TDSB trustee wants legal opinion on Regulation 274, the seniority hiring rule

Regulation 274 may violate boards’ obligations to have a diverse workforce under the human rights code, says a Toronto trustee who is asking the courts to rule on its legality.

By: Education Reporter, GTA, Education Schools, Published on Wed Sep 11 2013

Two Toronto trustees want Ontario to make sure new teacher hiring rules don’t threaten the growing diversity among teachers by making it hard to hire the rookies who are more likely to come from varied backgrounds.

Howard Goodman and Shelley Laskin, of the Toronto District School Board, are seeking a legal ruling on whether a new regulation that forces boards to hire teachers based on seniority may violate the board’s obligation to employ a diverse workforce under the Human Rights Code. The motion goes before trustees at their meeting Wednesday night.

The TDSB has seen the diversity of its staff grow each year, with some 39 per cent of new teachers hired last year identifying themselves as racial minorities, up from 22 per cent in 2006-2007, when the board was first compelled to start tracking by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

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Many have warned about the threat to diversity posed by Regulation 274, which requires Ontario principals to hire from among the five applicants with the most seniority, to avoid nepotism.

Critics say the newer the batch of teachers, the greater its diversity, thanks to recruitment by teachers’ colleges and many school boards. Lowering the prospects for fresh graduates could mean a move away from a more diverse teaching staff.

“The diversity of our students has definitely grown, so if you’re hiring teachers who graduated a few years ago and have been occasional teachers for a longer time, they may not be as diverse a group,” noted Dean Ron Owston, of York University’s faculty of education, who believes boards can avoid nepotism better by using standard hiring processes than with the “heavy-handed” tool of seniority.

Of 1,100 students in York’s faculty of education this year, he said, 240 students identified as being from an under-represented group — up from 185 last year. Those groups include aboriginal people, visible minorities, disabled people, those from low-income backgrounds, and varied sexual orientations.

Goodman’s motion asks the TDSB’s director of education to write to Education Minister Liz Sandals to “submit a request to the Divisional Court of Ontario for an opinion” as to whether a school board can avoid the new seniority hiring regulation if it conflicts with the Human Rights Code or a provincial policy that calls for bias-free hiring.

Ontario’s policy on equitable hiring says “the board’s work force should reflect the diversity within the community so that students, parents and community members are able to see themselves represented,” Goodman writes in the motion.

A spokesperson for Sandals said that if the board does approve Goodman’s motion, “we would be pleased to have a discussion on this issue.”

Lauren Ramey said “we … recognize that there are concerns about this change and appreciate hearing feedback,” noting in an email that the government has struck committees with both high school and elementary teacher unions to consider changes.

A 2007 settlement between the education ministry and the Ontario Human Rights Commission made a diverse workforce a priority and said the Human Rights Code trumps “all other provincial legislation.”

The Goodman motion says the board “has repeatedly stated its objections to (Regulation 274), in that its trustees believe that the terms of the regulation are harmful to student achievement and well-being,” and that the hiring rules are opposed by other boards, all four school-board associations and the deans of Ontario’s faculties of education.

Another motion before trustees says an easy fix to Regulation 274 is to add the hiring of family members or business associates to conflict-of-interest rules.

Regulation 274 was brought in after Ontario English Catholic teachers complained about nepotism in their boards, and the education ministry later applied it to all boards in the province.

Critics say it shuts out talented young teachers, who have found themselves ineligible for jobs and even job interviews, and that principals should hire the best fit for the job, regardless of how much time teachers have spent in supply positions.

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Canada Seeks Immigrants Who Fit Better

Ottawa Screens Applicants for English, French Fluency and “Adaptability”


TORONTO—As American lawmakers debate how to revamp U.S. immigration policy, Canada has embarked on a major immigration overhaul of its own aimed at choosing newcomers who are a better fit for its economy and society.

The impact of Canada’s reforms will be watched in Washington, where elements similar to the Canadian approach toward screening applications have found their way into the immigration plan that passed the U.S. Senate in June.

This August, Canada began to accept its first immigrants under part of an overhaul that puts greater emphasis on factors such as an applicant’s job skills and fluency in English or French.

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A major objective: Fix what the Canadian government sees as a growing economic chasm between locals and many of the immigrants that Canada’s old applicant-screening system selected—a chasm it worries could spark the sort of immigration-related social tension that has flared in other developed countries.

Canada accepts more immigrants per capita than any of the Group of Seven most-advanced economies. The country, which has officially embraced multiculturalism for decades, won mostly praise for how it selects newcomers, particularly through a points system that tries to evaluate an applicant’s ability to thrive economically.

But since the 1970s, pay among new arrivals has increasingly fallen further behind pay of locals. And some Canadians question whether immigrants are integrating well enough into Canadian society.

“I don’t think we can take for granted our relative success in integration,” Jason Kenney, Canada’s immigration minister until July, who oversaw the reforms, said in a March interview. Now minister of employment and social development and minister of multiculturalism, Mr. Kenney through a spokeswoman confirmed his earlier comments but referred further questions to his former department.

The August newcomers were the first under measures that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government deployed in May aimed at attracting immigrants with certain trade skills. The measures also included the revamped points system at the center of the wide-ranging series of changes the government has enacted or pushed through Parliament since mid-2010.

Canada’s new points system places greater emphasis on an immigrant’s fluency in the nation’s two official languages. It weighs how closely applicants’ qualifications match Canadian credentials, whether they have employment arranged in Canada and, in the case of the August arrivals, if they have specific skills in demand, such as plumbing. The system also gauges so-called adaptability: factors such as time spent previously in Canada.

Critics have accused Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party of tilting policy back to benefit European nationalities such as the British and French, whose immigrants once predominated. “There is a strong feeling that this is about keeping people from Pakistan, the Philippines, from India, away,” said Jinny Sims, an Indian-born lawmaker with Canada’s opposition New Democratic Party.

A spokesman for Mr. Harper referred questions to the immigration ministry, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. A spokeswoman for the current immigration minister, Chris Alexander, said he wasn’t immediately available for comment. “Regardless of their country of origin,” she said, “we want to ensure that new Canadians contribute to Canada’s economic success.”

U.S. policy makers have drawn lessons from Canada’s experience. The architects behind the immigration bill drawn up by the White House and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators studied the points systems of countries such as Canada, the U.K. and Australia, said people familiar with the bill’s creation. The bill passed the Senate in June, but the GOP-controlled House has yet to vote on its own slew of immigration bills.

Current and former Canadian government officials were consulted during the bill’s creation, these people said. The Senate plan differs in important ways from Canada’s approach, placing less emphasis on English fluency, for instance. But the U.S. plan follows Canada’s basic model of grading applicants on their ability to fit into the economy and society.

“Much like the Canadian system does in Canada, our points system very carefully weighs the need to make sure Americans get first crack at available jobs but if none take them, allows American companies to find the people they need,” New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat who helped write the bill, said in an email.

The authors also learned from aspects of the Canadian points system meant to encourage greater social integration, said Enrique Gonzalez, an immigration lawyer and former adviser to Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on the reforms. “Assimilation was a measure we picked up reviewing reforms going on to the Canadian and the Australian point systems,” he said.

Canadians for decades have largely embraced waves of immigrants. More than 20% of Canadian residents were foreign-born in 2011, compared with 13% in the U.S. In 2012, Canada allowed 275,887 new permanent residents, about 0.79% of the population; the U.S. granted just over one million green cards, about 0.32% of the population.

But the government now says the old applicant-screening system placed less emphasis on language skills and youth, which research shows help immigrants to compete, and gave points for job qualifications even where they were unlikely to be sought by Canadian employers.

In the 1970s, new immigrants earned 85% to 90% of what the Canadian-born did. That had fallen to between 60% and 70% by 2006, according to a study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a nonpartisan Montreal think tank.

One reason, said Arthur Sweetman, an economics professor at McMaster University of Hamilton, Ontario, and an author of the study, is that a bigger proportion of immigrants are those from the developing world, whose generally poorer English and French, coupled with education and training that is often incompatible with job descriptions in Canada, make competing with locals harder.

Europeans accounted for 78% of immigration into Canada before the 1970s, while Asians and Middle Easterners made up 8.5%, according to government statistics. From 2006 to 2011, Asians and Middle Easterners were 57% of arrivals; Europeans made up 14%.

“There is a fear that as immigrants fall behind, social cohesion will deteriorate,” Mr. Sweetman said.

South and Southeast Asians are falling behind fastest. In 2012, for example, 13% of Pakistanis aged 15 and over were unemployed in Canada, against 9% of the wider Canadian population and 4.5% unemployment for Britons in Canada.

By some measures, public opinion also appears to have tilted away from Canada’s traditional open-armed multiculturalism.

Canadians went through a round of soul-searching last year after the high-profile convictions of three Afghan family members who murdered four other members they deemed too Westernized. In a December survey, 70% of respondents said too many immigrants aren’t adopting Canadian values, up from 58% in 2005, according to Environics Institute, a Toronto research group.

“We are reproducing ghettos of immigrants and migrant workers and diluting Canada’s traditional values to accommodate immigrants who will not integrate,” said Salim Mansur, a University of Western Ontario political-science professor and immigrant from India.

In addition to stressing language fluency, the government has bolstered its social-integration efforts. In April, it doubled the size of its guide to aspiring Canadian citizens, which now emphasizes Canada’s historic ties, such as to the British monarchy.

The new guide says Canada won’t tolerate “barbaric cultural practices” such as “honor killings,” forced marriage and “other gender-based violence.” The government in December 2012 banned face-covering garments such as the burqa when immigrants take a citizenship oath.

Mr. Kenney, the former immigration minister, said the government worries about “deepening ethnic enclaves” and that Canada’s immigration overhaul is taking a “hardheaded approach” to the multiculturalism that has been a hallmark of Canadian policy.

—Annabel Symington in Islamabad and Laura Meckler in Washington, D.C., contributed to this article.

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Harper aims to increase diversity among employees

Harper College President Ken Ender remembers being struck by the revelatory conversations of discontent and disenfranchisement he had last year with leaders of a mentoring project for minority employees.

He and the board had recently established key indicators known as Institutional Effectiveness Measures to determine the community college’s quality and performance. Targets were established for seven of those indicators, but officials at the Palatine school struggled to reach consensus on measuring the eighth: employee diversity.

Ender sought input wherever he could.

“I heard a lot of raw emotion around perception on the lack of inclusion if you’re from a historically not represented group,” Ender said. “These were people I knew and had a relationship with, and I was sort of amazed that because of our own relationship, they had never said anything to me.

“I thought, ‘There’s got to be something to this.'”

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One year and one thorough report later, several initiatives are being launched that officials hope move Harper to a place where it’s recognized as an institution that truly values diversity among employees.

“Our goal is to be sure our workforce and student body reflect the demographics of our district,” Harper spokesman Phil Burdick said.

Among the most notable is a new leadership position to help oversee the entire effort. Beginning in January, Michele Robinson, the current dean of business and social science, will serve as special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion.

The position will be filled by a tenured faculty member on a rotating basis, so Robinson will be free to return to teaching or go for another administrative role after a certain period of time.

“Keeping some fresh energy in that role will be important,” Ender said.

Harper also is developing a teaching fellowship program to recruit Master’s degree recipients who are Hispanic, African American or from other underrepresented groups. Fellows will work with a senior faculty member, observe classes, teach and take part in professional development.

Fellows likely would be at Harper for two years. If a faculty position opens up, they’ll be encouraged to apply or given a recommendation as they seek a job elsewhere.

Ender is working specifically with a couple of universities to develop the program but declined to say which ones until the partnerships are finalized. He hopes the first fellows will start next fall.

Harper currently lacks an adequate pipeline of underrepresented candidates. Diversity in the classroom is vital, Ender said, because it adds to the strength of the institution and the student experience.

“We believe diversity among students in race, ethnicity, culture and preferences is important to help them think and debate and dream,” Ender said. “We need to have that among our faculty and staff too.”

Harper’s initiatives are largely the result of a 12-person task force made up of faculty and staff that Ender assembled to determine how to make matters of diversity and inclusion among employees an institutional priority.

In addition to surveys, a cultural values assessment and an examination of best practices and human resources data, the task force submitted a report to Ender with a set of recommendations over the next five years.

According to the report, the college did make some progress between 2002 and 2012. Diversity among employees rose from 14.4 percent of full-time workers to 20.1 percent, including a 3.5 percent hike in faculty. Within administrative ranks, however, the number fell from a total of eight to six employees.

The task force also described the situation as a “revolving door,” with resignation rates for diverse employees disproportionately higher than overall rates in all but two years. The report noted that the percentages of diverse employees in most employee groups lagged behind demographics of the district’s residents.

In 2010, for example, Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 15.2 percent of Harper’s district but 9.2 percent of Harper’s workforce. Asian/Pacific Islanders comprised 12.1 percent of the district but only 6.4 percent of Harper workers. Those disparities were even more marked at the executive level.

Ender said Harper will form employee support groups for various underrepresented groups similar to those for students. The board of trustees noted that 34 percent of credit students are diverse, compared to 30 percent of district residents.

Other initiatives include implementing an internal marketing and communications plan, issuing diversity “score cards” at the department level and hiring a firm to conduct exit interviews to determine whether feelings of exclusiveness played a role in an employee resigning.

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Macomb’s melting pot … 92 languages, diverse foreign-born populations

By Chad Selweski; @cbsnewsman

Holden Elementary School in Sterling Heights displays in its lobby dozens of flags that represent all the countries of its diverse student body. From left to right are teacher Bill Piscopink; Adnan Kepes holds the flag of Bosnia; Merna Naeem and Rita Arfro are from Iraq; and Laila Muthanna and Kirollos Ibrahim are from Egypt. The Macomb Daily/DAVID DALTON

For decades, gritty, blue-collar Macomb County featured a substantial ethnic population but it has now become a melting pot where families from dozens of countries, many of them led by white-collar breadwinners, have settled in.

Almost 100 languages are now spoken across the county and in some residential areas the concentration of immigrants approaches 50 percent of the population.

Cities and townships that were once dominated by three ethnic groups — Germans, Italians and Poles — are now home to families who emigrated from Iraq, India, Albania, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine, Laos and Thailand.

“There’s this tremendous diversity, a rich diversity, in the immigrant groups of Macomb County and much of the entire region. We don’t have just Latinos or one group that dominates,” said Kurt Metzger, director of the Data Driven Detroit research firm.

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According to a new report produced by DDD and another group that studies Detroit area demographics, Global Detroit, much of Macomb’s foreign-born population has established residency along the Mound/Dequindre corridor in Warren and Sterling Heights. These ethnic clusters also spill over into Shelby Township, Troy and Madison Heights.

Macomb’s melting pot, its ethnic stew, features the largest Albanian population of any county in America. Yet the Albanians and other prominent ethnic groups are largely “invisible” because they are dispersed, according to the Global Detroit/DDD study.

Macomb County has no Chinatown or Mexicantown.

Susan Katulla of Sterling Heights, a Chaldean who came to the United States as an infant, said that the Mound/Dequindre corridor became a settlement location for immigrants and refugees almost by chance. The early Chaldeans — about 400 families in 1987 — were attracted by the jobs and low cost of living in Macomb County.

Many more followed, including refugees fleeing the Gulf War and Iraq War. The most recent estimates indicate 70,000 Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians live in Macomb County, with 25,000 to 30,000 located in Sterling Heights alone.

“There are businesses in that area that cater to ethnic communities, selling favorite foods, vegetables, spices,” said Katulla, vice chair of the Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee. “The people like to have family close to them. They want a place to shop that’s close to them. They want a church that’s close to them.”

Churches are ‘magnets’
For most of the immigrant enclaves, the church is the anchor of the community, the main draw for those seeking a place to live.

The Macedonian and Serbian communities built towering, ornate churches in Sterling Heights. The Sikh community last year constructed a temple, a gurdwara, nearby. The Assyrians, another sect of Iraqi Christians, established a church on Ryan Road in Warren. Filipinos were attracted to that same corridor by the number of Catholic churches, including some with priests that are first-generation immigrants from the Philippines, according to Betsy Henry, president of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce, located in Rochester Hills.

Another big draw is a Filipino cultural and activities center in Southfield and the huge annual picnic at Warren’s Halmich Park in June to celebrate Kalyaan, Independence Day for the Philippines. The event attracts 3,000 to 5,000 Filipinos of all generations.

“Filipinos are very fun-loving, gregarious people. They love to dance and sing,” Henry said.

Many of the recent arrivals to the United States entered on work visas. They are college-educated immigrants who were sponsored under a 3- to 5-year agreement with an employer. A large number have gone into the health care field as nurses or physical therapists.

Steve Tobocman, director of Global Detroit, said that robust immigration strengthens the local economy and creates more jobs, as highly skilled professionals and entrepreneurs make the Detroit area home. The immigration reforms pending in Congress would add to that momentum, he believes.

“People may tend to think of Macomb County as not as diverse as Wayne County or Oakland County, but some of the most concentrated populations of foreign-born immigrants are in Macomb,” said Tobocman, a former state House member who represented southwest Detroit.

Immigrant profile
The Global Detroit/DDD report depicts a flattering picture of the Detroit-area immigrant populace:

* 40 percent of the immigrant population has a bachelor’s or graduate-level college degree, significantly above the educational attainment of local residents who were born in the U.S.

* Two-thirds of foreign-born immigrants own their homes, and 52 percent have become naturalized citizens.

* The average income for this first-generation immigrant group is $61,000 for males and $41,000 for females.

* Foreign-born residents have a higher rate of employment — 90 percent vs. 84 percent for American-born workers — and only 7 percent work in the public sector.

* Immigrants have a much higher percentage of workers in four categories — management, business, science and the arts — than naturalized citizens.

* The foreign-born are much more likely to be married than American-born residents, and half as likely to be divorced.

In Macomb County, six sections — U.S. Census tracts — within the Sterling Heights Mound/Dequindre corridor feature foreign-born populations of 35 percent to 42 percent.

In the surrounding neighborhoods of Sterling Heights, Warren and Shelby Township, several census tracts are highlighted by foreign-born populations above 20 percent.

The assimilation of these newcomers from a vast array of nations falls on the school districts, nonprofit groups associated with particular ethnicities, and organizations such as Global Detroit. Assistance with finding housing, a job and dealing with “culture shock” are offered by numerous groups.

The Mount Clemens-based Interfaith Center for Racial Justice in 2007 launched a rotating, 5-week program of workshops called “Listen, Learn and Live” that teach residents about other cultures and religions. That effort, according to ICRJ Director the Rev. Michail Curro, expanded into week-long summer day camps run by two churches in south Warren for a diverse group of immigrant kids.

At the public schools, the biggest challenge is integrating kids into the American system of education and getting them into an English as a Second Language class.

92 languages
Immigrants in Macomb County schools speak at least 92 languages at home, according to Judy Pritchett, chief academic officer for the Macomb Intermediate School District. Of the approximately 10,000 K-12 students attending sessions known as English Language Learners classes, the vast majority are enrolled in the Warren Consolidated and Utica school districts.

Katulla, the lone Chaldean member of the Warren Consolidated school board, said her district provides interpreters via a two-way phone system to help immigrant parents communicate with teachers.

But the chasm some kids face in becoming functional in American society goes beyond language skills.

“Many of these kids have gaps in their education due to the trauma of war or persecution or family separations,” Katulla said. “We can have an eighth-grader who last went to school in the second grade.”

Parents also receive assistance with English language classes but Katulla said that at the Chaldean Community Foundation, where she works, sad stories abound. She offered the example of an immigrant pharmacist who was working a menial, 12-hours-a-day job and has no time to attend English-learning sessions so he can secure a job in his field.

“Many of these people have so much talent, but they speak no English,” she said.

While Macomb County may not have a Chaldeantown or an Indiantown, it once came close to establishing a Ukrainiantown.

In the 1960s, at a time when just a few big ethnic contingents were concentrated within the county populace, immigrants from Ukraine began migrating north from Hamtramck and surrounding Detroit neighborhoods to Warren, specifically the area at 11 Mile and Ryan.

The construction of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church was the “magnet” that sparked the exodus, according to Ukrainian community leaders. What followed was a Ukrainian housing complex, two Ukrainian credit unions where the tellers spoke the native language, and the Ukrainian Cultural Center, which features a large banquet room and has hosted former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

About a mile away, near 12 Mile and Dequindre, the remnants of the Ukrainians who had worshipped at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hamtramck established a K-12 Immaculate Conception school within a shuttered public school building. The high school eventually closed but the elementary school lives on. Over time, several Ukrainian sports clubs for kids have also been formed.

Andrey Duzyj, former president of the Ukrainian Cultural Center, said many of the older Macomb County Ukrainians have died off or moved on. But the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991 sparked a second exodus of immigrants from Ukraine, the former “Captive Nation,” to America in search of economic opportunity.

“They call themselves the ‘new wave’ — and that’s fine,” Duzyj said. “We just want to keep our heritage alive.”

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TISS Mumbai to celebrate linguistic diversity in India

Centre for Indian Languages in Higher Education is organizing The Indian Languages Mela in Mumbai to celebrate the linguistic diversity of daily experience and show how cognitive capacities are tied to that diversity.

It will do so by undertaking research training, incubating research projects, supporting the production of new curricular materials, and providing opportunities to make the teaching-learning experience more diverse.

The programme for the Mela includes a two-part seminar – Interrogating Pedagogic Practice, and Interrogating Translation Practice; an exhibition showcasing Indian-language scripts, visual and sound artefacts, and new digital interfaces; and cultural events involving theatre and music. The theme languages of this year will be Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi, although other languages will be brought in wherever relevant.

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As part of the Mela, the CILHE is calling all TISS students (Guwahati, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Tuljapur campuses) to send in entries for two competitions:

a. A two- or three-minute audio recording made on any digital device of your choice – the recording could be in a railway station, a bazaar, a street corner, a cafeteria or any other everyday location. Capture an interaction between two or more persons speaking in different languages about any topic. Prepare a poster interpreting what happens in your audio recording. Do remember to add an English translation of the interaction in your recording. Students are encouraged to use free editing software available for both Windows and Linux platforms. Posters can be in English or in any of the three theme languages. Group submissions are encouraged. Submissions over email are accepted.

b. Creation of a new article on any Indian language Wikipedia (preference will be given this time to Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati entries, but other languages will also be considered). Training workshops on editing Wikipedia will be held at each TISS campus during August 2013. Send us details of your Wikipedia entries and mention your Wikipedia UserName in your email.

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