Board grapples with shortage of supply teachers, classroom space

A shortage of qualified supply teachers and classroom space were chief concerns at Tuesday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Northwest Catholic District School Board, with trustees trying to make more from less.
A report on the state of supply teachers outlined the use of unqualified substitute teachers—those who have not received their qualifications from a faculty of education in Ontario.
It noted unqualified teachers were being used as supplies between five and 40 days this year at each school under the board, particularly for long-term leave in French Immersion classes.
Al Cesiunnas, assistant to the director of education, said the problem is compounded by the fact many retired teachers already had maxed out their 90 days of supply teaching for the year—further reducing the number of qualified substitute teachers available here.
“It’s an ongoing problem and I don’t know what we can actively do about it,” board chair Wade Petranik said.
“Was there any opportunity for a full-time position allocated in the budget for covering short-term leaves. If you didn’t need that person, you could have them work on other duties,” he suggested.
But this idea was rejected after trustees pointed out several teachers often are needed at one time and that such a person could not be expected to travel throughout the district to supply.
Trustees then tried to tackle the issue of classroom space needed at St. Joseph’s, St. Michael’s, and St. Francis schools. Everyone agreed all three schools, especially St. Joseph’s, desperately needed more classroom space.
“When it comes down to it, I had a Volkswagen and I could only put 10 people in it no matter how I tried,” Education Director John Madigan said.
Portables have been deemed necessary at all three schools due to classroom overcrowding. Trustees had to decided where to move the double portable from Sioux Lookout and how many additional portables should be purchased.
Dispute erupted over whether additional classroom space could be found within St. Joseph’s school in Dryden, be it by cutting the library in half or tearing down computer and resource rooms for classroom space, or if a double portable was needed.
The board moved to have architect Michelle Gibson look at the school for more space and then decide how many portables are needed.
Also last night, the school board:
•heard a report that they had made an agreement with the City of Dryden and handi-transit for the transportation of two special needs students there;
•approved the board’s strategic planning cycle;
•approved the creation of a board/school council liaison committee;
•approved rescinded eight policies from previous boards, including overtime for custodial staff, interest on tax arrears, and registered charitable donations, made by previous boards and viewed as outdated;
•heard the minutes from the Special Education Advisory Committee; and
•heard a report on the implementation of the board’s action plan.