Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Education issues set to simmer through the summer

"This is not a district that can afford two substantial severance packages, in as many years. This is money that could be used to provide additional assistance to our students with special needs, increasing teacher librarian time, or reducing our class sizes" -- The closing points to a recent letter to the editor of the Daily News, from Joanna Larson of the PRDTU, setting the tone for the current state of relations between teachers and administration at School District 52

Students may be taking a break by the end of this week with little thought of the classroom until September, but for a number of levels of education on the North coast, the upcoming summer could be a very interesting and hot one on the educational labour front.

The last few weeks have seen a number of flashpoints in labour relations come to pass both in School District 52 and over at the Lax Kw'alaams Academy.

School District 52 has once again reached the end of a school year with a bit of controversy nipping at its heels, as recent administrative changes have given cause to a few raised eyebrows and concerns that the focus of the District is being placed on bureaucratic politics, rather than academic achievement and support for students.

At the last school board meeting of the year, local leaders of the PRDTU expressed their concern over the deteriorating level of relations between the teachers' union and the board administration. With a high volume of grievances filed over the spring staffing and bumping provisions, the fear of morale issues was raised with the teacher's union expressing it's thoughts on the recent moves in those areas of the school District.

Another item that has come up on the radar of local teachers, parents and ratepayers is the recently announced retirement of assistant superintendent Leah Robinson, who will take a leave of absence for the coming school year and then retire in July of 2011.

That move has set in motion a string of changes to the administration roster, involving the moving of administration personnel into  new positions and in some cases split duties. The increase to the administration ranks is just one of a number of items that the local teacher's union had on their list regarding the current state of events with the School District.

Many of those concerns were addressed in a letter to the editor penned by Joanna Larson, the acting president of the PRDTU who submitted them to the Daily News editorial page on June 16.

Letter to the Editor
Prince Rupert Daily News
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

To the Editor, 

In response to the article titled ‘School board, teachers in dispute’ June 14, 2010 Prince Rupert Daily News. 

The Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union was not able to respond to the comments of Hugh Finlayson, and Tina Last in this article. It is however, important for us to correct inaccuracies contained in the article. 

BCPSEA CEO Hugh Finlayson reported that the ‘hard bump’ protocol that teachers and the school district have agreed to use for the past eleven years was an agreement to waive the provisions of the collective agreement. Either Mr. Finlayson is unfamiliar with the Prince Rupert Collective Agreement, or he was given misinformation from our school board. 

The ‘hard bump’ protocol originally agreed upon in the spring of 1999, and continued for more than a decade, did not require any provision in our collective agreement to be waived. Not a single grievance arose for more than a decade when this protocol was in use. 

Today there have been 88 grievances filed since May alleging contract violations directly relating to the new process the board has made the decision to impose upon our teachers this year. 

Mr. Finlayson also states the hard bump process is the most disruptive of the layoff processes and may displace the greatest number of teachers and cause more layoffs than would otherwise occur. The current process the school district is using, served 27 teachers with notices of termination in order to place five teachers declared surplus to their sites. 

The protocol Mr. Finlayson claims to be more disruptive would have required not a single notice of termination. The district has been upfront that there would be a reduction of 3.5 teachers in our district. With 8 retirements and at least 3 resignations, the hard bump process used for the past decade would have resulted in no new notices of termination. 

In response to the growing division between the PRDTU and the school board, teachers have spoken with all trustees throughout the past year. Letters have been written, and presentations made. The only consistent response we have received is that trustees are, and were unaware of any problems between teachers and their employer. The last letter sent to the Board addressing this poor working relationship was sent on May 26th. To date, there has been no response. 

It is troubling to note that while the number of teachers in the district has been reduced, the number of administrators has increased. The union is also deeply concerned with the two recent appointments made to senior management. 

Part of the process of placing these individuals into senior management positions involved awarding a senior administrator a severance package. This is not a district that can afford two substantial severance packages, in as many years. This is money that could be used to provide additional assistance to our students with special needs, increasing teacher librarian time, or reducing our class sizes. 

- Joanna Larson, Acting President Prince Rupert Teachers’ Union, Local 52

Some of the review of School District 52 News from various media options in the last few weeks.

CFTK TV 7-- More staffing changes at SD 52
Daily News - School Board, teachers in dispute
CFTK TV 7 News- SD #52 Assistant Superintendent taking leave of absence during 2010/2011 school year. 
CFTK TV 7 News - More School District 52 changes

Lax Kw'alaams also has a summer of discontent to work out, as local teachers there seek a unionized work environment.

The drive towards a union came about after a pair of high profile dismissals from the Academy took place, resulting in a number of those teachers remaining on staff seeking out guidance from the BCGEU. And while teacher representatives seem a little surprised at the sudden glare of the media on the issue, the process towards a union seems to be in motion.

Daily News -- Lax Kw’ alaams school goes union
CFTK TV 7 News-- Union Organizes at Lax Kw'alaams School

No comments: