Anyone involved in B.C. public education can be excused for wanting a less-tumultuous school year than the previous one.
Teachers, students, administrators, parents and support staff are coming off an unsettling time. Strife between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government resulted in teachers withdrawing from some administrative duties and walking off the job for three days.
Only sweeping legislation that imposed a six-month cooling off period that made striking illegal prevented more disruption. Even then, many teachers spurned extracurricular activities, causing numerous Grade 7 field trips to be cancelled.
Government-appointed mediator Charles Jago, much maligned at the time by the BCTF, managed to persuade both sides to back off from entrenched positions and arrive at an uneasy peace.
The good news is that, due to a year-long agreement signed in June, the open strife and disruptions of the past school year should not recur in 2012-13.
The bad news is that many teachers are unhappy.
Steve Stanley, Comox District Teachers’ Association president, deserves credit for honestly admitting that, saying the existing deal did not address key issues including salary, preparation time, class size and the right to strike.
Superintendent Sherry Elwood hopes teachers and administrators in School District 71 can refocus on student learning and teaching.
That’s a reasonable goal, and it will be possible to a greater degree this time around. Employees who feel their employer has treated them unfairly cannot focus entirely on the job, however.
Parents, students and anyone else hoping for a return to “normal” will be disappointed. The BCTF and its members will be distracted by news of their court actions and by an increasingly politicized tone leading to the B.C. election in May.
Then we’ll see which government inherits this ticking time bomb.