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REPORTING · 25th February 2012
Walter McFarlane
Debbra Thame Got up to address the Board of Trustees on behalf of the Terrace District Teachers Union about one of last months motions. She asked them to reconsider their motion to the BCSTA 2012 provincial Council. She asked for the motion not to be submitted or to be withdrawn.

The motion asked the BC government to find a resolution to end the negotiations in the labour dispute through intervention.

“This board has stated in numerous meetings that they would like to improve teacher moral and have a more open and positive relationship with their teacher employees,” said Debbra.

The board chair, Art Erasmus has stated publicly: the board do not want to take sides in this dispute and they will not call for a legislated end to the Dispute. She expressed the motion takes sides and the most likely way for the government to end the dispute is legislation given comments by the government.

She expressed the decision will end up in the government and not in the local board who should be speaking up for their students, staff and the lack of funding. She stated the motion had bulleted points which the teachers found offensive and unsubstantiated. This has damaged the relationship with the teachers.

“In your rational, you state that phase one is having a serious impact on many students and families in our communities. We would argue that it is having minimal effect on students and families. Teachers are continuing with their instruction. In many cases, our members are reporting that without the added time required to complete administrative functions, attend staff meetings and supervision, their lessons and instructions have been improved by utilizing that time to plan, execute and reflect on lessons and instruction more thoughtfully,” said Thame.

She explained the labour action has not limited extra curricular activities. They are still occurring in the schools. Teachers stepping back from these activities can not be attributed to the job action.

Thame told the board teachers are still reporting on their student’s progress directly to the parents, job action or not. The teachers talk regularly with parents and the parents can communicate directly with teachers. Parents have told the union they are having more frequent and more meaningful communication with teachers.

Thame stated teachers are still communicating with professional staff. They are still communicating with specialists, agencies and professional development opportunities to ensure the needs of the students are being met.

She questioned the need for workers in the professional staff to require a degree in education to supervise students on the playground and how this is leading deteriorating student behaviour and to unsafe schools.

“This statement is not true, and does not give credit to the excluded staff for the services they are providing. Supervising students on a playground does not require an educational background. It requires common sense and diligence to adhering to and applying rules and consequences. At no time did my education degree give me formal instruction in how to supervise students on a playground and we are not aware of our CUPE colleagues being given formal instruction in supervising strategies to be able to fulfill their lunch hour supervision duties either,” said Thame.

She expressed the union is aware of comments made by administrators complimenting the behaviour of students on the playground. She stated if the District has safety concerns, there is a process for addressing these issues. The School District has utilized this process in several schools where teachers are providing supervision during this action as safety is just as big a priority for teachers.

The final statement the School Board made about the unprofessional display at the bargaining table was offensive to both the teachers and the people representing the school board at the bargaining table. The union does not believe either party is inept, they have opposing views on negotiations and are locked in a stalemate. However, these representatives representing the boards are getting their orders from the government, not from the School Board.

She suggested a motion for Trustees to make which came from which came Cowichan. The motion would allow Trustees to share teachers concerns for quality classroom conditions, understand students and staff are counting on them to press for their best interests and are responsible for the conditions in the schools.

The motion asked the board to support for a just collective agreement including improved classroom support, support for students and a fair wage increase. In addition, if the negotiations continue in stalemate, the group bargaining on behalf of the government should stand aside and let the government negotiate directly.

Other boards are supporting the call to mediation, an opposite motion to what the Cost Mountain School District past in January. She pointed out if the motion made in January was meant to reduce the work load by administrative staff, the mandated changes to the education system over the past couple of years have added to the work load which teachers have had do. All of which did not have the support, finances or resources to implement them.

“It appears one sided, that when the stress is on administrators, the board takes a public stand and calls for action, but when the stress is on teachers, the board remains publicly quiet. A labour dispute is not easy on either party involved. It creates tension and uncertainty, but this action is not significantly affecting students and families. Teachers in this province do not take such actions lightly,” said Thame.

The union developed an action plan which would highlight the issues and place pressure on government, employers and representatives and not students and families. She requested once again for them to withdraw the motion and make a motion to support mediation.

Liz Thorn, Communications Director from Kitimat District Teachers Association also got up to speak. She stated teachers have used up a Thesaurus worth of adjectives to describe the motion which was made and passed at last months meeting.

“What we’d like to point out is the damage that you have done to yourselves and to your relations with your employees,” said Thorn. “I’ve been around long enough to know that most teachers feel that our board are elected citizens who are acting in good faith and trying to do the best they can in a difficult situation. We may not agree with what you decide to do but mostly, we don’t pay allot of attention. We do our jobs to the best of our ability and rely on our executive members.”

She said it was the legal right of any group of employees to bargain collectively and what was done by their employer 10 years ago was illegal. They have the right and a court order to address this wrong. Teachers have long memories and pride as professionals who are good at what they do.

“To call us anything else is a kick in the teeth,” said Thorn. “That’s what it was. It was a kick in the teeth. And whatever positive relationship you may have had with us on an individual basis in the past is now gone.”

She said other boards are asking for a speed up for negotiations and reach settlement. They asked to have a contract forced upon the school board. She stated the nonsense motion they passed last month does not speak highly of the boards judgement.

She thanked them for their time.

Watch it on Kitimat Daily Videos

Fraser Institute Doesn't Paint the Whole Picture
Comment by Courtenay on 20th March 2012
The Fraser Institute consistently ranks private schools and lower mainland schools at the top of their list for many reasons, none of which acknowledge the difficult job many Northern BC and rural community teachers face every day of every school year.
Small communitites do not get the same funding or availability of extra curricular activities that many urban school enjoy. Mind you, urban schools have their problems too (for example, more competition to get into said extra curriculars).
It is a well recognized fact that socioeconomic factors influence how well children do in school. No, it does not guarantee anything...there are children from disparate backgrounds who are incredibly successful, and students from well-to-do families who end up failing. However, families who care to take the time to enrol their children in a private school, who care to do what it takes to pay the tuition, are more likely to be the same parents who help their children with homework, send them to school with a full tummy, etc. This is why many people (and teachers) see that students in private school often excel over those in public schools.
My mom has been teaching in Northern BC's public schools for almost 35 years. She has had classes of upwards of 30 students split across grades 2-4, with up to 80% having behavioural issues, learning disabilities and/or home life issues (no food, no clean clothes, no basic school supplies, etc.) with NO teacher's assistant. Do you honestly think you'd find this in the private school system?
Stop thinking in absolutes and you will stop seeing the insult in what is really a description of the reality many public school teachers face...This is why they need our support, not our criticism. Because even the absolute best teacher in the entire world (and call me biased, but I think my mom is fantastic!) can't help every single student to excel when they are faced with difficult classroom conditions and composition.
One more point.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 1st March 2012
There are likely some positives for some people at private schools. If so, why is it necessary to denigrate public schools in order to make your point. As I said before: public schools can not select their students by religion or work ethic or culture or abilities. Public schools are required to take all students even those who drop out of private schools. If the "in product" is not the same then why would you expect the "out product" to be. We have the Fraser Institute with it comparison data drawing unscientific conclusions. Their agenda has always been contract out education to the private sector for a profit that can be made.

So if there are strengths for private schools fine talk about them, but don't "insult" public schools which do a very fine job for a very general population of great diversity in value system, culture, economic status, abilities, behaviour, needs, interests and home support.
You might check the facts!
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 1st March 2012
Are you suggesting that there are no incompetent teachers in a private school? I know that is a myth. What do private schools pay in salary and benefits compared to public schools and why would any competent professional work for less in a private school than a public school teacher? The BCTF has been approached by private school teacher groups before. It usually results in the benefits for private school teachers getting increased before a certification drive is launched. Now as I recall the government once tried to make union membership voluntary. Bennett tried it and figured he would get rid of the BCTF. It didn't work because the percentage who signed up voluntarily was somewhere in the 90's.

Also your comment "rid the teachers of the burden of a union which spends it's time enlarging the member base and promoting incompetence by virtue of seniority." really has no basis in fact. The membership base is determined by enrolment and outside the control of the union. Very few teachers see the union as a burden but most see it as some protection against employers living in the 16th century.. Also there are standard ways to get rid of incompetent staff except that it is determined by professional administrative staff and requires a measure of due process not at the whim of non professionals. That is how it should be as everyone is entitled to a fair hearing and a union can be sued by its members for failure to represent them.

Private Schools
Comment by Ken Ryan on 1st March 2012
I agree with previous comment regarding private schools! Private schools give the student a huge bang for their buck and rid the teachers of the burden of a union which spends it's time enlarging the member base and promoting incompetence by virtue of seniority. There are still many, many teachers who would rather do their job teaching than be governed by politicians and unions.
No worries..
Comment by MaggieJo Johnson on 28th February 2012
No worries, Helmut. We need and appreciate your dialogue.

I have been of firm mind many times, which on the odd occassion changed during an exchange. So please keep it coming as we agree to disagree...or agree to agree...or throw our hands up together in dismay. The more comments the better. Just like making a stew - the more ingredients - the better.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 27th February 2012
Don't just read one line,... but I'm always happy to be amusing.
Careful now.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 27th February 2012
That does not mean we have to agree on everything. It does not mean we can't have firmly held beliefs. But public schools were intended to give everyone the opportunity to acquire skills to become positive functioning members of society. A critical mind helps.
Comment by MaggieJo Johnson on 27th February 2012 utterly CRACK me up!

So....according to your official mediated statement..."we live in a society where everyone is supposed to get along."

THANK YOU for publicly declaring that!

I don't know if you truly realize the impact of your online statement in that regard...realizing how you realize the power of the words you just put online....but it's out there now. THANK YOU for that comment!

Yes, indeed. We ALL need to get along.

Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 27th February 2012
I said that based on my experience, I prefer public schools. That does not mean that I "hate" private schools - as I went to one of them. Maybe you are assuming something in that comment that is not present. But there are differences and I pointed to a personal experience in one specific case that highlights it pretty dramatically. We were talking about whether someone insulted someone else and I don't see it.

We live in a society where everyone is suppose to get along and we try to teach mutual respect for cultures and opinions. We are suppose to open minds to new ideas, teach tolerance and living in harmony with others and the environment not restrict minds by some religious doctrine. We teach equality not inequality. Keeping people in an intellectually insulated and protective environment is not always a good thing and not for all people. I know about that because I still communicate and visit with former classmates of private school.

If it works for you that is fine but please don't see insults when people point to the homogeneity of one feeder population and the disparity of another.
Comment by MaggieJo Johnson on 27th February 2012

We must'a posted our comments at the exact same time today cuz I have a feeling you didn't read my previous comment.

I truly do respect you as an educated member of our Terrace Community, and thank you for engaging in conversation that way.

However, I do find it quite dismaying that after all the personal sacrifices that my family pulled these past 2 decades to raise our children (PLUS numerous "unregistered" foster children who were my childrens' pals) to be good, productive members of Society... is promptly shunned by comments like yours to bring on this site regarding Private schools. I am utterly shocked that you, being a prominent member of our Community would take such a public stance on just one mere personal experience you encountered while assisting an acquaintance in the Private School registration process.

Despite our family's personal humble financial status, we spent YEARS paying private school tuition; often forgoing going out to the Theatre or dinners in efforts to support the children we are responsible for when bringing them into this world. Darn rights, I'll do everything I can to support them! Who needs a professional manicure anyway... like the rest of my galpals boast about pulling every two weeks?! Besides, I'm not into the GERM factor while not being reassured the tools are not completely dissinfected to use on ME after a previous manicured client.

And do I really need to book hairlight appts every month in efforts to look younger than my own age? Yeah...NO! I will put that $$$ down to support the children I brought into this world cuz I'm a responsible parent. I can pull my own home manicures and dye my own hair at a mere $12.99/box.

The extra money I save goes to the children... who I was of sound mind to bring into this world knowing my full responsiblity in that regard. Darn rights I'm going Private vs Public school. Research it, Helmut. The stats speak for themselves.
Comment by Janice Robinson on 27th February 2012
I do not think the School Board's primary intent is to insult the poor teachers, and I accept that the teachers do not see their words and actions as being insulting to anybody. Thank you for your relies to my comments.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 27th February 2012
Private schools have a built in selection process which often involves religion and sometimes economic status. I think I said they have the option of not accepting a student who does not meet what ever standards are set. Public schools can not do that for any reason. That is not an insult against anyone it is simply the truth.

Whether I consider myself a teacher (retired) or a politician (retired) is a non issue. Frankly I don't consider myself as either. I'm simply writing as any individual presenting a point of view based on my experience attending a private school and public school for a time (an experience that made me prefer the public school system) and teaching as well as being in politics. It is my point of view.

As for details, they are immaterial. I remember the school down south; I remember the parent and student for whom I made the inquiry.

The public school system was designed for a purpose and that was so every child would have a equality in education regardless of financial or other means. It requires proper funding and a highly educated teacher workforce. If you are going to compare the "end product" of public and private schools as the Fraser Institute loves to do, we should at least understand the variations in the "product" going into each system. That is not an insult.
Nofin' wrong with the Private schools...
Comment by MaggieJo Johnson on 27th February 2012
We come from a very humble home & modest lifestyle. My two older sons attended private school from K-Gr 7 and now my daughter is enrolled as well. The oldest boy has grown to be a productive member of Society in his vocational realm; while his brother continues to maintain Honor Roll Status with that excellent Private School elementary foundation in place.

The Private school they attended is fully staffed to tend to the needs of each individual child including those of special needs where Teaching Assistants are permanently assigned to those of special personally follow/support them through from K-Gr 7. That's an eight year long committment for these Teacher's Aides!

I have never heard of a Private School denying access to a child on the mere judgement that they are not "up to scruff" or that they don't come from the Community's elite (like we see on those drama shows on TV). If anything, if there is a high demand in registrations, the applicants are reviewed to give first seatings to the families who are tolerable of supporting the school's Christian mandates. I suspect if there are a large number of special needs applicants... there may be consideration to accepting further applications(s) based on the current status of what extra resources are in place to take on a huge influx of extra special needs children above the norm.

The private school systems offer a BC Ministry of Education Curriculum built on the formation of faith and character development. ALL of the teachers are certified with the BC College of Teachers for teaching; including a most fantastic Music Program, PE and Library. Special needs students are supported and students from all faith backgrounds are welcomed.

The private school system is underfunded by the Gov't while the staff agree to take a most significant paycut in what they could earn teaching in the public school system. That's how much teaching in a private sector is important to these private school teachers. They take a significant paycut as opposed to their peer'ed Colleagues working in the Public Sector. Pretty commendable, heh?

And time after time, the private schools rock the charts. You know...the charts that the public teachers keep adamantly stating is an unfair reflection on public school students progress??? There has to be SOME merit in the Fraser Valley Institute's stats as Veritas Catholic School repeatedly comes on top in the School district by an extremely wide margin, surpassing even their own previous ratings...followed in hot pursuit by the Christian Centennial School.

Just saying...
Comment by Janice Robinson on 27th February 2012
Will you share which private school(s) discriminate in the manner you describe? I remember the day when public schools sent their "problem students" to Catholic School, where they often thrived. Still today, students who have problems in public schools find acceptance and success in a variety of private schools. Why?

Teachers need to accept some responsibility for the dismal failure of the public school system. I believe they should be held accountable for their part.....or lack of it.

Helmut, do you still consider yourself a teacher? Or, a politician? When does one stop being a teacher and/or a politician? Upon "retirement? Are the two compatible?

I am addressing this issue from my roles as a teacher, student, and concerned family member. I believe in freedom of choice. Public or private? Let the consumer choose.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 26th February 2012
I can't see any example of an Insult directed at anyone in your third paragraph example. It is a fact that the public school system takes every student that walks in the door and is of school age. It ia a requirement by law. It is also a fact that private schools are not required to do so.

Years ago I offered to make some inquiries for a parent about a private school in BC. I spoke to the head master and clearly recall at some point in the conversation when I asked him if they had any students with behavioural problems? He made a point of telling me, "No we don't, if they can't meet the standards required here they have public schools to go to." He wasn't trying to be cheeky, it was an accepted fact.

Now I'll concede that I don't follow the CBC website "conversations" you mention but nothing in your post qualifies as an insult... at least not as you described it.
"Teachers" have been very insulting also.
Comment by Janice Robinson on 26th February 2012
I have been keeping an eye on this conflict on the CBC website. B.C. teachers, and their supporters, have been passionately active on that website...all day, every day. I have witnessed B.C. teachers and/or their supporters being disrespectful, threatening and slanderous towards anybody who may question, disagree or offer alternatives to this sad saga involving the government of British Columbia. Like it or not, this government represents us...the people.

Yesterday, I offered an opinion regarding the involvement of private schools. Another commenter offered some statistics about successes of private schools versus public schools.

Instead of choosing to insult me or the other commenter, the participating teachers decided to insult their own students! Their replies basically said that the reason private schools are more successful than public schools is....."because when it comes to students, the private schools get the cream of the crop." Another teacher chimed in, "Yes, we work with what we're given. We have no choice about the calibre of student sitting in front of us."

I believe parents should be given the choice to enroll their children in private or public school. I believe our government should fully support/subsidize whatever school the parents/children choose.

(Let the insults begin!)
What's IME and CYA?
Comment by c. sandecki on 25th February 2012
Please include a glossary of your abbreviations for people like me who prefer to spell out words.
These issues
Comment by blocky bear on 25th February 2012
make me feel old,ministry employing divisive tactics, teachers complaints about class size (rightly so, IME) schoolboard trying to CYA. Insofar as the Coast Mountain District is concerned they are tracking years behind with budget cuts and school closures. With the big increase of construction in the area will come increased need for education demands! Will it not?d.b.