TVDSB looking for a few - hundred - good EAs

Shortages among educational assistants (EAs) and occasional teachers has led to a recruitment drive for the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB).

Their role has changed a lot over the years, and Rebecca Avey, president of CUPE 7575, the union representing EAs and instructional assistants at the TVDSB, says there are a number of factors at play.

“There’s more challenges, physically. There’s more mental health stuff, there’s more social/emotional stuff that is our job as well. That has definitely had an increase over the years.”

Add to that a decline in the number of EAs in schools, which makes it harder for those who are already there.

So the TVDSB has put the call out for upwards of 200 educational assistants to be hired.

Andrew Canham, superintendent of student achievement, special education for the TVDSB says they're off to a good start.

“Over the last couple of weeks, our recruiting efforts have certainly proven to be very successful as we’ve had a higher number applications and interest, just in the last two weeks.”

Part of reason is a change to the criteria of applicants, as the board works with Western University and Fanshawe College to allow students in their final year of school to apply for these positions.

“It’s an opportunity for us to take advantage of the training that they are offering their students, while at the same time build our workforce,” Canham says.

The board is also working to address a shortage of occasional teachers at the elementary level, actively looking to recruit teachers.

But Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario Thames Valley Local President Craig Smith says, "The problem is, that’s great, but it needs to keep going in an ongoing basis. It's good on paper, but it doesn’t mean anything unless those teachers are able to provide the support that is required in the schools.”

Another approach the board is taking to the EA shortage is more training to help them deal with issues that have stemmed from the pandemic.

That includes courses focused on dealing with self-regulation issues among students.