Teachers free to lead school teams and clubs 

Volunteering outside school hours no longer a sticking point for teachers

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This school year teachers are free to take on extracurricular activities if they choose.

This is a contrast to last school year when the labour dispute between teachers and their employer led to a union directive to work to rule and refuse any volunteer roles, like coaching sports teams, leading school clubs or going on field trips outside of school hours.

Carl Walker, the new president of the Sea to Sky Teachers' Association, has confirmed that each individual teacher across the province is free to make their own decisions regarding involvement in extracurricular activities with students.

"Teachers will make up their own minds about whether they participate," said Walker from his teachers' union office in Squamish. "There's no direction from the union about extracurricular. We're not encouraging or discouraging it."

While teachers and the province were operating without a contract last year, teachers refused to take on any duties outside of school hours. Many school sports, school clubs and multi-day field trips were cancelled or never organized. School administrators and parents supervised the activities that went ahead.

Ian Kent, the assistant superintendent of schools, said all indicators are suggesting there's no pressure on teachers regarding extracurricular activities.

"We're proceeding as if it is back to normal this year," said Kent.

The teachers and the province reached a deal late in the school year. The current collective agreement will expire on June 30, 2013.

Walker said contract talks are expected to begin in March, well ahead of the contract expiry, which coincides with the completion of the school year.

Pemberton parent Trish Sturdy said she doesn't anticipate any problems this year, but she noted that parents play key roles in coaching Pemberton school teams. She feels the teacher sponsors serve only to meet liability and insurance requirements related to running a sports team.

"In many trips in the past when we've taken a teacher there appears to be zero purpose for that teacher," said Sturdy. "The teacher doesn't attend the games, they don't travel with the team."

On top of the minimal participation of the teacher, Sturdy said the team is obliged to cover the travel costs to get the teacher to games played out of town.

"That is just ridiculous, in my opinion," said Sturdy.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent of Schools is looking for community feedback on the future of education in School District 48. Lisa McCullough is heading up the creation of a new strategic plan. In revising the school district's vision, mission and values she plans to create three to five guiding principles or foundational statements to guide the district into the future.

"We will start asking questions about the most important piece first," wrote McCullough in a letter sent to all parents of students from Britannia to D'Arcy.

McCullough and the board of school trustees are looking for answers to the following questions:

• Where do we want to go?

• What do we hope our students will know and be able to do in the future?

• What are the attributes and competencies of successful learners?

Armed with parents' answers to these questions, McCullough plans to share back what was learned then ask further questions to lead to the creation of the new strategic plan.

As part of the initiative a new website (www.sd48learns.org) is to be launched today containing the information collected through the process.

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