Teachers, school boards grappling with imposed contract 

Many teachers in Whistler and throughout the corridor will not be resuming extra curricular activities any time soon.

"That’s what they are telling me," said Howe Sound Teachers’ Association president Marjorie Reimer.

"In Howe Sound, although we don’t have any union prohibition against extra-curricular activities, many teachers will be withdrawing their extra curricular help.

"They simply cannot continue to do the teaching that is so important in light of the kinds of conditions they can see coming."

Those conditions, said Reimer, are likely to include larger classes in some schools in the Squamish area next year.

"In a rural district like ours with small classes in the north we are anticipating big classes in the southern part of our district," said Reimer.

"It is grim for parents, grim for students, and grim for teachers."

Maureen Richmond, chairwoman of Whistler Secondary’s parent Advisory Committee is worried about the future.

"Larger class sizes are really a bad thing," she said.

"This is going to be hard on everyone. And as far as the kids go they have not won anything at all."

Richmond is hoping time will soften the blow of a legislated settlement on teachers and things will get back to normal.

Last weekend members of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation Representative Assembly met and drew up a "fight back" campaign to keep pressure on the government over their legislated settlement which gave them a 7.5 per cent pay increase over three year and moved issues such as class size into the School Act.

The BCTF’s roadmap of resistance includes:

• Focusing on support for learning activities of students and reducing time spent on administrative and other employer-initiated work requests;

• Teachers will not spend personal funds on school materials;

• Teachers will not provide coverage for a teacher who is absent, except for a teacher on call hired specifically for that purpose, unless ordered to do so;

• Teachers will not participate in fund-raising;

• Teachers will not supervise or mark FSA or district standardized tests;

• Teachers will not do work lost due to the job action.

The BCTF also wants teachers to meet with parents to discuss the impact of the governments action on students.

And they plan to produce a major province-wide review of student learning conditions in October.

School Boards are also reeling after being told they will have to come up with $150 million of teacher’s pay hikes out of their existing budgets.

The government will only pay for teacher’s salary increases this year, covering pay increases until June for educators.

Howe Sound School Board chairwoman Linda Rossler didn’t want to comment until she received official notification from the government.

But she would say: "We would certainly be concerned about covering it if indeed that is the case."

Reimer is concerned that one of the only ways to cover the teachers’ salary increase would be to cut the number of teachers, thereby increasing class size.

"I don’t know how else they can do it," said Reimer.

"It’s possible with the added flexibility that there will be different ways to think outside the box with education money but the districts across the province are not saying they are going to be able to do it."

Several school districts are already struggling to repay deficits.

The Kootenay-Columbia school district has a deficit of $1.7 million. It has voted to seek legal opinion on whether it can take the government to court for imposing a deal the province doesn’t intend to fund.

The province has also announced the new "accountability contracts" with school districts.

They are documents which outline the districts’ plans to improve student achievement and will be updated every year. No one signs them.

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