Peel school board issues surplus notices to about 400 teachers after government class size changes

Peel Region teachers fear future without permanent position
WATCH ABOVE: Teachers in Peel region are feeling uneasy about the future after receiving surplus notices this week. As Caryn Lieberman reports, they worry about the impact not only on their own lives, but on the lives of their students.

As of Wednesday morning, 176 elementary and 193 secondary teachers were told that they will no longer have permanent positions after Aug. 31, said a spokesperson for Peel District School Board (PDSB) to Global News.

The board said these notices are a result of changes to class sizes, cuts in local priorities funding and other reductions in funding.

Premier Doug Ford responded this morning on Global News Radio 640 Toronto saying: “This has been going on for years. Teachers get their notices. Then they get their budget. Then they get hired again. So I guess the Peel Board wants to play a little bit of politics and scare tactics and that’s just not fair to the teachers.”

READ MORE: Ontario announces revamped sex-ed curriculum, increase in class sizes for high school

In March, the Ontario government announced its plans to increase average high-school class sizes from 22 to 28 students. The average class sizes for Grades 4 to 8 will increase more modestly from 23 students per class to 24. Class sizes for kindergarten through Grade 3 are not changing.

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“Not one teacher – not one – will lose their job because of our class size strategy,” Education Minister Lisa Thompson said at the time.

On Tuesday, after Question Period at Queen’s Park, Thompson reiterated that statement and said the surplus notices aren’t any different from any other year.

“I have to be very, very clear. What we’re hearing about coming from Peel Region is a routine process that’s happening in every school board across Ontario,” she said.

“This time of year is when the school boards take a look at their roster, they identify who’s coming back from maternity leave, who’s retiring … the fact of the matter is what we’re hearing about these recent weeks is a routine process that is done year in and year out.”

WATCH: War of words over Ontario education funding. Jamie Mauracher reports.

War of words about Ontario education funding
War of words about Ontario education funding

What I can tell you with absolute confidence is that there will be no involuntary job losses associated with our education plan and how we’re moving forward with a broken system.

Melissa Basta, a teacher with the Peel District School Board spoke to Global News about how she received a surplus notice.

“I was called into the office at the end of the day. They said we apologize and we don’t want to see you go but unfortunately here is the envelope that we have to give to you,” said Basta.

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Basta said becoming surplus means she will no longer be linked to any schools. “I technically don’t have a job and I’m not really sure what exactly the next steps look like.”

“My passion is working with at-risk kids. And I really like to take people who are struggling and help them find ways to overcome their obstacles and to make those human connections. That’s going to be very challenging if I’m not there, but also with the proposed classroom size changes,” said Basta.

“It’s going to be hard to leave.”

Basta has been teaching for eight years and has been permanent for one year.

The Toronto District School Board also said in a memo to Global News in March the government’s plan to increase high school class sizes could lead to 800 secondary teachers losing their jobs. For elementary schools, 216 teachers could lose their jobs.

READ MORE: TDSB memo says increased class sizes could lead to loss of 800 high school teaching jobs

The government said it has been consulting for months on several education issues, including class sizes, teacher hiring practices and sex-ed. The restructuring is part of education reforms announced by the Progressive Conservative government this year that also include introducing a sex-ed curriculum that returns to teaching gender identity and consent after a modernized lesson plan was scrapped, revamping the math curriculum and making students take more online courses.

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— With files from Jessica Patton, David Shum and Caryn Lieberman.