Disappointed in BCTF’s lack of flexibility

We are in support of the teachers’ job action and their fight for public education for our children

Filed for publication with the Mirror

Letter to BCTF President, Susan Lambert

We are in support of the teachers’ job action and their fight for public education for our children.

We also understand that teachers in our local school district must stay strong with the union stance and follow their direction.  However, we are very disappointed in the lack of flexibility shown by the BCTF to support an issue that directly affects the parents/guardians of elementary students.  It is our understanding that your office was contacted to request permission to hold an evening Christmas concert, but the request was denied.

The majority of our families have parents that both hold jobs, making it extremely difficult for them to take time off work to come to the school for an afternoon-only concert.  It should be noted that this year it is not only the Grade 6 students, but also the Grade 5 students that will be participating in their last Christmas concert (due to reconfiguration).  For most of these students, this will be the end of any fine arts presentation.

We do understand the restrictions placed upon teachers through this phase of job action, however, when the teachers themselves have volunteered their own personal time for the Christmas concert, we don’t understand the negative response as the outcome does nothing but penalize the parents and students themselves.

We note that there have been certain exceptions made whereby the teachers are allowed to volunteer their personal time for activities:  (1) sports teams that travel on weekends with the teacher coaches; (2) middle and high school band concerts; and (3) academic classes have travelled to Vancouver on weekends with their students for cultural events.

Is this because those items are deemed to be part of the curriculum?  If so, then the evening Christmas concert also supports the fine arts curriculum at an elementary level – the concert performances are learned and practiced during scheduled music time.  Isn’t a music teacher a vocal “coach” for students – how does this differ from a sports coach?

It is understood that a school-wide performance may put pressure on all teachers in the school to “volunteer” their evening time for supervision of students.

We have more than enough parent volunteers to supervise children in classrooms for the evening Christmas concert so that any teachers that did want to come for the evening would not be expected to do supervision. This is directly comparable to school family dances, which apparently have been allowed on the basis that teachers are not there to supervise students, it’s their choice to attend. This would leave the music teacher the only one actively involved in the evening concert – is this not the same as the band director at a middle/high school band concert open to the whole school?

You have been contacted to have a discussion about how the union’s position concerning an evening performance could be interpreted/structured to allow for support of the teachers under the current job action, but it does not appear that there is a willingness to assist in coming to a mutually beneficial decision.

This letter has been written to communicate how strongly the negative effect of your decision is being felt directly by parents and students (not administration, trustees, or the provincial government).

Quite frankly, the outcome is one that appears to be prejudicial to the elementary community.

It is our understanding that the final decision was made just prior to our Nov. 14 PAC meeting and it has not yet been announced to our general school population. When it is announced, we are anticipating that there will be a lot of disappointed, if not devastated, parents. It really is discouraging to know that our giving parental support to the teachers while they try to effect a positive educational change in our province is not reciprocated by the BCTF giving any flexibility to an issue that is so very important to the parents, students and staff. The Christmas concert has always been a hugely emotional tradition within elementary schools that celebrates the spirit of the season and the sense of community – we really don’t have any other opportunity/event that replaces it.

Lotte Gardner

Jane Thornton-Hughes

Glenda Wanner

Linda Missio

Deb Jager

Karen Worsley

On behalf of the Georgia Park P.A.C.

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