Wednesday updates

Globe and Mail has launched a special section for BC Education:

“…Hours later, Peter Fassbender declined for a second time in three days to hand over decision-making to an independent arbitrator and accused the federation of calculating that the government wouldn’t budge.

“I believe that the BCTF executive knew when they called for (arbitration) that this government would not agree,” he told reporters in Victoria, adding he felt as though he was in the film Groundhog Day, where the same day repeats over and over.

…Fassbender said the government is not considering any option other than a negotiated settlement and panned the arbitration plan by explaining a past attempt at that route ended up compelling the government to raise taxes. He repeated that the government will not legislate a settlement.

– See more at:

BCTF’s arbitration framework, ArbitrationFrameworkforSettlement, submitted September 7th

BCPSEA’s September 6th response to the verbal offer:

“It’s been clear for months that the sides in the school strike are incapable of getting a deal done.

A third party of some sort is desperately needed to step in. A facilitator was on hand for months and couldn’t prompt any headway. Mediator Vince Ready spent a weekend on the impasse and walked away, electing to wait for the winds to change.

The next option is an arbitrator, but that requires mutual agreement from both sides, and only the B.C. Teachers’ Federation favours it at this point.

So the union executive’s decision to put the arbitration idea to the membership isn’t as dramatic as it sounds.

Teachers will vote Wednesday and soon after, the union will likely release results showing a huge majority of their membership support the idea of accepting arbitration.

But so what? It’s the other side that has to support the idea for it to work. And Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Monday: “It’s not in the cards, period.”

Wednesday’s vote is designed to be a retroactive ratification of a move that has already failed. The theoretical idea will likely be approved, but it’s simply not going to happen. If teachers reject it, the situation will get even worse. That would show the membership doesn’t want to concede any say on the sky-high wage package and could easily be taken as a non-confidence vote in the executive, which would lead to fresh chaos.

What they’re voting on is a carefully designed offer to hand off the wage and benefits argument to a third party. But the government side said there are time bombs buried in the concept that make it unworkable.

(As a measure of the hopelessness of this situation, there’s an entire side-argument about basic negotiating courtesies — such as writing down proposals — that are dropping off the table as fast as the lost days are piling up.)


Interesting data from BC Government on public sector bargaining:

“The people working in B.C.’s public sector provide a wide-range of services, including administrative, environmental, scientific, technical, health and social services, to name only a few.”

Are special needs really ‘the problem’? Why class composition measures won’t work and where we need to look instead
Dawn Steele, Vancouver Parents for Successful Inclusion April 2011

“When Premier Christy Clark experienced a five-point drop in the public approval rating reported by the Angus Reid polling firm Monday, the laugh lines were not long in coming.

“The last time Clark was in this much trouble in the polls, she won the election,” was my favourite, because it hearkened back to the spring of 2013 when pollsters and pundits (me included) all had the premier and her B.C. Liberals ticketed for defeat.

Joking aside, the poll provided a reality check for anyone who might be hoping that a big shift in public opinion would persuade the Liberals to abandon their hard-line position in the current dispute with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. …”
A Framework for Long Term Stability in Education, from the provincial government, January 2013. Parent Alert involving sextortion

Parent Alert: September 7, 2014

In the past few weeks, has seen a rise in reports from youth involving sextortion. These cases have involved  offenders (posing as teenagers) secretly recording teenagers exposing themselves online and then threatening to share the sexual content if they don’t pay money (often hundreds of dollars) to the individual.

In response to this emerging issue of concern, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection has issued a Alert for parents as well as a tip sheet on how parents can talk to youth about online extortion:


Tip Sheet for Parents:


Updates from SD57

The school district website has an announcement:

Due to the current strike, schools in School District No. 57 will remain closed for the period September 8 – 12, 2014.

Parents wishing to register their children for school are asked to contact the neighbourhood or choice school via telephone.

All curricular and extra-curricular activities normally associated with schools in School District No. 57 have ceased during the strike.

We will continue to update the District and School websites as new information becomes available regarding the strike.

Parent Support Program information can be found at:

Additional strike information can be found at: and

We should also note that the school district website has been upgraded, and looks much, much better than it ever did before. Congratulations to the district!

Article on "no homework" movement

“…He may be the only teacher in his high school who has nixed take-home work completely, but Mr. Martin is part of a growing cohort of parents, educators and even administrators who are “anti-homework” — viewing it as a stress-inducing, mostly useless practice that saps students’ desire to learn rather than nurture it. It’s a movement that has risen alongside the return of free play, the concern about raising innovative young people primed for the knowledge economy and families’ increasingly busy lives packed with extra-curricular activities. This week, Collège de Saint-Ambroise in Saguenay, Que., launched a year-long pilot project banning homework for students in Grades 1-6. Like in Mr. Martin’s class, the way students spend time time at school will be restructured to make sure children do not fall behind, school board spokesperson Marie-Ève Desrosiers told The Canadian Press.

The news reinvigorated a debate about the value of homework — a conversation that has bubbled up and receded over the past five to seven years, gaining converts along the way. Even still, the issue remains divisive, with some parents campaigning hard for a homework-free experience that would give them their life back — and others worried about their children falling behind or failing to learn the discipline and time management required in high school and beyond. As one Collège de Saint-Ambroise parent said, “I’ll see how the year goes, but I’m very afraid. Homework is a way for us parents to evaluate whether things are going well, and to guide us in helping and supporting them.”

The research is also split or viewed with skepticism, muddying the waters for parents and educators.

“If you look at all of the different types of homework of all students, it has a moderate effect. It’s not big, but you can say ‘This does enhance student achievement,’” said Robert Marzano, CEO of Marzano Research Laboratory in Boulder, Co., which does research and development for K-12 education. “Do you actually have to have homework? No. You could have a system that didn’t have any homework and it could still be a good system. I can’t recommend getting rid of it, though, except at the primary level. But make sure you use it purposefully.”

A 2009 systematic review by the Canadian Council on Learning found that homework is linked to higher student achievement — but only if it is “judiciously assigned” and engaging to the student. ”

“Parents were confused — where was the homework that made clear what the students were learning in class? Some parents even asked that their children be enrolled in a class led by a more traditional teacher who assigned homework.

“As parents we still expect our kids’ school experience to look like ours and I’m not sure it should. That’s part of it,” she said. “Parents go ‘Why don’t you have homework?’ and it does put a bigger onus on the teacher to communicate it.’

The whole point of nixing homework, she said, was to create a more equitable learning experience — and you would see the difference in submitted homework, some with “parents’ fingerprints all over them,” as Jessica Lahey at The New York Times‘s Parent-Teacher Conference blog puts it, and some in which it was clear there was no help at all.”

Sunday Updates

Speech from our local “union boss”, Tina Cousins, from the Prince George Teachers Association, from rally on September 4th:  Rally- BCFED

“On Saturday Education Minister Peter Fassbender rejected the B.C. Teacher Federation’s proposal to enter into binding arbitration in the ongoing strike, and the government’s lead negotiator said there is no optimism a settlement is in sight.”

“…While provinces keep their numbers differently, making comparisons difficult, a look at Alberta and Ontario – provinces that also have dicey relationships with their educators – sheds some light on teachers’ compensation and working conditions elsewhere in Canada.

For example: While new teachers in B.C. make salaries that are comparable to their counterparts in other provinces, those with more experience or expertise lag behind. In Alberta and Ontario, top-ranked teachers can earn up to $20,000 more a year.

And while the BCTF and government argue about appropriate class sizes, Alberta favours loose provincial guidelines over legislated caps, resulting in class sizes ranging from a handful to nearly 50 students….”

The most recent court decision was issued this past January, and the province immediately announced an appeal. A hearing is set to begin Oct. 14.

The province says in its written arguments that it should be free to pass legislation on issues of public policy, such as how classes are structured.

“Government considers class-size limits, formulas and staffing ratios to be an inefficient means of allocating funding, unresponsive to actual school need, and restrictive in terms of the ability of school districts to offer a range of school programming,” the government says in a factum filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal.

“The issue with the deleted clauses, accordingly, is not simply how much money should be spent on K-12 education but how it is to be spent and who should make such decisions.”

Blood donation challenge

 Anyone who is letting a fear of needles stop them from participating in this year’s Canadian Blood Services Interior Drive for Life can look to four-year-old Audrey Saulters for some inspiration.

Over nearly a year of treatment for cancer, the youngster received 84 “pokes,” her mother, Pamela, noted as the two helped launch this year’s campaign Friday during a kickoff event at Pine Centre Mall.

That’s a sight more than the 14 that even the most dedicated of blood donors will contend with over a year – one in the finger to test their blood for iron and then one to make the donation during each of the seven times they can show up at the clinic over a 12-month-span.

“Many people say they’re afraid of needles,” Saulters said in response to one of the more common excuses people use for not giving blood.

“Children are afraid of hospitals. Children are afraid of doctors. Children are afraid of surgery, nurses, chemotherapy and radiation. Children are afraid of being away from home. Children are afraid of being sick. Please ensure our children are not afraid of running out of life-saving blood.”

The Interior Drive for Life is a friendly eight-week competition between Prince George and Kelowna to see which city is best at meeting and exceeding its targets. Prince George will have 18 clinic days to collect 1,152 donations and bring in 230 new donors and Kelowna has 28 days to get 1,792 donations and bring in 368 new donors.

– See more at:

Located at 2277 Westwood Drive, in the strip mall next to Arby’s, the clinic is open every Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and every fourth Saturday – Sept. 13 and Oct. 11 during the challenge.

To book an appointment visit or call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).


From Citizen: “P.G. union boss crosses fingers for bargaining as teachers prepare for rally”

From Prince George Citizen –

Prince George teachers are holding a rally for public support tonight. At 6 p.m. they are calling on taxpayers to join their calls for a negotiated settlement in the ongoing labour dispute between the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) acting as an arm’s-length agent for the B.C. government. The rally will feature supporters of the teachers like BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, members of the North-Central Labour Council, United Steelworkers local president Frank Everitt, past NDP candidate Sherry Ogasawara acting as master of ceremonies and possibly BCTF president Jim Iker. “We hope on one hand to have him here, but on the other hand our bigger hope is that he is at the bargaining table. We do think that conversation is a realistic hope,” said Prince George and District Teachers’ Association president Tina Cousins. If Iker comes, he should bring a written proposal from which to bargain, the one thing the BCTF has seemed reluctant to do for a very long time, education minister Peter Fassbender told The Citizen on Wednesday. He said the provincial government is ready to bargain, but needs a concrete proposal with numbers. He said BCPSEA has offered the teachers a raise, the government has pledged $375 million to address class size and composition issues plus protocols for local input on how that is spent from district to district, but the conversation doesn’t even get to that point because “the BCTF has been intransigent in their position.” Cousins said one of the suggestions made by government was for teachers to go back to work while negotiations continued. “Realistically, this is a fight that we can’t lose,” Cousins said. “As much as teachers don’t want to be on a picket line – nobody likes a strike, nobody wins a strike – our kids will lose if we don’t prevail. And we did not see this going this far, but this is a government that has not been known for being truthful and fair in their dealings with the BCTF. There is no trust there at all. That’s kind of a bottom line keeping us, forcing us, to stay out on a picket line until they honour their part of this negotiation.” Fassbender said the suggestion of ending the strike during the negotiations also came with orders for BCPSEA to end any lockout action, and anytime negotiations hit a major snag the teachers were free to return to picket lines, but at least kids would be in the classrooms in the interim. “When you tear up previous contracts, lose court battles [now the subject of an appeal] and agree to lockout action, you damage the sense of trust on the other side of the table,” said Cousins.

“We are hoping for a big turnout because our community needs to speak,” said Cousins. “The teachers have been speaking. It is time for the community. So do come down, and urge your friends and neighbours to do the same. We need a community uprising and take up this quarrel as well.”

Fassbender said the public is being served by a government negotiating fairly with all public sector unions under transparent financial conditions of the overall provincial income. He said the BCTF is acting as if it is special compared to all the others that have negotiated mutually appreciated deals under the same wage and benefit parameters.

“The BCTF has not moved their position. The conversation is always: give us everything we want,” Fassbender said.

“We have an affordability zone that so many of those other unions had no problem understanding and working with us on. So to say the government isn’t willing to go there is categorically not true. But we need a proposal to come to the table to talk about.”

The rally tonight happens in front of Shirley Bond’s MLA office on Fifth Avenue and Brunswick Street.

Times Colonist Editorial from Geoff Johnson

Welcome back to British Columbia’s day of national disgrace. After a week or so of bumbling, scrambling and face-saving in high places, B.C.’s public schools are still shuttered and half a million children are barred from participation in what was once one of the world’s better systems of public education.

Both the government and the leaders of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation should hang their heads in shame.

A summer of opportunity was frittered away, one that should have at least seen the warring sides come to a level of understanding that could have sent 500,000 kids back to school today. Political considerations and a history of mutual cynicism disgracefully trumped the kids’ chance at being in class somewhere other than in an independent school.

In the absence of shame, as they say, all conduct is excusable.

The media pictures of the premier sipping wine in Saskatchewan, while B.C. parents and kids frantically looked for safe child-care alternatives for this week, said it all about the government’s priorities.

The BCTF, having backed itself into a corner by calling a premature strike in the last two weeks of June, has realized too late that the government had no intention of making a deal.

Too late, as well, to understand that this never was a normal negotiation — something that mediator Vince Ready recognized months ago and confirmed again this weekend.

The decades of rancorous and unproductive relationships between teachers’ union leaders and governments of three political parties — Social Credit, NDP and Liberal — has led public education in B.C. to a place outside the normal expectations of a progressive society.

Hovering over this educational dystopia has been a labour-relations structure designed for a different time and one found consistently unworkable in serving the needs of B.C.’s kids and their parents.

Too late to grasp that teachers are not hardhat factory or mill workers who, as a union, can bring an unjust employer to its knees by crippling a business.

Too late to realize that the government is not a private-enterprise employer with labour-relations decisions and conflicts circumscribed by the profit margin. Teachers teach children and government is elected to make sure that happens.

Too late to see that there was a serious responsibility on the part of both the BCTF and the government to make sure that the purpose of their relationship is focused on getting school operating.

That responsibility has been set aside and schools are closed because both sides have failed to fully appreciate their obligations that demand that, whatever it takes, schools open today and a year of learning begins.

But that has not happened and there is no point in retelling, once again, the disgraceful history that has led us to this point.

No point in revisiting illegal behaviour by a government that, for 12 years since it legislated its way out of the teacher contract, has accumulated what amounts to a court-imposed insurmountable debt.

No point in questioning the ill-conceived strategies of the BCTF, including the demand that the government pay up on that debt and pay up now.

No point in wondering why neither side has accepted their mutual responsibility to set aside their abysmal history and seek a solution that leaves neither side satisfied, but which supports the greater good.

There is no likelihood that the government will buy the kind of solution it did in on June 30, 2006, when, with the 2010 Olympics looming, the government avoided the potential embarrassment of school closures and picket lines contrasting with Olympic largesse by agreeing to a settlement that included a 16 per cent salary increase over a five-year term and a $4,000 signing bonus for each teacher.

That was then and this is now. The Olympics imperative does not exist and, with new priorities identified, the government will continue to allocate its assets as it sees fit. Public-sector employees, having campaigned unsuccessfully for a change in government during the last election, will continue to find themselves at the end of the generosity line.

The government and the BCTF have demonstrated that, for one of the very few times since the inception of Canadian universal public education, B.C. will now blunder onward and lead the way into a new world of labour relations where, without regard to the consequences for 500,000 kids and their parents, winning at any cost is what it is all about.

Welcome back.

Geoff Johnson is a retired superintendent of schools.

– See more at:

DPAC General Meeting – Monday, September 8th, 7pm, at Sandman Signature

Webex meeting – please allow time for meeting to connect, may not start exactly at 7pm:

report 1

DPAC_Meeting_Minutes_(June 9-2014)


Agenda – DPAC General Meeting
Monday, September 8, 2014, 7:00 p.m., Sandman Signature Hotel


1. Call to order
2. Appointment or election of Secretary
3. Adoption of agenda and Adoption of June 2014 Minutes
4. PAC Networking and discussion

7:30pm – Partner groups enter
5. Partner Group Presentations (5 minutes each).  (all partner groups have been invited to this meeting, held off of any school property). 

a) DSAC Report
b) CUPE Report (Karen Wong)
c) Prince George District Teachers Association Report (Tina Cousins, Richard Giroday)
d) Prince George Principal and Vice Principals Association Report (Faith Mackay, Lori Dennill)
e) Professional Employees Association (Nicole Haines)
f) Superintendent Report (Brian Pepper)
g) Trustee Report (Betty Bekkering)

(5 – 10 minute snack break, opportunity for further partner group discussions)

6. Officer and Committee Reports
a) Executive Board Report (Sarah Holland)
b) Treasurer’s Report (Chris Finke)
c) BCCPAC Report (Darlene Campbell)

7. PAC and Parent Assistance
a) Grant requests
b) Fall Conference report – was scheduled for October 18, 2014, postponed – replacement event?

8. Advising School District
a) Education Services Committee Report (Steve, Dennis)
b) Education Programs and Planning Committee Report (Darlene, Chris)
c) Policy and Governance (Sarah, Chris)
d) Ad hoc Technology Committee (Steve)
e) Suggestions for School Board Report

9. Other Business
a) Strike
b) School board trustee elections
c) School board Trustee forum
d) BCCPAC conference in Nanaimo – attendees and application process
e) Priorities for year

10. Agenda items for next meeting

11. Adjournment – Next meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 6th, at 7:00 pm, location to be announced.

Wednesday’s updates

A collection of articles and reading.

“There are three things that have changed, gradually but inexorably, since the turn of the century: The first is that students with special needs and their parents are fully aware of their rights, and are comfortable advocating for themselves. The second is that society, in turn, has become more accepting of people with special needs, so that the language and practices used in education, including post-secondary education, which used to be unthinkable for students with special needs, have been transformed. The third change is that medical research and knowledge about some disabilities, like autism, as well as other unknown factors, have led to a remarkable surge in both diagnosis and incidence.”

Their tool for seeing how your child’s school looks like for class size & number of students with individual education plans:

“Today, I’d like to look at what’s called E.80 – that’s the proposal from the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) which was put forward to initiate bargaining on class size, class composition, and specialist educators.


Because to understand the current impasse we need to understand the background to the proposal and, more importantly, we need to understand what it is and what it is not.  Given the complexity of the issue, this may be a somewhat longer than usual post.”

From BCPSEA (if anyone has alternate BCTF costed proposals, please send them along and we’ll post them):
UPDATE Following Meetings With Vince Ready — Barriers to Concluding a Negotiated Collective Agreement: Costing the BCTF Proposals Currently on the Table
UPDATED-August 31-Backgrounder-Barriers to Concluding a Negotiated Collective Agreement – Cost of BCTF Proposals Currently on the Table

Class Size and Teacher Workload BCPSEA Response to BCTF Statements
No 2014-06 For the Record – Class Size and Teacher Workload – BCPSEA Response to BCTF Statements

“BCTF President Jim Iker is calling upon Premier Christy Clark to meet with him to help reach a fair settlement to the current strike/lockout before September 2.

Over the weekend in talks with Vince Ready, the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million”

“There will be no public school classes today in British Columbia, nor quite likely for weeks, after veteran mediator Vince Ready walked out of negotiations, saying teachers and the provincial government were too far apart.

So it’s time for a reality check.

First, the sky will not fall. Everybody take a valium.

Students will not be scarred for life in learning that the peaceful resolution of strong differences among adults is inconvenient and expensive in a democracy. In fact, it’s a valuable life lesson.

Alternative ways of dispute resolution are now on display by Russian tanks and troops in eastern Ukraine, where the rule of force trumps the rule of law and respect for international borders.”

With Tuesday’s traditional return to school a no-go for students, parents are busy planning to cushion the blow.

“Parents are being super-resourceful,” Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit, founder of the Vancouver online parenting resource, said on Monday. “I’m seeing people taking alternating days off work, where the wife works from home Monday and the husband does the next day.

“But that’s only a short-term solution. Alternating working from home with your partner is great for a week or two, but I don’t think this is good for the long term.”

The teachers strike will likely continue well into September after hopes of mediation were crushed, classes were formally cancelled for Tuesday’s scheduled opening day, and each side blamed the other.

Some school districts warned parents to brace for a lengthy shutdown of schools.

“We suggest parents make alternative arrangements for the coming week and look to the very real possibility that a resolution may take much longer,” Jordan Tinney, Surrey’s superintendent of schools, said in a letter to parents. “The disruption is especially unsettling when there appears to be no end in sight.

“…I grew so tired of that constant, divisive narrative — that incessant wrangling and finger pointing that always used patients as pawns — that I left health care coverage for awhile for the more pleasant pastures of running a lifestyle magazine.

But in the interim these last six or seven years, unbeknownst to many, a dramatic shift has occurred in the BC health care narrative. In fact, a new collaborative culture between government and the medical profession has been emerging that is creating positive health care change. And moreover, patients are no longer the unwitting pawns in a battle for dominance, but the winners in a cooperative conversation that aims to put their needs first.”

“Rather than fighting over what is good for government or good for doctors, the committees found if they focused on what is best for patients they could find common ground. Asking the question, “how do patients benefit from this change?” has depoliticized the whole process.”
” BC has some of the best health care indicators in the country such as the best cancer survival rates, lowest maternal mortality rates and longest life spans. We have the lowest per capital spending on health care but have the best avoidable mortality rate for treatable causes of any province or territory in Canada, as well as the lowest hospitalization rate for conditions that are best handled outside of hospitals in primary care. These indicators show that while there is always room for improvement, our health system in BC is working relatively well compared to other provinces.”