Layoffs at Trillium Lakelands District School Board
By Chad Ingram
Some 70 support staff at Trillium Lakelands District School Board, collectively representing nearly 55 full-time positions, have received layoff notices amid reduced funding from the Ministry of Education.
On June 10, the Canadian Union of Public Employees announced that a number of its members in the TLDSB, including educational assistants, clerical and custodial staff, have been informed they’ll be losing their jobs.
According to local CUPE president Bill Campbell, 50 educational assistants representing 38.3 FTE (full-time equivalents), eight clerical staff representing 5.54 FTE and custodial staff representing the equivalent of eight to nine full-time positions, have all received notices. Depending on the position, Campbell, who noted he didn’t yet know where all the layoffs would fall, said the layoffs would occur between the end of the school year, and the end of the summer.
“Fewer EAs in the classroom are going to affect the learning opportunities of the students,” Campbell told the Echo. While at one time EAs had typically been assigned to small groups of students or working with particular students one-on-one, “now a huge focus is just keeping the students in the classroom safe,” Campbell said, adding some classrooms see students with a wide array of behavioural issues. “Some students have a really difficult time in the classroom without those additional supports.”
He explained the layoffs include seven, specialized itinerant EAs known as the Behaviour Intervention Response Team, or BIRT, who travel to various classrooms within the board when they are needed.
“They would assist the teachers, the principals, the other EAs,” Campbell said. “The program was working very well.”
“Trillium Lakelands District School Board has had to make difficult decisions about the many programs and services valued by our students, community, and staff,” Catherine Shedden, district manager of corporate communications for the TLDSB, wrote in an email to the Echo. “We are working hard to preserve as much as possible in school and classroom supports. Consideration for changes and reductions are made with the best interests of students first and foremost.
“The TLDSB financial position is significantly different than it has been in previous years. Reduced funding from the Ministry of Education is having a severe impact on the budgeting process. There will be an overall reduction of 54.58 FTE (full time equivalent) support staff positions with layoffs for some educational assistants, custodial/maintenance workers, and secretaries. This may include more people as not all positions are full-time.”
While it is customary for the school board to layoff and then rehire a certain number of support staff each year, Shedden indicated this year will be different, as the board loses more than $2.1 million in what is called Local Priority funding, which will expire at the end of August.
“It is important to note that there are layoffs each year for some support staff,” Shedden wrote. “Typically, these staff job losses may be mitigated through the board’s layoff and recall process. While some may be recalled, the situation will look different this year, due in part to continuous declining enrolment, reduced funding, and in particular the end of Local Priority funding.
“Local Priority funding expires Aug. 30. This funding, implemented as part of the last round of collective bargaining, has for the past two years supported many staff positions and for this school year was $2,133,433. Those with positions funded this way were aware that the Local Priorities funding was scheduled to expire at the end of this school year.”
Campbell referenced Premier Doug Ford’s vow during last year’s provincial election campaign that no frontline workers would lose their jobs due to funding cuts.
“Doug Ford was very clear during the election campaign,” Campbell said. “He said that no frontline workers would lose their jobs. These are definitely frontline workers.”
Campbell said the union is encouraging its members to contact Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott and Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller with their concerns.
“I think that Laurie Scott and Norm Miller need to answer those questions,” he said.