I attended the BCCPAC meeting on August 16th, in Richmond. Attending were elected DPAC chairs from 28 districts (representing 81% of student population), and elected BCCPAC board members (including Darlene Campbell, a BCCPAC board member from Prince George).
There was a DPAC Summit News Release issued by BCCPAC, but it’s difficult to have a single press release adequately address the full discussion.
Firstly, I have to say that I’ve attended several BCCPAC conferences and AGMs, and I thought that this meeting was the best I’ve attended. The level of discussion was excellent, and we were all focused on what was best for our students, and for the education system in this province.
We had several common goals. Our immediate goal was to have schools open for students September 2nd (which would be September 3rd in SD57). Our goal is to have a settlement negotiated in good faith, with the assistance of Vince Ready, and reached in time for school to start. However, if the labour dispute is still continuing, we requested that the government lockout be lifted, and that the full teacher strike be suspended. We want our students to return to a safe, respectful school environment, while bargaining continues out of the public eye.
There was definitely a sense of frustration in the room over the progress – or lack of progress – of the negotiations. In mid-August, we consider it progress to have a joint press releasing announcing that they may resume exploratory talks?
One comment I heard was “If everyone wants to be back in school, then why can’t we?” Everyone is saying that we want to be back in school, we all believe this is in the best interests of the students – let’s make this happen!
Our longer term goals involve more funding, and changes to the provincial funding model to support appropriate learning conditions, as every student’s right. There was quite a bit of discussion as to how that might look, supported by some of the resolutions on this topic that have come forth for debate and voting at previous BCCPAC meetings. I believe that we all wanted to have some sort of joint discussion, with all partners involved in the education system – let’s have that joint discussion, with all this expertise and experience that we have in the education system, and come together to talk about how can we best support all our individual students.
I believe that part of the changes to the funding model involved the proposal of a classroom resources fund, as a separate fund protected from other cost pressures. There was definitely a strong, teacher-lead aspect to this fund. Personally, I would say that this is more of a starting point for discussion.
Another discussion that occurred was that once school does start again, in many cases you’re going to have demoralized teachers, frustrated parents, confused students – which does not help at a school level. Again, there was a discussion as to how to best come together as respectful partners, at a school level, to make the best possible learning environment for our kids.
There were also discussions on how to best have parent representation when decisions are being made, at a school, district, and provincial level, and what are some good and effective methods for that. Parents wanted to be included – again, how can we all work together?
Back in 2006, a resolution that was passed at BCCPAC was: “That BCCPAC advise all education partners that limiting the number of students in classrooms based on designations or labels is discriminatory and, as such, legislation or employee contracts must not contain wording that promotes or creates such limits.” I think it’s important to note that we want and need funding, supports, and resources for all our children, but we shouldn’t deny students access based on a group characteristic. There must be a better way of doing things. My notes say “but make damn sure to protect the money!”. Again, very much an avenue for further discussion, on how to best manage issues of student need and teacher workload.
There was an interesting comment about the history of inclusion of special needs in the classroom – someone said that we still segregate students, it’s just now segregated within the classroom, or out in the hallway.
We do have a very good public education system in this province, which is important not to lose sight of. We want to make it excellent, for all of our students.
I was reading some of the Twitter comments about this meeting – I should note that I find the level of discourse on Twitter these days to be not what it could be, and I would like to say that we can advocate for our children with both passion, and with respect for others. Comments as a result of reading this:
- Some parents there were Liberal supporters. Some were NDP, some were Green, some had no affiliations, and possibly some wanted the Rhino party back. In other words, a cross-section of British Columbia.
- There were parents of children with special needs in the room, some of whom spoke very eloquently about the need for more funding.
- There were lots of different opinions in the room on various topics. Very strongly, we wanted to get away from “you’re either with us or against us!” level of discussion. We can disagree with various points, without disagreeing with everything. As an example, it’s possible to disagree strongly with the BCTF’s decision to call a study day, back in June, and still strongly support teachers. It’s possible to disagree strongly with the lockout, and still agree with the government on some things.
- Regarding the $40 a day plan – this should be utterly irrelevant, as school should be in session.
- We had wanted to make it clear that the consensus at the meeting was that of the elected representatives in attendance, based on discussions with their executives and discussions in their districts.
- Parent Advisory Councils are the legislated voice of parents in schools. PACs are not just about fundraising! If you want a voice in your school, attend a PAC meeting, and make your opinion heard. Show up and vote.
- District Parent Advisory Councils are the legislated voice of parents in school districts. If you want your parents in your school to have a voice in your district, attend a DPAC meeting, and make your opinion heard. Show up and vote.
- BCCPAC is the voice of parents in the province. All PACs and DPACs have the option to belong to BCCPAC. Our DPAC provides half the funding for a PAC to join BCCPAC, in order to have a vote at a BCCPAC meeting. If you want your parents in your school to have a voice in this province, join BCCPAC, and either attend a BCCPAC meeting, or give your proxy and voting instructions to DPAC and we will cast a vote for you.
- In short, make your opinion heard. If you can – show up, give your opinion, and vote.
In summary, I was asked by a reporter today what power we have to make this happen. We don’t have any particular power – what we do have the power to use our voice. BCCPAC can, and does, talk to all our education partners provincially. Let’s use our common parent voice.
PS: I just have to add – we had one parent attending by Skype, from a campground that offered wifi. That’s commitment.
There is always a nice certainty for families in going back to school in early September. Most parents and kids are excited about a new school year, entering a new grade or school for the first time. As we approach the end of summer holidays, parents, children and staff are wondering when the “first day back” will be.
The only constant in life seems that it will involve change. Trusting that whatever happens, you can adapt and make the best of it. Here are some strategies for you and your children to prepare for the different possibilities.
Replace expectations with plans.
Expecting the best but planning for the worst is usually helpful. Backup plans
for work, daycare, and activities are very important.
Prepare for different possibilities.
Stay tuned for the latest news from radio, your parent advisory council and school.
Make the best of a challenging situation.
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the “feelings” of uncertainty and become anxious or negative. You may not be able to predict the future but it does help to foster any positive feelings about it the possibilities and know that “this too shall pass”.
Be confident about your coping and adapting skills.
I have always found kids to be remarkably resilient, especially when the parents appear to be coping.
Use your stress reduction techniques early.
If you’re dealing with uncertainty, you probably have stress in your body, even if it’s not at the forefront of your thoughts in this exact moment. Incorporate stress reduction techniques into your day.
Focus on what you can control.
Often times, we overlook the little things we can do to make life easier while obsessing about the big things we can’t do. Developing a plan and being adaptable will help.
There will be a First Day of School and I always find it exciting!
adapted from Lori Deschene
BCCPAC’s goal, by holding this meeting for DPAC leaders throughout the province, is to is through this daylong session to develop a unified plan of action that strongly and best reflects parent priorities in this current stalemate. This will support BCCPAC establishing a strong stance and media presence on important issues surrounding the learning conditions of our children.
If parents have any comments to send down to this meeting, please email email@example.com
The B.C. government is offering the parents of each public school student under the age of 13 years $40 a day if the provincial teachers’ strike is not over by the start of classes in September.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced Thursday the cash will be paid using savings made from not having to pay teachers during the strike.
The program will cost the government about $12 million a day, which is about the same amount of money it costs to run the school system, said de Jong.
De Jong says parents will be able to claim their $40 per day per child through a website set up by the provincial government and may use the money however they see fit.
“There are costs that occur to families and parents when their children aren’t where they should be, which is in school,” said De Jong.
“Parents can utilize that money to acquire tutoring for their children, they can use the money to explore other educational opportunities as they see fit and for some parents, it’ll be basic daycare.”
De Jong said the government would pay out the money quickly, possibly in early October, although he hoped the contingency plan wouldn’t be needed and a settlement would be forthcoming.
“The message I hope that’s being conveyed is that there is a requirement, there is a need to end this recurring trend of not negotiating agreements.”
De Jong said he hoped the move would help end the teachers’ strike without legislation and accepted partial responsibility for the fact governments he had been a part of had “perhaps moved too quickly to use legislative tools to impose agreements.”
“I think the BCTF has come to expect that, and it has characterized and influenced the relationship in negative ways,” said the minister.
“It’s time as parties, parties representing the public, parties representing teachers, that we sit down and hammer out a negotiated agreement.”
De Jong said the government deemed students older than 13 ineligible for the payments because the province considers they are more able to access online or other educational resources and do not need as much supervision as younger children.
Dear DPAC Exec,
Please consider sharing with your parent members the attached notice (also pasted below) concerning a sign campaign in support of BC teachers, which has been organized by a coalition of parent groups led by Protect Public Education Now. While we understand that DPACs may not wish to take sides in the labour dispute between teachers and their employer, we hope that you will be willing to grant us this communication with your membership.
Respectfully submitted, with thanks,
Marlene Rodgers on behalf of Protect Public Education Now
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 17, 2014
Support for BC Teachers: Taking it to the Streets
VANCOUVER – A coalition of five parent-groups, representing approximately 20,000 members, is calling on families everywhere in British Columbia to take their support for public school teachers to the street by posting signs in their cars, businesses and homes this summer.
The campaign, led by the Vancouver-based Protect Public Education Now and four other parent groups, invites British Columbians to download and print a sign depicting a tree of knowledge with a clear message: “We Support BC Teachers.”
“According to her comments July 14, Premier Clark does not want to let the labour dispute continue to simmer. If this is the case, she needs to take action and get back to the bargaining table,” says parent Marlene Rodgers of Protect Public Education Now. BCTF President Jim Ikers has indicated that Justice Stephen Kelleher is available for mediation the week of August 4th.
“It’s tempting, in this summer heat, to forget about the problems facing schools, but parents know that without honest bargaining by this government, September will be an unhappy month for all of us, as students return to increasingly over-sized classes, inadequate support, labour unrest, and other effects of more than a decade of underfunding,” Rodgers adds.
The Support for BC Teachers: Taking it to the Streets campaign, is designed to show support for teachers and put pressure on the government to come to the table and bargain in good faith. The campaign signs come in two sizes, designed for car and home windows. They can be downloaded from the facebook page for Protect Public Education Now. Supporters can print out the images on their home computers, and display their commitment to public education everywhere and anywhere.
The sign campaign builds on a successful petition, which has been signed by more than 6,000 citizens. http://www.thepetitionsite.
Groups supporting the sign campaign include: BC Voters for BC Teachers and Public Education, Support BC Teachers, BC Parents Supporting Teachers, and Education Rallies in BC. Collectively, the groups have over 20,000 members.
For more information, please contact:
Joint statement of BCPSEA and BCTF on exploratory discussions
VANCOUVER – The British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) have issued the following joint statement on the outcome of their recent exploratory discussions:
“The BCPSEA and the BCTF agreed that Mr. Justice Stephen Kelleher would be an acceptable mediator. He had some exploratory discussions with the parties and determined that mediation is not indicated at this time.
“The parties appreciate the Supreme Court making him available.”
Education Minister Peter Fassbender’s statement on the status of negotiations
VICTORIA – Education Minister Peter Fassbender has released the following statement on the status of negotiations between the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF):
“Over the past few days BCPSEA and the BCTF engaged in exploratory discussions with Justice Stephen Kelleher to determine whether the time was right for mediation.
“It was recognized that if the parties were in the same zone, mediation might help land a settlement. Unfortunately, through these exploratory discussions it became explicitly clear that the BCTF executive would not commit to tabling a set of demands that fall in the same affordability zone as the other public sector agreements reached to date.
“Justice Kelleher found that mediation is not indicated at this time. “Our government has a fundamental commitment to balance the budget and we have an obligation to deal fairly with all 300,000 B.C. public sector workers. “However, the BCTF continues to demand total compensation gains that are more than twice what other unions have settled for. On top of that, they are also pushing for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands.
“There is no process and no mediator that can bridge this gap at this time. To pretend otherwise only raises false expectations and serves to delay the tough decisions the BCTF executive needs to make to get to an affordable agreement.
“BCPSEA stands ready to negotiate anytime over the summer, with or without a mediator, whenever the BCTF is ready to commit to a fair and affordable settlement. “Let’s hope that the BCTF executive does not take all summer to realize that the best possible deal for teachers is one that lands squarely in the same affordable zone as the settlements government has already reached with other public sector unions.”
Statement from BCTF President Jim Iker
For two weeks, BC teachers have been calling on government and the BC Public School Employers’ Association to enter mediation. For the past week, I have been meeting with BCPSEA’s Peter Cameron and Mr. Justice Stephen F. Kelleher of the BC Supreme Court in exploratory discussions. I am very grateful that the BC Supreme Court granted Justice Kelleher leave to facilitate these discussions and for his willingness to act as mediator.
Unfortunately, mediation at this time will not be productive. The government, by trying to impose a series of unworkable preconditions prior to entering into mediation, has not provided the flexibility required to make mediation work. The preconditions would have predetermined the outcome.
The BCTF has made a number of significant moves to bring the two sides closer together, including a salary proposal that puts the two sides within 1%. Teachers have been looking for government to respond with counterproposals that would improve learning conditions for students like class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers.
Successful collective bargaining requires flexibility, an open mind, and a willingness to bring creative ideas to the table. Teachers called for mediation to help facilitate those kinds of ideas. However, the government insisted that teachers accept proposals that would limit bargaining before even entering mediation. When teachers proposed a compromise that would have brought the two sides even closer to make mediation work, the government rejected that compromise. That is not a fair or reasonable process.
The government wants teachers to accept wage demands before they will even disclose their new proposals on class size and composition. That is unacceptable. At no point during these exploratory talks did the government offer any new money for class size, class composition, or staffing levels for specialist teachers.
At this point, with the government maintaining entrenched positions that are unfair and unreasonable, mediation will not be able to move forward. We will keep the lines of communication open in July to restart bargaining if the government is ready to make a real effort and bring the necessary funding to the table. If not, BC teachers will try again in August, with the new school year looming, to reengage Justice Kelleher and the government in meaningful and fair mediation.
…This is not to say there are no issues in the system, that class composition isn’t a concern or that there aren’t some classrooms with more than the ideal number of kids in them. No education system is perfect. No matter the country you can always find problems without digging too deeply. And we should never stop trying to achieve broad excellence.
But we should also never be afraid to recognize how good an education system B.C. actually has, and this is a testament to those people who stand at the front of the classroom every day. You don’t get the kind of outcomes that B.C. does, get the kind of accolades its education system has been receiving recently, without one of the finest teaching corps anywhere.
Occasionally, it would be nice to hear something positive about what is happening in B.C. classrooms, rather than the usual din of pessimism that doesn’t reflect reality.
From SD57 website:
“Progress Reports” to Parents of SD57 Students will be mailed this week
The Superintendent of Schools will be signing and mailing a progress report to parents of all students in School District No. 57, Prince George as follows:
For students in grades K-7 the “report” will be a letter indicating the student will proceed to the next grade.
For students in grades 8 and 9, the “report” will encompass those marks which had been entered up to June 20, 2014. This will mean a complete set of marks for courses taken in Semester 1 and only a partial mark for courses taken in Semester 2.
For students in grades 10 and 11, the “report” will encompass those marks which have been entered up to June 26, 2014. This will mean a complete set of marks for courses taken in Semester 1 and a mark for Semester 2 courses as per the June 20, 2014 Labour Relations Board Ruling: “The District shall prepare and the Local Union will distribute class lists with the most recent report card percentage for final marks for students in grades 10 and 11 for review by the classroom teacher. The classroom teacher will review the class lists and advise of any change to the percentage shown on the class list.”
For students in grade 12, the “report” will encompass those marks which have been entered up to June 20 2014. This will mean a complete set of marks for courses taken in Semester 1 and the “compilation and submission of final grades” as outlined in the Labour Relations Board ruling.
ALL reports will be mailed by Friday, July 4, 2014
From SD57 website:
Labour Relations Board ruling and Summer School
The Labour Relations Board (LRB) ruling of June 27, 2014 provides criteria to be utilized by school districts in determining the status of Summer School in each district. The LRB determined summer school will be limited to:
Remedial programs for students in Grades 10, 11, and 12 who have failed a course(s) and have no choice but to repeat the course(s) in the 2014 Summer School.
Students who cannot take the failed course during the following school year.
In an analysis of student registrations as of June 27, 2014 at 5:00 p.m., secondary school timetables and program options for the 2014-15 school year and availability of Distance Learning options for the 2014-15 school year, it was determined that School District No. 57 Summer School could not proceed. Registrants do not meet the Labour Relations Board criteria and School District No. 57 is able to provide learning options required and stipulated by the Labour Relations Board ruling during its 2014-15 school year.
Secondary School principals are aware of the Labour Relations Board ruling and will ensure that Graduation Program requirements for your child will be addressed upon his or her return to school in the fall.
Labour Relations Board Decision June 27, 2014: http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/documents/publications/TeacherBargainingBulletin/231656632-BC-LRB-interim-order-issued-about-Summer-School.pdf