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Board changes tack on plan for year-end, will issue report cards by August 31

Responding to pressure from concerned parents and students, the Waterloo Region District School Board will hire 40 temporary staff members to get students their marks by August 31.

One of the last boards in the province to hold out on a decision to provide grades for the 2014-15 school year’s second term, the board changed its tune June 17.

“As a result of labour action, no data was put in electronically for report cards,” WRDSB spokesperson Marty Deacon said. “We felt (at first) that we would be able to do a placement letter, but we went back, and the board of trustees met in camera and said okay, ‘how can we go about this, and how can we do better?’ We listened to our parents’ feedback and we regrouped. So we had to find the money, and the money to get 40,000 report cards inputted is up to four weeks work for 40 people.”

Where that money is coming from – in other words, what will go without funding as a result – has not been determined, Deacon said. The board also declined to comment on a ball park dollar figure for the process.

But the result will see students receive a summary of marks by the end of August.

The summary of marks will not include teacher comments and will not be filed in official student records.

Instead, placement letters released as of June 22, indicating which grade the student would be attending in the fall and some basic attendance information, will take their place in the official records.

The report card kerfuffle arose after the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario instructed its members not to provide comments for report cards or to input grades electronically into the boards computer database.

In a legal strike position since May 10, the union initiated work-to-rule tactics May 18 in an effort to get negotiations-they have been without a contract since August of last year- moving in their direction.

At first, the WRDSB said it would not be possible to make up the time needed to input all the grades, and that it would be too expensive to hire additional staff to get the job done.

But now, they have done just that.

For months, union representatives 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. OPSBA says the union’s demands would cost the province some $3.2 billion.

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