Students and teachers in the Howe Sound School District are heading back to school Tuesday, but teachers in the district are still waiting to hear what is happening with province-wide negotiations for teacher's contracts.
For the first time, collective agreements between B.C.'s 75 school boards and their teachers are being negotiated on a province-wide basis. The problem is many collective agreements have already expired, but what is going to be negotiated provincially and what aspects of contracts will be determined by local boards is still up in the air.
The collective agreement between the Howe Sound Board of Trustees and the Howe Sound Teachers Association expired in June, but the contract has been extended while negotiations continue between the B.C. Public Schools Employers Association, representing the Ministry of Education, and the BC Teachers Federation.
"The whole process started in February and the first item to discuss was what was on the provincial and local bargaining tables," says Ken Werker, a spokesperson for the BCPSEA, adding talks broke off for the summer, but are resuming with the return to classes.
While everything in B.C's educational scene seems to be steaming ahead business as usual, all of the province's teachers are going back to work with extensions of collective agreements which had expired. According to Werker, under the old agreements there is no "salary increase" possibility.
"At this point there is no timeline for a completion of the process… it's very complex," he says.
This year, the Howe Sound School District will employ 250 teachers, 150 support staff and 150 "others," according to Kathy Kukkonen, district personnel manager.
"It's basically the status quo for now," says Kukkonen. "There is always some employment adjustment after we count kids in September."
Student numbers, projected in a March 14, 1995 media release by Howe Sound Superintendent Doug Courtice had 4,054 students this year, up 117 from the 3,938 students that registered in 1994-95.
While the BCPSEA and the government figure out what will be negotiated where, Don Wilson, chair of the Howe Sound School District has appointed Whistler Trustee Ele Clarke as the board's representative in negotiations with the Howe Sound Teacher's Association. Clarke is a former teacher in the district, who relinquished her membership in the teacher's federation when she was elected a school trustee in 1993.