't hesitate to take the board to task. With sober thought and consideration, her words and plans are always carefully executed with your best interests in mind. Teresa doesn't play the "poor me" victim game. She's never been a bad loser. She doesn't have to tell you she has integrity, she lives it. Very positive, Teresa moves TSU forward constructively and effectively. With Teresa, you always come first. It's all about you, not her.

3rd VP: Myself of course. I know, it is my site, but please read over my postings and resume, then decide for yourself. For me, serving you strongly and effectively is what TSU is all about. I always work very hard at it for you!

Secretary: Gillian Vivona! Her minutes and notes are always very clear and concise. She works very hard and constructively to get them right. Gillian's highly respected work on SSSAC and the TSU School binders is tireless and unrelenting. She never speaks ill of anyone. Gillian sticks to the moral high ground. She isn't sanctimonious nor prone to bullying, trickery, poison pen email letters, or small minded game play. She'd never negatively undermine the greater good of TSU just to win, while making ridiculous claims to the contrary. Without doubt, Gillian is always clear focused on moving forward constructively, effectively and efficiently to take care of your needs.

Top 3 Councillor Choices; [Vote for 3]:

Dave Szollosy! Dave is a passionate, tireless believer in our greater common good. His excellent, clear and focused knowledge of our legislation, by-laws and procedures will always govern his decision making on any and all TSU matters. Dave is our point person at TYRLC. He isn't a follower, a misinformed stooge or a light weight TSU wannabe. Dave is a strong social justice advocate. You can agree or disagree with him on different issues. Regardless, you can tell always tell Dave is just a plain nice guy. He knows his stuff. He will listen thoughtfully. He is on TSU executive to serve you.

Bianka Hudek! Like all my A+ candidates, Bianka is an independent thinker. She keeps the best interests of TSU in mind. She is not here for herself, or any particular group. Bianka is a well respected TSU PAC leader, at OECTA provincial, and in the field. Her strong, solid focus on woman's issues is very self confident and assured. She is always positive and constructive. Bianka doesn't have to try to prove herself as a woman leader. You can be confident she will be your strong TSU advocate, whoever you might be.

Darrin Scibberas! This is Darrin's first run at TSU office. He's proven himself as an excellent teacher rep and SSSAC chair. Darrin is in OECTA Provincial's Leadership program. He is the first wave of TSU renewal, as more teachers prepare to lead us through the years ahead. Look for more fresh talent stepping forward soon, but for now vote for Darrin. He's ready for the job with your go ahead.

Kindly note the views expressed above are my own.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Our Joint Safe Schools + PD Committees Work For You!

As your TSU 3rd VP, I have had the honour of serving for two years on two of our very important new Joint TSU-TCDSB committees. They were established under our last contract agreement. In fact, the Ministry of Education now requires the board to actively consult and work with us in developing and implementing the Safe Schools, and the new Workplace and Safety legislation. Your teacher interests and concerns are being directly addressed at the board level by teachers. It's been a steep learning curve for the board to accept and learn, but progress is being made. I hope to be re-elected so I can continue to use my classroom and executive experience to work for you on the following:

Joint PD: I've worked with our TSU committee to help each member get up to two self directed PD days per year to use for your own PD, as you see fit. The current deal will commence this spring and runs until the end of the next school year. One third of the Ministry of Education's PD funding is supposed to go to you to decide how it can best be used to meet your PD needs, not the Ministry, the board or your local administrator!

Joint PD 2: I want TSU to be actively included and consulted in any board in services given to our teachers explaining the Safes Schools and new Workplace Health and Safety legislation. Do you just want to be hearing from the TCDSB about how they think you should responding to, and rectifying any unsafe situation, including their responsibilities for acts involving bullying and harassment of not just our students, but of you our teachers as well? I am working for full TSU consultation and involvement in the PD process and believe we must not settle for anything less!

Joint Safe Schools 1: I'm working with our TSU committee to develop a TSU and TCDSB approved Discipline Incident Form. It will emphasize both the teacher and the administrations' duties and responsibilities on reporting, investigating, and taking appropriate action. You can fill it out on paper, or online, and it does not bar verbal reporting. I strongly believe the board should be signing off on that soon. I want to be re-elected to make sure that they do, and that they then honour it's protocols and procedures!

Joint Safe Schools 2: I am are also insisting that the board make the Ministry of Ed's mandatory Safe School Reporting forms immediately accessible to our teachers. These are required for very serious incidents possibly requiring suspension, and expulsions. It requires administration to report back to you on whether action has been taken or not, and is to be kept on permanent file. I want the board to show us how to readily access these forms, and confirm what their responsibilities are once we fill one out!

Joint Safe Schools 3: I are working on a joint Delegate of Authority form to be used when a teacher fills in for administration when they are all out of the school. Did you know that your school administration is allowed to do that now by the Ministry? I would like the board to declare what liability coverage and instructions they will provide our members, when they are acting in an administrative role. What if you run into dire difficulties under the Safe Schools Act and/or end up unfairly at an Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary hearing? Our members need to know that if something goes wrong, you may very well not be covered by OECTA. You will be working as a TCDSB administrator. It's a fine legal point most of us may not be aware of. I want to make sure that our board tells you just what specifically they will do to legally support and help you out!

These goals are very much a shared team effort for all your Joint TSU committee members. We form an excellent top notch working team free of rancor, unit infighting, or any self serving political ambitions. Rene Jansen, Teresa Placha, Louie Trinchi, Maureen Riggin, Mark Stelmacovich, and myself have been here to serve you. We have a great, solid working relationship with Provincial OECTA for when any legal and other fine points arise. We have a good developing relationship with the board superintendents and their other representatives on these joint committees, which we are keen to continue fostering in a positive, constructive manner, for the well being of our students, our teachers and our schools. I hope you will re-elect me, David Chiarelli, as your 3rd VP, so that I can continue to serve you on our Joint TSU teams in seeing through all the great work that's being done!


David Chiarelli

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Beginning Teachers and TSU Renewal!

It's been an honour to serve as your BTC [Beginning Teachers Committee] executive liaison again this year. From what I have seen TSU will certainly be in good hands for the years ahead! Our August generation has had many struggles and made many big gains.Wouldn't it be awful if that were to ever be all lost through  teacher apathy at school and indifference about our unit?

Rest assured that a new generation of Beginning Teachers [BT's] are increasingly getting ready to step up, not only at school, but also in leading the unit, as our older generation continues to retire and focus on other pursuits. Should you re-elect me TSU 3rd VP on May 11th, my goal is to continue to encourage and assist this new sense of renewal in our union activities. I hope many BT's will soon decide to take charge of our many  committees, and maybe even run for executive office. There are quite a few BT's who should be ready to do so quite soon!

Our new teachers are getting involved in the OECTA Provincial Leadership Institute. The BT's host our very popular TSU Volleyball Tournament and pub each year. The committee also regularly host a special BT "only" pub each year downtown at the Madison. Our BT's meet, make connections like we once did, exchange ideas, and also just have some good TSU sponsored fun.

This year a busload of TSU and TECT BT's drove down to Niagara Falls for the OECTA Provincial Beginning Teacher Conference. Spirits were high, and the workshops and speeches seemed to quite interest everyone, including the meeting with the Minister of Education. We have also begun a regular BTC coffee club to meet and discuss their issues. The BT's are keen on starting a web page at our TSU site and are looking over our committee expense sheets to fine tune the budget process. There's off and on again talk of a special BT camping trip to imbibe in fellowship, food, drink and possibly even provide their own band to supply the tunes. Maybe next year?

It's really up to the Beginning Teachers. I see my job as being there to help facilitate whatever is needed so the committee can run itself. It's up to the BT's to decide what is wanted and needed from TSU.  My belief and practice is that TSU is, and always should be, about providing service to our members. Hopefully the BT's will then continue doing so, the next generation through the next and next. If the past few years are any indication, this new generations of teachers certainly will!

Beginning Teachers Conference Niagara Falls 2011

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!