I hesitate to write this because the last thing I want to do is to damage the good working relationship that our local union enjoys with our employer. However, I have come to terms with the fact that my responsibility to my members outweighs my responsibility to my employer.
My members are in crisis! I am receiving numerous text messages, emails, and phone calls every day asking for my help. I have daily conversations with our Director of Education and our Human Resources Manager. They are trying their best to help, but, truth be told, their hands are tied.
Our school board is drastically understaffed and underfunded! I am told that we had been operating in a budget deficit just to meet all of the needs of our students. There was a three year plan in place to balance the board budget. That changed when the Ministry of Education stepped in and DEMANDED that the budget be balanced for this school year. That is when our already over-taxed, stretched to the limit school board staff reached their breaking point!
Most of our Full Day Kindergarten classes have over 30 three, four, and five year old children. There are only two adults working in most of them – an ECE and a Teacher. When it is lunch time there is often only one Educational Assistant in the classroom to organize and assist the children so that they can eat their lunches, tidying up after they are done, getting ready to go outside, and then supervising them while they are outside playing.
Most of our Educational Assistants are assigned to assist and care for multiple high needs students at once. In many cases, one EA is responsible for students at opposite ends of the school yard during lunch and recess breaks! There are also situations where one EA is assigned to a student with medical needs, a student who is ‘a runner’, and a student with violent/aggressive tendencies all at the same time!
There are not enough teaching and support staff to cover the supervision of our students or the lunch and coffee breaks of our workers. Many of my members are not getting relieved for their breaks and some of them are given a lunch break after 2:00 in the afternoon.
Our two largest and newest schools do not have enough custodial or clerical staff to keep up with the workload. Each day they are faced with an insurmountable amount of work that they have no hope of finishing within the hours they are paid for.
I am afraid for the physical and mental health and safety of my members and our students. We cannot sustain this level of stress and workload for much longer! We need help!
President, CUPE Local 4148
Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board