Earlier this month, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board distributed a memo from the Ministry of Education telling parents that all teachers in Ontario had received mandatory training in how to best deliver virtual programming.
Sinead Fegan, board communications officer, in an email to The Advocate received Jan. 15, shared that the training that took place for TLDSB staff on the Sept. 2, 3 and Nov. 20 PD Days was not mandatory, drawing into question the veracity of the statements made by the education minister to the contrary.
When released originally on Jan. 6, this memo brought an immediate negative response from the teachers’ unions employed by TLDSB who stated in the strongest terms that no mandatory training had happened anywhere in the Trillium Lakelands catchment area.
Colin Matthew, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, who represents all the high school teachers in TLDSB, said, “My beef is with the minister’s letter and the board delivering it.”
“Mandatory means must do, and participation is tracked. This did not occur in our board,” Matthew continued.
“TLDSB is our employer, the ministry is not,” Matthew added. “The trustees and director are responsible for education here, not the ministry.”
At the Jan. 12 virtual board meeting, Muskoka-area trustee Stephen Binstock brought forward the issue of mandatory training and its coverage in the local press with senior administration. He received a response back from Director of Education Wes Hahn that focused on the definition of the word mandatory.
Hahn told Binstock correctly that supports had been put in place by the board to assist teachers in transitioning to virtual teaching. With the new statement from Fegan saying in the clearest terms possible that none of this training was mandatory for teachers, the board position and that of the ministry appear to be diametrically opposed.
“We also take issue with the memo,” Matthew said, “because it somehow suggests that teachers moving from in-person learning to virtual learning are a seamless and natural pivot, which it is not. This involved a lot of hard work (on the part of local educators).”
The Ministry of Education was asked for comment on this article and none was received by publication date.