December 7, 2017 10:12 pm

Peterborough educators respond to auditor general’s report on teacher sick days

Global news

In her report released Wednesday, Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said the number of sick days being taken by teachers and other school staff has increased by about 30 per cent over the past five years — from nine days in the 2011-2012 school year to 11.6 in 2015-2016.

Lysyk says boards are being forced to spend money meant for students to hire substitute teachers to fill in for those off sick.

READ MORE: Auditor general finds Ontarians pay millions for ineligible power generator costs

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Cathy Abraham, the chair of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, says this is not the case in her board. She says the needed cash was found in, what she calls, other administrative places. She places the blame for the increase in sick days directly on the province who eliminated the practice of teacher’s banking their sick days during negotiations in 2011.

“This is not about staff taking sick days. If they are unwell they should take sick days, that is the way it goes,” said Abraham. “We are very concerned about their mental health, their physical health, all of those things, but on the other hand, we do need to talk to the ministry and continue those conversations about funding those days.”

The Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario says the province can’t possibly compare life in the classroom as it existed in 2011 with that of today.

Shirley Bell, president of ETFO for the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School board, says teachers health is under pressure due to an increased workload over the past five years which is due to an increase in violent incidents in the classroom.

READ MORE: Violence in Durham Region classrooms has seen teachers bitten, punched and kicked: union

“In our board, from September to the end of November, we had 304 violent incident reports just for teachers,” said Bell.

The auditor general recommends that school boards develop and implement attendance support programs.

The Kawartha Pine Ridge Board already has one in place.

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