Campbell River teachers expected to toe the line on service withdrawal

Public school teachers voted 73 per cent in favour of an action plan to protest Bill 22

All Campbell River teachers are expected to honour last week’s B.C. teachers’ vote to withdraw from extracurricular activities, says the head of the local teachers’ association.

Public school teachers voted 73 per cent in favour of an action plan to protest Bill 22 –  provincial government legislation which teachers say strips away their collective bargaining rights and imposes a government-appointed mediator to try and settle the ongoing labour dispute.

Susan Lambert, BC Teachers’ Federation President said it was an emotional vote for teachers.

“Teachers struggle with this…we know this will mean the loss of some highly-valued activities, and we sincerely regret that,” Lambert said in a release. “But we have to look at the bigger picture and the longer term.”

Education Minister George Abbott said the teachers’ action plan will pit teachers who want to continue coaching sports teams and running student clubs against those who will follow through on the vote.

Neil Thompson, president of the Campbell River District Teachers’ Association, said he doesn’t expect there to be any problems in School District 72, where there was strong support for the action plan.

“I’m advising teachers they need to follow the plan,” he said.

As for possible repercussions for those teachers who don’t?

“I’m not even thinking about that,” Thompson said. “We know for teachers this is not something they want to do, it’s something they have to do to support public education with a government that doesn’t. There’s an expectation out there by the public and, I would argue, senior management, that we must do these things (volunteer activities).”

The action plan is effective April 23 to June 30 of this year and could affect Grade 12 graduation ceremonies and sporting events such as the annual track meet, if school administrators, namely principals and vice-principals, as well as parents, don’t step up to volunteer.

“It was a very difficult decision for teachers to make because of the impacts of the action plan,” Thompson said. “The goal is to highlight to the public and government all the extra things teachers do because they enjoy working with kids.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Relations Board ruled Friday that school districts can order teachers to issue outstanding report cards and they must be ready by April 27.

Thompson said School District 72 has already ordered elementary and middle school teachers to write student progress reports.

“It’s an informal report, the LRB (Labour Relations Board) is clear it is not a report card, it’s an informal report that indicates where the student is at this time,” Thompson said.

Most teachers have refrained from writing report cards since the start of the school year as part of job action. Teachers began the school year without a contract and have been embroiled in a labour dispute with the province since last spring.

Thompson said since that time, there have been some misconceptions floating around.

“What I want to address is the perception that teachers are hurting kids,” Thompson said. “What’s hurting kids is what the government has done to kids and teachers in the classroom.

“The system is so under-funded. The class size and composition issues are a direct result of pulling out funding and not funding the collective agreement.

“In that contract, the government had to fund school districts at a certain level, but they ripped that contract up (in 2002).”

The BC Teachers’ Federation, said the current teacher contract, Bill 22, weakens limits on class size and composition.