Whitehorse Daily Star

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DISILLUSIONING RESULTS – Sue Ross, the president of the Yukon Teacher’s Association, says she is ‘highly disappointed’ by the surveys’ findings.

Shortage of on-call teachers lamented

The Yukon Teacher’s Association says a teacher-on-call (TOC) shortage is disrupting every classroom in the Yukon, according to data from a recent survey.

By Gabrielle Plonka on February 17, 2020

The Yukon Teacher’s Association says a teacher-on-call (TOC) shortage is disrupting every classroom in the Yukon, according to data from a recent survey.

“It’s showing us how 5,000 Yukon students are being deprived of quality, safe education,” Sue Ross, the association’s president, told the Star recently.

The teachers’ union ran three surveys, spaced out over the course of one school year. The last one closed earlier this month.

Each of the surveys had approximately 100 respondents from union members, for a total of 317 responses, Ross said.

According to Ross, teachers self-reported that they work an average of 2.5 days per year when they are sick.

The survey also found that Yukon classrooms go, on average, two weeks per school year without education assistance support. Education assistants aid students with special or medical needs, including learning and behavioural challenges.

Ross said education assistants are occasionally required to teach the entire class in the absence of a teacher or TOC, leaving students without the specialized help they require.

“It’s an even bigger problem in rural schools,” Ross said.

The survey found that in rural schools, students are taught or supervised by an education assistant for a cumulative two weeks every year.

“It shouldn’t be happening, but you need an adult body to supervise kids. If there isn’t a person available in the community, the Yukon government doesn’t close their schools.”

Ross added that high schools will also occasionally combine classes if a TOC or education assistant isn’t available.

For example, if a math and science teacher is away, students reporting to that teacher might instead join a class with the English and social studies teacher.

“I’m highly disappointed,” Ross said of the survey findings.

This is the second time in the span of two years that the union has decried the territory’s lack of TOCs.

In October 2018, the Star reported there was a roster of only 175 TOCs in the territory.

At the time, the union was advocating to bring TOCs under their representation and to raise their pay, as two mechanisms for attracting staff to the territory.

The union reached an agreement with the Yukon government in the early days of 2019 that brought TOCs into the union fold, with a condition that their employment conditions wouldn’t change for three years.

“We were between a rock and a hard place, we needed to get them in … but we couldn’t increase their pay or really any of the benefits,” Ross said.

Despite this, the TOC stock in the territory has nearly doubled since October 2018.

According to Maria Paré, a communications analyst at the Department of Education, there are currently 344 TOCs available in the Yukon. These include 237 in Whitehorse, and 107 in the communities.

The rise in TOC staffing has been gradual, with an additional 41 TOCs joining staff in 2019.

Paré told the Star in an emailed statement that the Yukon government has taken steps to “simplify administration, support new applicants and promote job opportunities.”

These steps include advertising TOC job opportunities, offering a paper-based application form for rural TOCs, helping schools improve process for reaching out to TOCs and developing a list of Whitehorse TOCs who are willing to work in rural communities.

Paré noted there is additional compensation for Whitehorse teachers who travel to communities to fill positions.

“Teachers on call are important to the success of our educational system and we value their support,” Paré said.

Ross said the teacher’s union is still advocating for a TOC pay raise, which she says is “well below” the Canadian average.

“We live in an expensive territory, and it’s a difficult job to do,” she said.

She added that improving pay rates, benefits and access to benefits might motivate TOCs to live in communities, lending better support to rural schools.

She noted that it’s “hard to make it” as a TOC in the communities unless you’re living with someone who works full-time.

“It’s definitely difficult to figure out a solution to the problem; it’s many-faceted,” Ross said.

In addition to improved pay rates, Ross hopes the Yukon government will continue to improve its call-out system to TOCs.

She said TOCs are sometimes booked in-person at schools, which hinders the fairness and transparency of the process.

Now that the union has gathered information via the survey, Ross said, she plans to present the information to the Department of Education.

“In terms of a collaborative problem-solving approach,” Ross said.

“See if we can’t motivate them to perhaps improve their call-out system a little bit, and make it more equitable and fair.”

Comments (22)

Up 4 Down 2

Josey Wales on Feb 23, 2020 at 8:37 am

Can we not merely outsource the “alleged “ shortage to TFW..TFT?
If we “must have them” to ensure a good stock of teachers at the ready, then we should decimate the teachers quality of life and job security with competitive undermining and heavily subsidized competition.

So so glad I have no kids in public school, and so too are those institutions!

Up 18 Down 3

Groucho d;North on Feb 20, 2020 at 10:07 am

@Spud,
There is a huge inventory of former government workers who got flushed when the people of Ontario had enough of the Wynne Liberals and their bad spending habits. Yukon's Liberal government has tapped into this pool of unemployed policy wonks and middle managers who arrive here and recruit their friends and former co-workers to also come north and show us the error of our ways.

Up 3 Down 5

Hanaa on Feb 19, 2020 at 11:12 pm

In addition to paying subs 5 hours for 7 hours work, they don't recognize college, even when it is relevant training (like ECE)

Up 10 Down 0

Gringo on Feb 19, 2020 at 9:44 pm

Thanks Juniper, we have to be careful commenting from our lazy boys...there are always two sides. Good on you to acknowledge that.

Up 18 Down 0

Anie on Feb 19, 2020 at 3:41 pm

Juniper: class act. Thank you. Wouldn't we all have more pleasant days if we could just learn to say "maybe a I'm wrong".

Up 28 Down 2

Juniper Jackson on Feb 18, 2020 at 10:49 pm

Gringo and NB. Thank you for the rational replies..I appreciate it when people reply rather than attack.. my best friend climbed all over me for my comment pointing out the school is not what it was in my day..drugs, mental problems, social problems. I apologize to the folks that read me for not recognizing the other side of that coin. I only ever speak for myself, and often my opinion is emotion based. Again..thank you for the replies.

Up 25 Down 4

Not just sick days on Feb 18, 2020 at 10:39 pm

Your math is off because teachers take time away from the classroom for so many other reasons, including appointments, meetings, professional development, children’s appointments, etc. But yes, teachers get sick sometimes because schools are a cesspool of germs.

Up 29 Down 4

Jean Dacko on Feb 18, 2020 at 7:33 pm

Substitute teachers get 5 hours pay a day. They have to be there before at 8:30 and leave at 3:30. That’s 7 hours if things go well, longer if the don’t. Maybe the Department should start paying them for the actual hours they work.

Up 23 Down 5

Concerned Parent on Feb 18, 2020 at 5:13 pm

Many people do not realize the sickness that occurs when parents send their children sick to school. The teacher and the rest of the students are exposed to these sicknesses and then are forced to stay home.
As mentioned before, teachers have their own families to care for and that includes staying home occasionally to care for them.
If parents kept their kids home, especially when they are at home already, teachers probably wouldn’t need so many sick days.
Teachers are not the enemy and I respect that they need to be healthy mentally and physically to treat our children with the best level of respect and care.
The gov’t is who you should be frustrated towards. They are the ones taking supports from classrooms that are needed. They are the people who scared away hundreds of qualified teachers - when looking for someone to blame don’t look to the people trying to educate your children, look to the poor standards and expectations put on all educators both teachers and EAs.
Concerned parent

Up 33 Down 13

Gringo on Feb 18, 2020 at 4:14 pm

@Juniper....before you implore your rhetoric I ask you for two days next week go to Takhini Elementary, spend two whole days there with a teacher, this will involve being there well before the kids arrive and well after they depart, then report back on this forum your findings...then times that by 180 days a year.

Up 25 Down 12

NB on Feb 18, 2020 at 3:54 pm

@ June

Canadians don't take SATs, that's done in the USA.
Also, the teachers pay into the very same pension you did at YG.

Up 40 Down 5

Spud on Feb 18, 2020 at 10:19 am

Are we in Ontario ??? One major problem in YT is for some reason YTG is hiring Deputy and Assistant Deputy Ministers from Ontario which taxpayers pay for their regular monthly visits to go home and all we hear is “we do do it this way in Ontario.” It costs many thousands of dollars to have these transients work in YT when that money could be better used to give a living wage to TOCs and others. This will be the current Liberals down fall next election.

Up 42 Down 18

SheepChaser on Feb 18, 2020 at 8:45 am

Double educator and assistant salaries. They do much more for the future of our country then anybody else. Only an educated electorate in future generations can save us from the current parade of bigots, profiteers and narcissists ravaging our moral and political leadership.

Nurses, educators, social workers... They all deserve a huge raise. Jobs like that are the real bedrock of society. Time they got the pay to reflect it.

Up 15 Down 22

Obi on Feb 18, 2020 at 8:21 am

Something for teachers to think about!
China has just sent 200 million students back to school. All online.....

Up 19 Down 1

YukonMax on Feb 18, 2020 at 6:56 am

When I was a kid in school, a temp in the hallways would mean one of our teachers was sick and we would all be concerned about them getting better.

Up 21 Down 30

Juniper Jackson on Feb 17, 2020 at 11:05 pm

Teachers earn? Get.. over 100,000 a year.. summer holidays, gold plated pensions.. for what? Hmm, how are our students doing on their SATs? Not long ago others were looking at ways to keep youth in school.. just watching what is going on in Ontario jaded me on the teaching profession in general... when is the teachers union looking at negations again? Because this sounds like a lot of ammunition.

Up 28 Down 6

Not about pay... on Feb 17, 2020 at 10:59 pm

In any other job you'd not be expected to go in if you're sick. The government wants to cram as many kids as possible in classes and then they don't replace EA's when they are sick, everybody suffers. IEP's aren't followed because teachers can't drop all of the other students to help out with the individual needs of the student entitled to help from the EA. Back in time children were streamed so EA's weren't in every classroom. With inclusive eduction, it needs to be MANDATORY that students get EA help and subs are called to replace sick EA's! And any of you who are asking about money, try teaching for 5 years. It's not about money--it's about being able to take a sick day and actually having an on call teacher there. Now sometimes there are none. It's crazy.

Up 22 Down 22

My Opinion on Feb 17, 2020 at 8:51 pm

What? 344 TOC’s and they don’t have enough???? How many days off are the teachers taking?
I haven’t had a sick day in 18 years. What is going on in this department, are there no expectations?

344 people making a living off of blown shifts. AMAZING.

Up 23 Down 17

Anonymous on Feb 17, 2020 at 8:22 pm

So Things That make you go on..
Teachers do not not have many sick days. We too have families with children that we have to take care of when they are sick. We are trying not to make the children sick, but have to teach classes when we are unable to make it through a day without running to a bathroom. I have an idea! Please come and volunteer to teach the class (as long as you have spent the time and money to become educated to help our young people). We will welcome you with open arms!

Up 23 Down 20

What is going on with teacher sick days?! on Feb 17, 2020 at 7:35 pm

We are only getting half the equation here, and it still looks to me that teachers in the Yukon are taking an inordinate amount of sick time.

We are not being told how many sick days on average Teachers on Call are teaching classes instead of the regular teacher, but we do know from this article that 5.3% of the classroom days are being taught by teaching assistants, because a Teacher on Call could not be found!

Let's imagine that half the time a teacher calls in sick, they do in fact find a Teacher on Call. I would imagine the number is higher than this, but in absence of that information, to be conservative, just say half the time the class is covered by a TOC. That means that teachers in the Yukon, on average, are calling in sick 10.6% of all the days they are supposed to be teaching! One work day in ten, they call in sick.

That would be like a worker who gets 2 weeks holiday a year, plus Christmas, New Years, and the other statutory holidays, (add 2 weeks altogether), leaving 48 full weeks of work, being 'sick' 25.5 days a year! (Over 5 weeks a year not at work, on top of their vacation time.) How many employers would put up with that? I think there would be quite a few requests for doctor's notes, at the very least.

If you want to see the math, it's below:

School Year:
August 21 to June 13 = 42.5 weeks.
Minus regular weekends 42.5 x 5 days =212.5 days of classroom teaching
Minus Christmas break Dec. 21 to Jan 4, week days only = 10 days = 202.5 days of work minus March 11 to March 22, week days only = 8 week days = 194.5 days of work - 2 days easter, 1 day Thanksgiving, 1 day rememberance day, 1 day Rendezvous, 1 day labour day, and let's just say 2 professional development days because I can't find that listed = a total of 186.5 days a year of teaching. Divide by 5, to get the number of weeks = 37.5 weeks.

The average teacher misses 2 weeks of that in sick days that are not covered by teachers on call, plus an unspecified number of days or weeks that are in fact covered by teachers on call. That's 5.3% of their year. Let's say that even half the days they are sick are not covered, that would mean they miss, on average 10.6% of the 37.5 weeks a year they are supposed to be working in the classroom!
The real question is, what is going on with the teacher's sick days?! The issue is not, 'We need more teachers on call so we can accommodate sick days'.

Up 22 Down 4

Guncache on Feb 17, 2020 at 6:12 pm

I know a lady who was born here, got her degree in teaching but couldn't get a full time job. The catholic school board wouldn't hire her because she wasn't a catholic. Discrimination? She ended up teaching in Ft. Nelson, Scotland and has now secured f/t teaching in Nelson BC.

Up 39 Down 4

Things that make you go on Feb 17, 2020 at 2:57 pm

According to Ross, teachers self-reported that they work an average of 2.5 days per year when they are sick.
Ok so How many sick days does the average teacher use a year?

The survey also found that Yukon classrooms go, on average, two weeks per school year without education assistance support.

Ok so same as above. How many sick/vacation days does the average do the EAs take?
What is the average pay for teachers and TOC/EAs in the Yukon?
We are missing a lot of information here.

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