This school year should be much more calm than the past one

After a tumultuous school year, Comox Valley teachers and administrative staff hope for smoother sailing this year.

After a tumultuous school year, Comox Valley teachers and administrative staff hope for smoother sailing this year.

With teacher contract negotiations at the forefront of many minds during the past school year, the tension was palpable, especially in the second half of the year.

But with an agreement between teachers and their employer signed in June, School District 71 superintendent Sherry Elwood hopes this year will be more calm.

“I would hope that all of our employees that are coming back, including senior staff, that this year — looking forward to a positive, maybe more stable climate than we had experienced last year that we’re all looking to regain the pathway towards the implementation of 21st century learning,” she said. “I think that most of us are relieved that there was an agreement at the very end of the year so that we can get on and refocus around student learning and teaching.”

The school year started with teacher job action, which included withdrawal from some administrative tasks, and the situation escalated from there.

Teachers walked off the job for three days in March, and shortly after that, government passed Bill 22, which imposed a six-month cooling off period — making striking illegal — and brought in a mediator for talks between the BC Teachers’ Federation and their employer, the BC Public School Employer’s Association.

Many teachers withdrew from extracurricular activities during the spring as a legal way to oppose Bill 22, which caused the cancellation of many Comox Valley Grade 7 field trips.

The agreement signed in June runs through until the end of this coming June.

Many teachers are not happy with the terms of the contract, said Steve Stanley, Comox District Teachers’ Association president.

“Although teachers signed an ’11th hour’ contract settlement at the end of June which did see some improvements, this settlement did not address many key issues for teachers such as salary, preparation time, class size, and the right to strike,” he said. “We will continue to work on these issues as we move ahead into another round of bargaining when this contract expires in June of 2013.”

However, Stanley added teachers are settled until then and the community should not expect to see any job action from them this year.

Instead, the BCTF will continue to fight Bill 22 in the courts, as well as fighting to have class size and composition language reinstated. He noted teachers are especially concerned about class size issues, and will keep a close eye on the situation in schools this year.

He also said teachers will be busy trying to make the public education system — and funding for it — an election issue in the lead up to the provincial election in May.

As for relationships between teachers, administrators and parents after last year, Elwood pointed out everyone in the Comox Valley did their best to understand the situation and keep tensions separate from their personal relationships with each other.

“We all worked hard, all of us, teachers, principals, vice-principals, parents and senior staff, to understand that the labour landscape was something that was playing out at both the provincial level, and in some ways at the district level, but we were able to keep that civilized and respectful all the time,” she said.

“I think we go into this year in a very good position.”

Stanley said the cancelled Grade 7 field trips may be a “sticking point” for some parents, but that teacher involvement in extracurricular activities is voluntary and some teachers will choose to refrain from these activities again this year.

He urges parents and community members to volunteer for extracurricular activities to help ensure they all go ahead and take some strain off teachers.

His overall message is to move into the new school year with as fresh a start as possible.

“I think we have to put the past in the past and move forward, and hope that we keep our focus on the right places, which is in the classroom with kids.”

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Just Posted

Comox Valley Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive entering final days

Deadline for donations is Saturday, November 17

Agreement signed to purchase, restore, manage Kus-kus-sum

A memorandum of understanding has been officially signed to purchase, restore and… Continue reading

Cumberland moves one step closer to single-use plastic ban

Council discussed a phased ban, starting with plastic bags and straws

Police investigate liquor store robbery in Courtenay

On Nov. 13 at approximately 12:30 p.m., the Comox Valley RCMP received… Continue reading

School District 71 board sworn in

A new four-year term for the school district Board of Education commenced… Continue reading

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Comox Valley Nature invites the public to learn about nature photography

Comox Valley Nature is hosting a public lecture on photography. Join Terry… Continue reading

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Cowichan school district defends lack of notice to parents following elementary student arrest

Officials with School District 79 stand by their decision not to send out an alert.

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Most Read