Open letter to MPP John Yakabuski on behalf of Renfrew County secondary school teachers

The Current prints this open letter to Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski from Christian Sell, President OSSTF District 28 (shown above speaking at a labour rally in Pembroke in September 2019).


I recently noticed your ad in a local newspaper wishing us a happy new year and also asking if you could help.

The answer from any of your constituents concerned about the direction your government is taking with education is YES.

How might you help?

As a cabinet minister here in Ontario, you can help by taking the message to the Ontario government that schools within your riding are already struggling to meet the needs of every student in Renfrew County, especially those in the smallest schools in our district and our most vulnerable students. If the government’s plan to increase the average class size to 28 were to be realized, our most vulnerable students are the ones that are going to suffer the most. It would mean 25 percent of the caring adults in our schools would no longer be there to support the students who need them the most. In Pembroke (Fellowes) it would mean about 11 fewer teachers (66 fewer course offerings), in Arnprior it would mean 10 fewer teachers (60 fewer course offerings), in each of Renfrew (RCI), Opeongo, and Petawawa it would mean roughly 7 fewer teachers (42 fewer course offerings), in Barry’s Bay it would mean about 6 fewer teachers (36 fewer course offerings), and in Deep River it would mean 4 fewer teachers (24 fewer course offerings).  In this current school year, the average class size increased to 22.5 from 22, and the number of difficult decisions that had to be made at the expense of our kids was troubling.

It meant some classes had to be cut, some had to be combined, some had to be offered by e-learning (more about that later). Each of these decisions did not make education better for our kids here in Renfrew County. Any greater increase in class size, would only multiply the number of cuts that were already made for this current school year. (Education Minister Lecce’s suggestion that 25 to 1 is a decrease is a false statement, 25 to 1 would multiply the number of cuts already made for this school year by a factor of 6). You are our representative in the Ontario legislature and we need you to be our voice. You can help on this issue!

You can help by demanding that mandatory e-learning for all students be quashed, as it will most definitely cause graduation rates to fall, both in Renfrew County and across the province. Locally, e-learning has been a platform that many of our university bound students are already accessing to gain the prerequisites necessary for the programs they hope to take at the post-secondary level. Our students in Renfrew County, and again in our smallest schools especially, already have to take a disproportionate number of e-learning courses compared to those students of bigger, urban areas. Of these students who take e-learning in our district, most would tell you that an e-learning platform is nothing like having a face-to-face teacher delivering the course. E-learning is anything but optimal for our top students and would be impossible for many struggling students in our system. To make e-learning mandatory would block access to a high school diploma for some of our students (again, the most vulnerable). Firstly, internet, let alone high speed internet, is not accessible to every student in Renfrew County; for some it is because of a lack of infrastructure, for others it is because of the sheer cost of internet – how can the government mandate a platform that not all students can access equally? Secondly, the supports that many of our most vulnerable students need in a regular classroom to be successful would not be available, nor be accessible, through an e-learning platform. If e-learning were to be mandatory for all students, those captured in the groups listed above simply would not be able to graduate.

For myself these two issues alone in education, class size and mandatory e-learning, are the ones YOU CAN HELP us solve moving forward.


Christian Sell

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, District 28, President for Renfrew County


  1. Barb Cardwell

    Gerry, although Finland has a great educational system, there are so many other factors of their society we would need to/should adopt as well. The 5th year of education for teachers there (Masters degree) is paid for by the state. Parents get 3 years of maternity leave and free child care. Teachers have been given equal status with doctors and lawyers, and it’s a well respected profession, unlike here. Although they too support integration of all students with disabilities or learning challenges, they supply a full compliment of support staff – aides or special ed teachers in every classroom. Here’s all of that has been taken away. So yes, they have a much better system, but a totally different culture and societal norms, and they provide all the support teachers need in order to do their jobs. Read more here:

  2. Gerry Beanish

    Perhaps we should look at Finland’s education system, the best in the world as a role model. Only 1 in 10 teachers here would be qualified to teach there. Class sizes are similar to Ontario’s, but teacher salaries are 25% less in Finland.
    If teachers here upgraded to their standards and adopted their pay scale, an agreement could be reached tomorrow without increasing class sizes.

  3. John Yakabuski : you need to step up to the plate. John, how is that 20% increase in your Toronto housing allowance working for you…and your lucrative pension, which is not far off? Show us that you can make a positive contribution in our Ontario legislature. Don’t let ford intimidate you, like he did with Randy Hillier!

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