David Lepofsky Email to Pat Case and Claudine Munroe

From: David Lepofsky, Board member, Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children
To: Pat Case and Claudine Munroe, Assistant Deputy Ministers of Education
CC: Stephen Lecce Minister of Education
Nancy Nayler, Deputy Minister of Education
Yael Ginsler, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education
Claudine Santos, President Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children

Date: March 22, 2021

Re: Sub-Standard Training for Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Ontario

I write as a follow-up to our phone call on March 22, 2021, on an unrelated topic. During I call, I explained that Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (also known as Views for the Visually Impaired) has now been waiting for well over three years for the Ministry of Education to take meaningful action to upgrade Ontario’s sub-standard training for and inadequate supply of teachers of the visually impaired TVIs. So far, there has been no progress, and no Ministry plan of action that will produce progress.

Ontario’s vulnerable Children and youth with vision loss are the victims of this abject Government failure. It is sadly illustrative of the recurring poor second-class treatment of students with low incidence disabilities at the hands of the Ministry of Education and Ontario’s education system.

I pleaded with you for prompt and meaningful Ministry action on this. Among other things, I asked that Mr. Case, the Ministry’s senior lead on equity, be directly engaged in this issue,. The Ministry’s ongoing systemic failure to effectively address this need is a glaring denial of equity.

Three years ago, during our first round of discussions over this, we were told that Mr. Martyn Beckett had the lead on this, and would get back to us with a progress report by a stated time line. He ultimately never got back to us by his own stated deadline. He retired, with no one telling us at the time, and with no one assigned to take up leadership on this issue. We later received a deep apology from the Ministry for this failure to follow up.

Last spring, we gave a detailed briefing over the phone to Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for special education, Mr. Jeff Butler, and sent him a detailed letter. We received no written response. We saw no further action by him on this issue.

Later we were told that Ms. Demetra Saldaris Had the lead responsibility for this issue, under the leadership of Assistant Deputy Minister Ms. Yael Ginsler. We spoke to Demetra Saldaris at length last summer. We have heard nothing further. We now learn that she has left the Ministry for the Ontario College of teachers. No one told us of that departure at the time. No replacement as lead on this issue was designated.

Late last summer, after an item on the national news, our president Claudine Santos had a phone call with your Minister. Shortly after that, Ms. Santos and I your Deputy Minister. Yet again, we have seen no further progress on this issue.

During our last discussions with Demetra Saldaris Last summer, we spoke of the need for the Ministry to convene a meeting with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children, the CNIB, the Ontario College of Teachers, and a university such as York University’s Faculty of Education. We were told that the Ministry was supportive. No such meeting has been held, or even scheduled. How hard can it be to set up a virtual meeting such as that? How many permissions can be needed within the Government before such a meeting can be organized?

I was told during today’s conversation that there has been action taken within the Ministry. We have been told nothing about this.

As discussed we would very much appreciate it if we can receive a concrete update on what has been done, what is planned, and by when it is to be done. Can we get that meeting now set up, virtually, with the organizations listed above.

We documented in our June 18, 2020 brief to the Ministry of Education tat during COVID-19, the situation facing too many students with vision loss has gotten worse. This has continued to this day. These students and their families deserve better from Ontario’s education system.

We remain eager to help make progress in this area. Please help.

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