Opening Statement



Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Whither too OECTA: The Catholic Schools Question?

Today's news demonstrates that the Catholic boards continue to cherry pick which MOU terms they will or will not implement. They do so without challenge from the MOE. I have previously addressed the TCDSB 's refusal to follow the sick day plan agreed upon with the MOE in the OECTA MOU. I will include the links below this blog.



For now let's consider the latest news: Brant Haldiman Norfolk Catholic board has announced that it refuses to implement any of the changes for support staff agreed upon within the terms of the spring OSSTF MOU. Remember, OSSTF is the sole representative of these workers, EA's and ECE's within the Catholic schools, whether the board wishes to acknowledge and respect that or not. The Brant Haldiman Norfolk Catholic board is now stepping on the public unions toes with the same blatant disregard as the TCDSB is on ours. You can read more about this latest development @ OSSTF + OECTA MOU's
 
When the MOU's were reached, the MOE had made it quite clear that they intended to enforce the terms upon all concerned. Now that promise isn't worth the paper it was written on, just like the MOU's themselves. I have been a strong supporter of our Catholic teachers and indeed OECTA on this independent all affiliate blogsite over the past three years. I also totally disagree with the Provincial 2012-13's Executive decision to ratify the July 5th MOU, and the way many local units spinelessly followed suit. A recent challenge by a few of them to try to crucify Richard "Bad Boy" Brock [OECTA Halton Elementary] for leading the charge against such folly is another story altogether. For now please know that I will get back to this unannounced news story later, after I have had a chance to speak directly with Richard.
 
My regular readers will recall that I stepped down from my local OECTA executive and decided to retire from active teaching as of July 1st this year. I salute + support 2013-14 President James Ryans return to office to try to save OECTA from itself after having defeated past president Kevin O'Dwyer at our spring AGM. Nonetheless, it's now time to be quite candid about the Catholic School crisis, much more pointedly and directly than I have in the past, without having to look over my back all the time as I dodge the schools and union wrath.


Contrary to popular misconceptions you can't buy a stairway to heaven, Led Zeppelin notwithstanding!

 Let's be quite clear: It is of course totally deplorable and unacceptable for the Catholic trustees, principals + school boards to continue to choose from the MOU terms as they see fit. They do so out of a sheer sense of privilege and control over their supposed teacher + support staff "flocks". It is likewise dead wrong for the MOE to stand by and do nothing as they unilaterally cherry pick what to or not do within the terms of the OECTA + now the OSSTF MOU. Clearly such arbitrary actions should not be allowed upon the public dime used to fund the Catholic school system. Indeed, they are not just content to tell OECTA what they will do as they shamelessly take the money and run. They now are also telling OSSTF that as far as our Catholic support staff are concerned, to go stuff it too. The Catholic school situation has reached beyond the end of it's publicly funded tether.
 
The Catholic church has historically + institutionally been built upon a now outdated hierarchical "god the father" top down decision making methodology. On a wide number of issues our school system has reached critical mass. As the GSA debate showed the question of denominational rights, whatever that might exactly mean, verses ones constitutional human rights has reached an impasse.

Indeed the Catholic school's blatant disregard towards our gay students is one thing, but the question of how they treat our gay teachers has not yet even been broached. It is clearly oppressive and used to bully them with the fear of being exposed, denied promotions and threatened with dismissal. The teachers are completely vulnerable if they insist upon their basic human right not to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Not only does this concern their personal relationships with a married partner but their family benefits as well. On this and many other so called "Gospel" values the situation has become totally intolerable from a legal let alone a caring perspective.
 
In my years of service in the Catholic board I met many social justice teachers who lived and taught according to compassionate and caring Catholic values much more so than those espoused by their fiercest critics. Likewise I have worked with many traditional Catholic hardliners who are genuinely concerned and upset with all their heart and soul that their orthodox Catholic teachings and beliefs are now constantly being attacked and undermined in our often sadly spiritually devoid modern secular age.


The winds of change ...

I believe it is important for society to respect the basic principles of life from the womb to the tomb. I have tried to be a strong advocate for this especially in my role as our local executive Religious Affairs liaison over the past few years. It was a tight balancing act. I have also tried to be a strong supporter of our Catholic social justice wing in the wider sense, for example through my union work and in providing developmental educational aid through the Cuban Schools Project. Hence, I suppose whichever way I go with the proposition to follow I will inevitably anger somebody on either side of the coin, but so be it.
 
It is time to frankly reassess the possibility of a better more realistic outcome with the Ontario Catholic school system for all concerned. Maybe public funding should revert solely back to the elementary level where the schools have long flourished in teaching young Catholics the tenets of the faith? If it came to a supreme court challenge under the BNA Act it is quite questionable whether our basic Catholic school denominational and constitutional rights, especially in regard to public funding would extend much beyond Grade 8 anyway. Originally it was only extended as far as the junior or primary grades if I am not mistaken.

The Catholic secondary schools could then revert to being private schools again. They could practice the strong undiluted inculcation of church teachings  academic and behavioural standards for which they once earned such well deserved accolades within the Catholic community. When I was a youngster the parishes would provide the financial cost for the student families who could not otherwise afford the opportunity to attend. Why not now? We all clearly understood it was a privilege that we needed to apply ourselves to and respect. Dare I ask, are we any better off today with fully extended public funding up to Grade 12? Is that even just? Or have we just inevitably traded off quality for quantity somewhere along the way? Let God + time be their judge as we let the Catholic elementary + private schools go their own way in a more publicly limited + easier approved way.


That was then. Now is not ...

Catholic studies could be offered as a separate department within the public school system. Yes, it would be optional. Only those who truly believe that it is important will take the program but they will do so with others of a like mind. The students will continue to mix in a secular world just like the one that exists outside and inside our own school doors today. That has unquestionably been a big uncontrollable part of our lives for the last half century or so whether we like it or not.
 
The big question then becomes what happens to our OECTA teachers union? It is not a union principle for one to raid another for members, so I do not think it would be right nor fair that OECTA just becomes absorbed into the other affiliates. This would create a huge problem regarding seniority, placements, amalgamation and fair political representation as well.

OECTA at its finest has become a strong, vibrant social justice wing for our province's Catholic teachers. We could be a valuable asset within a larger modified public school system beyond that which currently exists. For my doubters I'd note we are but a First World variant that has long become alienated from the orthodoxy of the Catholic church across much of the rest of the world where its largest traditional congregations and base of support exists today. Do you really think the church is going to change for us within the existing Ontario Catholic school system be it through the Council of Bishops or the Vatican in Rome? Likewise can we realistically continue our good work under these circumstances upon bended knee without compromise for much longer?

The Catholic left, if you will, could also face a big challenge in pursuing our goals and beliefs like any other group within the more pointed left wing verses right wing political dichotomy that often plagues the public school system. It's regretful to say, but perhaps we would be in better company there? At any rate we have never been strangers to adversity. We might even flourish.


 There aren't any easy answers to the Catholic school dilemma. It 's high time we seriously consider at last our realistic options for change within the Ontario public school system before our own, as it now exists, totally collapses from without or within. Most regretfully, all indicators are that the latter is inevitable. A publicly unaccountable and divided Catholic school system cannot continue unabated. We can't turn back the clock, nor can we continue to march much further under the school and churches own drummer. So what else can we reasonably do that has any chance of success?

I have considered a few possibilities. I look forward to your comments and input. This discussion is just too timely and important not to be straightforwardly addressed.

Additional Links [forthcoming]

COMMENTS?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

And that is why the Catholic school system needs to be abolished and combined with the regular secular system. Special-interest groups within our contemporary society should not be publicly funded, despite historical roots.

David Chiarelli said...

OK but as I've mentioned the issue is a lot more complex than just deciding yes or no. What to do? How?

Anonymous said...

The Catholic system, with all of its flaws, is a vital part of Ontario's public education system. Unlike the secular school system many of the problems of Catholic Schools are out in the open and up for debate. The secular schools have very deep seeded problems as do their intolerant unions. Why are we not questioning their existence?

For example the OSSTF Past President negotiating with the very government he planned to be a candidate for. Earl Manners (Trillium-Lakelands Public) is one of the most anti-union HR people in the province. The two public unions by calling for the abolition of minority right have clearly violated DFR principles by attacking the jobs of their own members who work in Catholic school boards. I could go on.

David we all get frustrated with our boards, our unions, our Church, but it is not the system that needs to be attacked. It is the issues that need to be tackled.

If there is a problem with the union, change its leadership. If there is a problem with boards, change the trustees. If there is a problem with the Church, insist that publicly funded Catholic Schools be accountable to the Catholic community not the hierarchy.

Theo said...

OECTA Provincial is a fraud. Its leadership espouses social justice morals and ethics but in reality is willing to trade their sister to keep Hudak at bay. To that end they fund the Neoliberal party of Dalton and Kathleen while they strip Ontario of public services, underfund education, privatize what used to be publically owned and steal and waste the money of the Ontario taxpayer. At one point one of the other parties is going to end up in power and OECTA watch out. You will be first to go. Maybe you should continue to fund your abuser eh? OECTA trades the executioners axe for the Chinese water torture of the Liberals. A sad and pathetic union. Locally the story is a bit rosier but presidents need to get off their ass and hold their executive accountable every once an awhile. With the exception of the Bad Boy Richard Brock and crew I'd argue that most are just self serving pension clock watchers who do a decent job locally but never really get any results for their members due to an MOE that is unwilling to enforce regulations that OECTA whored themselves to gain. Sad. Unions have fallen so far in our society and teachers unions are among the lowest. No wonder the membership is not engaged. It is an embarrassing association.

Anonymous said...

What is OECTA's priority? Is it like other unions - i.e. to improve the working conditions, salaries, benefits, etc., of our members and the profession? Or is it to preserve the separate school system (and our separate school boards) in Ontario? This was clearly the reason for the July 5th deal with Broten - a complete betrayal of teachers' and education workers' benefits and working conditions. Members weren't even allowed a say in whether it was acceptable or not. This is not what I thought OECTA stood for. What is our priority as a union?

Anonymous said...

We do get a lot of disillusioned teachers on this site. However 86% OSSTF and 91% ETFO voted for a pathetic contract. I would have liked to see both unions hold out and start negotiations from the starting point of the last contract, not Bill 115. Our OECTA brothers sold out or were sold out. Ken Coran sold out and Sam Hammond appeared to tire- he needed a holiday and perhaps he'll be next to join the Liberals. We had a chance to send a message but 86% and 91% said they were giving up. I retire in a year and my youngest daughter has two years of high school left. Here's hoping Hudak takes over and sends his own message. 86% and 91% will probably lie down for his beating as well. I'm tired of having to work with sheep. Baaaa!!!!

David Chiarelli said...

There are a lot of disillusioned teachers on this site, myself included. Sometimes there is a very fine line between pessimism and realism. I sense that such doubts readily apply to most of my different affiliate member blog readers over the past year, at least the more vocal ones. The question remains though, what to do now? We must realize that next year could be a lot worse ....

Anonymous said...

It is now time for our ETFO and OSSTF sisters and brothers to put away their orange sashes and work with OECTA in unifying to oppose the austerity agenda.

The MOU was horrible and disgusting as was Bill 115. We don't want a repeat of last round because the only victors will be the neo-liberals. So it is time that we moved on TOGETHER!!!

Anonymous said...

Working together might be tough. As it stands Kenny Coran has OSSTF's blessing while ETFO is backing Peggy Sattler in London West. Where do you suggest starting? More austerity to come. OECTA did not have a vote in the last contract, OSSTF 86%, ETFO 91%, says it all. Our sheep will continue to accept whatever is thrown their way. We'll kick and scream a bit but in the end we will have a watered down contract, new grid, less of a pension... so on and so on.

Anonymous said...

Where do I suggest starting.

1. After August 1st all of our local & provincial union need to put away their petty differences and work for the members. The OTF AGM could be a start in August.

2. Locals need to begin joint actions and join with cupe and other public service unions.

3. OECTA, OSSTF, and ETFO need to tell Working Families to hit the road.

4. The Liberal must be told by all the federations more austerity means they are defeated by the teachers.

5. An agreement by all the unions of what they will not sigh onto in negotiations.

6. An agreement that there be no "me too's"

7. Discussions at OTF about the possibility of an all affiliate strike.

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that you are a retired teacher and former TSU OECTA exec. Yet your twitter and blog profile indicate neither. Why?

David Chiarelli said...

Most readers know this from having followed my blog over the past 1 to 3 years. I've written a lot about it in the 300 or so blogs in my archive below this column. I told everyone when I retired in June this year too. I mention it also at the top of my blog under the head title.

My resume lists my career activities in school and the union. It's on the right side column of my blog. My profiles will be changed as I get around to them.

I have absolutely nothing to hide + always go to great length not to misrepresent myself nor the indie all affiliate teacher union nature of my blog site if that is your concern. Hope this helps for now. Are you new here?

Cheers!

David C

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