Staff shortage forcing Durham School Board to hire ‘unqualified’ teachers for schools from Oshawa to Pickering

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Published November 18, 2021 at 3:47 pm

The Durham District School Board (DDSB) has taken the unusual step of putting out a call for “unqualified teachers” to fill a shortfall of about 400 teachers in the system.

The public school board, which has seen enrollment increase by more than 2,000 students this year, is accepting applications for Uncertified Emergency Supply Teachers for the 2021-2022 school year.

‘Uncertified’ means they do not have a teaching certificate and in fact, don’t require a university degree either as long as they are enrolled in a degree program. Other qualifications include:

  • Experience working/volunteering with children and/or adolescents.
  • Experience working with students with different cultural backgrounds.
  • Experience working with students with differing needs and capabilities.
  • Ability to ensure the safety and security of students.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with staff and students.
  • Ability to maintain strict confidentiality and privacy of student information.

A spokesperson from the board’s Communications and public relations department said they have been trying to hire certified occasional teachers and adding to their supply list, but their efforts were “not enough,” citing a province-wide teacher shortage.

“The hiring of uncertified teachers is not common but certainly has been a practice for boards when they are experiencing difficultly filling positions,” the spokesperson said, noting the board has not been forced to go this route in recent years. “This is a temporary measure for this school year to ensure that classes are not cancelled and that students are not sent home due to a lack of coverage. This is not something that we intend to do in the future unless the exceptional circumstances with the province-wide teacher shortage continues.”

About 95 per cent of the board’s staff and trustees are fully vaccinated, which still leaves nearly 400 staff who are not vaccinated, do not wish to disclose their vaccination status or have not submitted the form. Whether those unvaccinated staff are a contributing factor to the teacher shortage is unclear as the spokesperson would only say the board “does not have a vaccine mandate.”

Director Norah Marsh told trustees at a recent board meeting that most staff that haven’t declared are occasional staff/supply teachers. “We are confirming whether they are planning to continue to work within the DDSB,” she said.

Uncertified Emergency Supply Teachers are utilized for daily assignments only when there are no supply teachers available for an assignment.

The DDSB is one of the few school boards in Ontario experiencing growth with more than 75,000 students, 7,500 permanent staff and 131 schools and learning centres.

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