2022 Annual Report
1. Building a new reality
The past year was marked by a slow return to normalcy. Education stakeholders in Ontario finally started talking about the post-pandemic and province-wide, the new school year even got under way with a full range of extracurricular activities. What a great pleasure to see all of our students in person and to be able to offer them the full educational experience! However, we must remain cautious. The health situation is still worrisome and we must not lose sight of the fact that the pandemic years substantially weakened our education system.
In this context, the Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’Ontario (ACÉPO) role becomes ever more important. Political representation, that is to say the creation of positive and productive relationships with our policymakers, is key to success. In 2022, ACÉPO continued its intense work in this area and more than ever, major players in education call on us to guide their decisions.
ACÉPO’s work remains grounded in our strategic objectives and our priorities reflect the needs of our member boards more than they ever have. ACÉPO aims to become a facilitator for its members by offering them a wide range of tools designed to respond to systemic challenges. After all, in an environment of continually increasing internal and external pressures, the quest for systemic solutions is not only one of the most promising avenues but also an efficient and strategic way to serve our school communities.
As my term as ACÉPO’s President draws to a close, my wish for the organization I have proudly presided over for the past 5 years is that it continues to evolve its unifying role provincially as a creator of systemic solutions. Long life to French-language public education in Ontario, long life to ACÉPO!
Denis M. Chartrand, Past President of ACÉPO
2. School democracy
2022 was a year for elections in Ontario. Provincial elections in June were followed by municipal and school board elections in October. All of the province’s 72 boards of Trustees were renewed. ACÉPO worked at promoting the role of school trustees through a website providing a wealth of information and guides created jointly with the three other school board associations and the Ontario Education Services Corporation. We also conducted a promotional campaign, together with our member school boards.
In preparation for school board elections, ACÉPO, in collaboration with the Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques, recruited the MOFIF (Mouvement ontarien des femmes immigrantes francophones), a community partner with a provincial mandate, in order to develop the Course électorale : Pourquoi pas vous? program aimed at encouraging racialized Ontarians to run for the position of school trustee. Such a program targeting the racialized Francophonie is a first in Ontario, a fact ACÉPO is rather proud of. Offered by Olivia Chow’s team at the Toronto Metropolitan University’s Institute for Change Leaders, among others, the training program enabled participants to learn the tools, principles, ethics and values of participatory democracy in order to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to be involved and become leaders in the school democracy process.
For our part, this new experience opened our eyes to the existence of systemic barriers which limit racialized Ontarians’ access to the position of school trustee. This understanding brings with it responsibilities. ACÉPO is committed to making the elimination of such barriers one of its priorities before the next elections.
School board elections saw another first: the disqualification, mere days before the vote, of candidates unable to speak in French. Proficiency in French should be one of the criteria for becoming a French-language school trustee. Furthermore, the responsibility of assessing eligibility to become a candidate in a French-language school board should rest with Francophones. This is another portfolio that ACÉPO will take on to ensure the fair conduct of the next school board elections in 2026.
New boards of Trustees – 2022 school board elections
Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO)
CEPEO schools are located from Trenton to Hawkesbury in Eastern Ontario.
Director of Education: Sylvie Tremblay
School Board President: Rachel Laforest
Samia Ouled Ali
Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario (CSPGNO)
The CSPGNO territory covers the communities of Markstay, Noëlville, the Greater Sudbury, Elliot Lake, Sault Ste. Marie, Wawa, Dubreuilville, Marathon, Manitouwadge and Longlac.
Director of Education: Sébastien Fontaine
School Board President: Anne-Marie Gélineault
Carole G. Anderson
Conseil scolaire public du Nord-Est de l’Ontario (CSPNE)
CSPNE has schools in the communities of Timmins, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing, Hearst, Temiskaming Shores, Sturgeon Falls, North Bay and Parry Sound.
Director of Education: Yves Laliberté
School Board President: Denis Labelle
Conseil scolaire Viamonde
Conseil scolaire Viamonde runs west to east from Windsor to Trenton and north to south from Penetanguishene to the Niagara Region.
Director of Education: Michel Laverdière
School Board President: Geneviève Oger
Consortium Centre Jules-Léger (CCJL)
CCJL operates two specialized schools: the Demonstration school for students with severe learning disabilities and the Provincial School – Deaf, Blind and Deafblind, as well as providing consultative services in deafness, blindness and deafblindness throughout the province.
Its schools are based in Ottawa and serve students from across the province.
Director of Education: Jean-François Boulanger
President of the Consortium Centre Jules-Léger: Samia Ouled Ali
Conseiller.ère.s scolaires :
PRIORITY 1 – Represent school boards and the CCJL in labour relations
Consolidated labour relations team
The new labour relations team was deployed quickly to prepare the current round of central bargaining as all school board collective agreements expired on August 31, 2022. ACÉPO is involved in four of the nine central bargaining tables, this being one more than during the previous round. The Consortium Centre Jules-Léger’s education workers are affiliated with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which is part of the Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW) table.
Operationalizing the integration of the Consortium Centre Jules-Léger (CCJL)
In collaboration with the Catholic association, ACÉPO has continued to lend the CCJL its expertise with a view to facilitating the transition of the Consortium’s current employees into the provincial negotiation structure. The CCJL is taking part in provincial negotiations for the first time, with the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) for teachers, and OCEW for education workers. The first agreement was reached in December, the second to follow in 2023.
Throughout the past year, ACÉPO has continued to play an important role in the application and interpretation of collective agreements. The number of central disputes declined considerably, due to the end of the pandemic and the fact that 2022 was a collective bargaining year. For example, the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) received only seven disputes from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), none of which included ACÉPO.
ACÉPO is pursuing its involvement in all disputes. While it is too early to foresee how the situation will evolve in 2023, we can expect to see a substantial increase in the number of disputes due to the implementation of the new collective agreements.
Despite the heavy workload associated with bargaining, ACÉPO has continued to provide leadership by offering turnkey solutions to school boards, such as draft versions of policies.
The Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging Working Group also pursued its exchanges. In 2023, the parties wish to focus on retention and support strategies for racialized employees.
PRIORITY 2 – Represent the common interest of French-language public education
ACÉPO’s capital project: a core part of the strategic development of French-language public education
Public education has been progressing at an unparalleled pace in French Ontario for the past two decades. In order for students throughout Ontario to have an equitable and inclusive access to high quality French-language public education, we must give them the resources to achieve their ambitions. This requires school facilities which offer an educational experience that is truly equivalent to that of children of the majority, as a result of being driven by quality, adaptivity, flexibility and accessibility.
Following the 2020 Supreme Court of Canada decision in British Columbia, ACÉPO has undertaken a long-term project aimed at positioning French-language public education favorably for generations to come.
To this end, ACÉPO is working with its school boards on the development and implementation of a common, systemic capital project strategy that is focused on a productive, efficient and sustainable approach with legislative and government bodies.
Among other things, ACÉPO was invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages as part of its study of Bill C-13, the substantive equality of Canada’s official languages. This invitation followed a letter-writing campaign by ACEPO to 80 federal MPs requesting an amendment to this bill to ensure that the needs of minority school boards are given priority when selling a federal building or real property. If successful, this change will allow minority communities from coast to coast to coast to access land and buildings to develop new schools across the country.
Through its actions, ACÉPO supports a strong and accessible French-language education for all of Ontario’s Francophones. Let’s grow our future together!
Teacher shortage: hope, disappointment and perseverance
French teacher recruitment and retention remain at the top of the list of ACÉPO priorities. How could it be otherwise when the shortage threatens to compromise the very vitality and sustainability of French-language education in Ontario?
The shortage was entirely created by an unwise government decision in 2015, which only took the reality of English-language schools into account. Gravely exacerbated during the pandemic, it threatens to reach critical levels if wide-ranging actions leading to tangible results are not taken by our government. We must have the courage to ask the question that is at the heart of the teacher shortage: how much time is left before it compromises the quality of French-language education of which we are so proud?
A glimmer of hope shone in June 2021 when the government launched its French Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy and when the Implementation Committee finally commenced its activities in December 2021, partly as a result of constant pressure by ACÉPO.
Unfortunately, ACÉPO quickly realized that the committee is falling short of expectations despite the fact that it includes all of the relevant partners. The project having stagnated for over a year, it must be concluded that only a targeted mobilization of French-language education partners will produce tangible progress. ACÉPO reaffirms its commitment to continue to invest all necessary efforts to combat the threat facing our education.
On-line learning: a battle won; a stability that remains fragile
After two years of hard work, ACÉPO, in collaboration with the Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques, succeeded in ensuring the restoration of French-language school boards’ management rights with regard to on-line learning – a huge victory for French-language education. It is to be remembered that in July 2020, the entire education sector was taken aback by the Ontario government’s announcement that TVO/TFO would assume responsibility for on-line learning in K to 12 education. However, this decision was a violation of Francophones’ school management rights. While the government backed down in response to our pressure, we must remain vigilant and ensure that the French-Language Virtual Learning Consortium of Ontario (CAVLFO) receives the funding and support it needs to offer Francophone students an educational experience that is equivalent to that of Anglophone students. ACÉPO is committed to continuing to advocate for the necessary resources to guarantee such equivalence.
PRIORITY 3 – Develop sustainable strategic leadership
Government relations: from awareness to advocacy
During this provincial election year, ACÉPO’s political action ranged from awareness to advocacy. Three major events marked 2022, the first in January during which our member board chairs met with some fifteen politicians with education-related roles in an attempt to influence election platforms, among other goals; the second, a letter campaign to congratulate all 124 provincial MPP’s and to highlight French-language public education priorities; and finally the last one in the fall through meetings between ACÉPO President and Vice-President and ministers, parliamentary assistants and critics.
ACÉPO maintained a firm tone in its interactions with the government. While favouring collaboration, it asserted itself by stating its needs clearly. A balance was struck to preserve constructive relations with the government, while insisting on the needs of Ontario’s French public school boards.
Collective intelligence: diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging
ACÉPO’s vision is to offer an equitable and inclusive access to high quality French-language public education throughout Ontario. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to recruit and welcome every individual and develop their sense of belonging. It is the duty of ACÉPO, its member boards and the school communities to welcome, celebrate and develop a sense of belonging within Franco-Ontarians of all ages and backgrounds, to the benefit of the vitality and strength of our communities.
The themes of inclusion and belonging as part of recruitment, hiring and retention, constitute the most pressing issues for our sector. Consequently, concerted efforts in this area are required. ACÉPO has set itself the goal of facilitating the sharing of resources available within the province that can be tailored to the unique needs of every school board and every community. Let us be a strong voice for plurality, inclusivity and equity, which will ensure the sustainability and growth of the Franco-Ontarian community.
Integration of the Consortium Centre Jules-Léger into ACÉPO
ACÉPO proudly welcomed the Consortium Centre Jules-Léger (CCJL) as new member within its association. During ACÉPO’s June 28, 2022 board of directors meeting, Jeannette Labrèche joined the board as the CCJL’s first ever representative, accompanied by her Director of Education, Jean-François Boulanger. In addition to jointly representing the CCJL at the central bargaining tables, ACÉPO will advocate for its interests with government decision-makers and in all of ACÉPO’s priority portfolios. This is but the beginning of a long collaboration that already promises to be fruitful!
Under the theme Un continuum en pleine évolution, the 2022 Public Education Symposium was held virtually for the second year in a row. At the end of January 2022, school trustees, student trustees, directors of education and education stakeholders had the opportunity, among other things, to focus on how to create alliances to both develop the French-language early childhood system and consolidate the transition to the Francophone post-secondary level. The importance of school trustees’ role and of local democracy was also discussed. Jointly organized by ACÉPO and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA), the Symposium is an important forum for the exchange of ideas and for introducing new concepts in the field of education. It was followed by ACÉPO’s Annual General Meeting and the presentation of its 2021 annual report.
The lunch and learn sessions, launched in 2021 in response to a need for continuing education on the part of school and student trustees, continued this year. Specialists spoke to us about sociocultural, linguistic and technopedagogical issues in post-pandemic teaching in French-language schools; digital literacy 101; and collective bargaining in school boards as well as the law supporting it.