Hamilton school administrators received overtime pay, not bonuses, says HWDSB

·3 min read

Hamilton’s public school board says the additional pay it gave school administrators in September was to compensate for overtime hours worked and was not intended as bonuses, following backlash from teachers’ unions.

Alex Johnstone, chair of the HWDSB, said principals and vice-principals were compensated for being recalled to work a week early for pandemic-related preparations.

“The HWDSB did not pay any of our staff bonuses. I want to make that very clear. What the HWDSB did was we called our principals and vice-principals back to work one week early to prepare for the reopening of our schools,” Johnstone told the Spectator on Sunday.

News that the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board offered additional pay to school administrators, first reported in the Toronto Star, sparked a backlash among teachers’ unions who said the administrators were receiving pay increases while teaching staff did not.

On Friday, the HWDSB told the Star that because it recalled administrators a week early from their summer-long vacation it would “compensate accordingly.” The board spent $750,000 on the additional pay, as well as other COVID compensation costs, in August and September.

“I recognize that staff throughout the board have put forth a great effort to operationalize a poorly constructed provincial reopening strategy but for our board to only recognize their management through compensation either financially or in lieu time is insulting to front-line workers,” said Daryl Jerome, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, District 21.

“The decision fails to recognize the crushing workload and unrealistic expectations that my members find themselves under during this incredibly stressful school year.”

Toronto’s public school board offered bonuses to school principals and vice-principals. The board is reportedly spending up to $2.4 million in bonuses, and informed administrators of the perk on Friday, saying it will be paid out by Dec. 10.

Hamilton’s public board has recently reported significant budget constraints due to pandemic costs and a shortfall in provincial funding. Last week, the board predicted a $10-million deficit by the end of the school year. It recently lost $15.2 million in funding from the province after discovering its enrolment projections were off by nearly 2,000 students, prompting it to reduce spending on teaching staff and school budgets.

At a finance committee in October, board administrators said it should reduce teaching staff to the tune of $2.3 million.

Jerome says the additional pay for administrators would be better spent on school resources.

“The money spent on compensating management would be better spent ensuring the cleanliness of schools and the implementation of a secondary virtual school which our board, one of only four in the province has failed to do,” said Jerome.

“I am hearing from so many of my members who are working into their evenings and sacrificing time with their own families. These same members have spent an incredible amount of their own time preparing for a completely new model of teaching with no additional compensation of any kind.”

Johnstone said the additional payment for staff administrators, which also covered caretaking staff recalled to work early, was necessary to ensure that schools were prepared for September reopening.

“What’s important to note is that we have a finite pool of management. We have a finite pool of principals and vice-principals, and in order to prepare for school reopenings we needed them to come back early. It is unusual for our education staff to return to school without students being present, so that additional time without students in the school was provided to ensure our teaching staff had the support, resources and time needed to prepare for a safe reopening of the schools,” Johnstone said.

Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator