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Ontario to prioritize merit over seniority in teacher hiring practices

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This morning, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, revoked seniority based hiring of Ontario teachers, in favour of a merit-based model. The change will come into effect October 29, and will be a one-year policy, until the government and school boards can agree on a permanent solution, which address concerns of transparency and nepotism.

Lecce said the move should allow for classroom teachers to reflect the diversity of the classes they teach, and clear the way for faster hirings, by doing away with the 50 day rule.

"That means, when it comes to hiring educators, principals should be able to hire the best teacher for the job - not necessarily the one who has been in line the longest,” said Lecce. “For nearly a decade, teachers in this province have been hired through a convoluted system that preferred seniority over skills, abilities, diversity and lived experiences of teachers. In a time where teacher hiring is necessary to ensure students get the best education possible, these changes will further enable principals to swiftly hire the best candidate so they can focus on improving the quality of education and helping our students be the best that they can be.”

The move was quickly endorsed by the Ontario Public School Board Association.

“Today’s announcement is good news for Ontario’s public school boards and their communities. The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) has been advocating strongly for the repeal of Regulation 274, which favours seniority as the most important factor in teacher hiring, since its introduction in September 2012,” said OPSBA president Cathy Abraham, in a written statement. “Regulation 274 created many challenges for school boards, including: An inability to address diversity and equity in hiring; Placed limitations on boards to hire teachers that reflect the needs of the school community; The pressure occasional teachers feel to be on multiple school board lists; The inability of permanent teachers to seek employment at a different school board; and The restrictions for principals and vice-principals to return to teaching.”

The repealing of Regulation 274 is expected to be a controversial decision for teacher's unions. None have provided a response to the government as of press time.

Despite the controversy, Lecce feels it's the right decision for teachers, students and families.

“For too many years, our newer and younger educators have been left behind, and they deserve equal opportunity for progression. By putting students first, we will empower school principals to hire the best teacher for each and every classroom, and not the teacher who has simply been in the school board the longest.

“Revoking Regulation 274 is about students, families, and the communities they live and work in. It is about giving school boards more flexibility so they can hire the best, most qualified candidates, especially now as they face increased staffing challenges. It is about ensuring that students can see themselves reflected in the educator at the front of the classroom. And it is about hiring teachers who meet all students' needs and will inspire them to achieve success.

“The new hiring Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) will enable principals to hire based on merit, diversity and the unique needs of the school, while providing strict protocols to avoid concerns of nepotism.

“Regulation 274 will become a regulation of the past, and students, parents, and innovative educators across the province will be able to welcome a new wave of opportunity and the knowledge that we will get the most qualified teaching our kids."

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