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Both sides blame other for lack of report cards

UPDATE – The Waterloo Region District School Board announced late Thursday afternoon that students will receive a summary of marks for the 2014-15 school year’s second term by August 31. The board will hire additional staff to create the documents, which will look like a typical report card without teacher comments. The summary will not be included in official student records, the board said. Students will still receive letters of placement by June 22, which will be filed in their records.

Waterloo Region’s 40,000 public elementary school students will not receive year-end report cards, following a controversial decision by the WRDSB this week.

Students were sent home with a letter from the board Tuesday informing parents that there will be no grades this year. Instead, they will get a “letter of placement” for the 2015-16 school year by June 22.

In a legal strike position since May 10, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario began work-to-rule tactics May 18 in an effort to get negotiations – the union has been without a contract since August of last year – moving in their direction.

In that vein, teachers will be submitting grades this month, but are refusing to provide comments or to input those marks electronically.

Some school boards have taken measures to work around the inputting issue by having administrators – already required to sign off on report cards – take over the task.

Officials with the Waterloo Region District School Board said that was not feasible in their case.

“We have spent a lot of time trying to work this through, both locally and with the province, to say, ‘what can we do, based on our board of 40,000 students and 40,000 report cards, considering that the information has not been submitted electronically,’” WRDSB spokesperson Marty Deacon said. “After looking at all of the possibilities we have decided to do what is called a letter of placement, and so we are going to put this letter together and it will replace the typical report card.”

Considering the fact that many other boards, including the province’s largest in Toronto, have promised to get report cards out to students, parents in the region have expressed disappointment and frustration, Deacon said.

“People have been asking why couldn’t we make this work, and are we taking the easy way out? But this is not an easy way out. It is a very, very complex process and we’re not comfortable moving forward when we can’t verify the information that has come to us in a variety of different ways from 2,700 elementary teachers, so it’s a tough one to get done.”

The letter of placement will substitute for the report card in official student records, essentially indicating whether the student passed or failed, along with basic information about attendance.

For months, union representatives have insisted teachers are looking to maintain prep time and class size limits along with other student learning-centered initiatives at the bargaining table. However this week, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association went public with the teacher’s demand of three per cent raises for the first three years of a new deal, on top of cost of living increases.

ETFO local representative Greg Weiler denied the assertion, saying there has been no formal proposal put on the table.

“There have been no monetary issues discussed,” he said, adding that he has no idea where the OPSBA would have gotten the three per cent figure.

He did speculate that, “in the past, when you start a negotiation, and I can only speak to locally, because that’s the level I am involved in, you would always come forward with some kind of starting position, which was certainly never something that you expected to get. … I can tell you I would not go in front of my members, in the climate we are in, and say we are going to do a job action just to get salary improvements. I wouldn’t support that and I know my members wouldn’t support that.”

Teachers’ salaries increased by 21.5 per cent from 2004-2012 in Ontario, holding steady since in part due to the lack of a new contract. The OPSBA says the union’s salary demands would cost the province some $3.2 billion.

The WRDSB says students and parents looking for information about their progress during the year should contact teachers the week of June 22. That could prove difficult though, since the ETFO has instructed members against providing grades, verbally or otherwise.

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