From Prince George Citizen: Schools Out, What Now?

While negotiations continue between the government and its teachers various Prince George groups have stepped forward with plans for next week.

Judy Russell’s Enchainement Dance Center is presenting Let’s Hang!, an extended day camp for elementary school-aged children. There are two high energy camps designed to keep children motivated and active while waiting for the school dispute to end. Program A is for children from kindergarten to grade 3, and Program B for grade 4 to 7. The programs are supervised by qualified Enchainement staff and offer quality movement training, crafts, and active games. For more information and to register call 250-563-2902 or e-mail

The Family Y has just opened up another 24 spaces to accommodate children from ages five to 12 years old, with 96 in total. Day camps drop off starts at 7:45 a.m. and goes 6 p.m. in Prince George. There are also another 12 spaces available at the Vanderhoof YMCA. Lynette Mikalishen, director of childcare, invites older children to make use of the rec room where there’s several activities geared for children and youth like a climbing wall, video games, games tables and a play area.

The Two Rivers Gallery is offering creativity day camps for those in Grades 1 to 7 during the strike and there are 20 spots available. The program starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., with drop off at 8:45 a.m. and pick up at 4:30 p.m.

“Children will be drawing, painting, print making and going outside to play, as well as playing games in the gallery,” said Carolyn Holmes, director of public programs at the gallery.

Exploration Place was able to offer 20 spots for day camps during the strike but they have already been filled.

Both branches of the Prince George Public Library will offer family gaming activities. At the main branch there will be a ping pong table, table games, puzzles, and a Wii, found throughout the children’s section, while similar activities will be offered in the multipurpose room at the Nechako branch.

“We just want people to have fun family game time out of the house,” said Andrea Palmer, the library’s communications coordinator. “Of course, everything is free. We get asked all the time to put on more programming (during teachers’ strikes) and the problem is we are not licensed to care for children so we can’t put on a day camp for kids. As long as parents are on site, there’s always something going on at the library when kids are out of school.”

Additionally, had link sent by Canadian Parents for French:

Saturday’s Updates

Fascinating article on special needs in the classroom:

“School districts in British Columbia are holding off telling parents the start of classes will be cancelled next Tuesday amid fresh negotiations aimed at stopping the teachers’ strike.”

Mediation update:

“Mediator Vince Ready met with the teacher’s union and the employer into the evening Friday after agreeing to stay involved for a second day of talks.

Ready indicated the two sides in the B.C. teachers’ strike are still far apart, but said it was worth convening the bargaining teams to see if progress could be made.”

“Mediator Vince Ready will once again be speaking with both the BCTF and the school employers association Saturday afternoon.

Talks involving the teachers union and the government ended for the day at around 10:30 p.m. Friday night.”

Vancouver Sun Article

The school year appears increasingly unlikely to start on time, although early Tuesday evening the Ministry of Education confirmed a meeting is expected to take place Wednesday in Victoria between Education Minister Peter Fassbender, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker and the government’s negotiator Peter Cameron.

But it’s possible schools won’t be closed too far into September. A deal could be reached, or the employer could apply to the Labour Relations Board, arguing that essential service levels have been breached.

In September 2011, a Labour Relations Board decision written by Mark J. Brown found that schools could be closed for up to two weeks without “serious and immediate disruption to the provision of educational programs.” A similar ruling has not been sought in the current dispute.

Beyond two weeks, Brown ruled that disruption to education would vary depending on a student’s grade or the time of year in which the disruption occurred. But even at that point, he would allow teachers to strike one day a week, with their pay reduced accordingly.

A return to a partial strike is not completely out of the question ­— teachers in Vancouver were sent a survey asking if they supported continuing the full strike, moving to a rotating strike or returning to work under a work-to-rule regime. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation said many locals sent out a similar survey, but it would not disclose the results.

While a media blackout covers negotiations, there was speculation on social media that a B.C. Public School Employers’ proposal related to the court case might be holding up the bargaining process.

Part of the BCPSEA proposal E 81 states that “(w)ithin 60 days of the ultimate judicial decision, either party may give written notice to the other of termination of the collective agreement. If notice is given, the collective agreement terminates at the end of that school year, unless the ultimate judicial decision occurs after the end of February, in which case the termination takes place at the end of the following school year.”

When the proposal was introduced back in June, chief negotiator Peter Cameron and Public Service Employer’s Council representative Lee Doney said in a news conference that the clause was instituted as an interim solution until the B.C. Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada make their ruling.

“I think that’s a very pragmatic and creative way to deal with a problem that both parties are stuck on. It says, ‘Let’s put it on the back burner and when we see the ultimate decision we can decide whether we want to renegotiate from there,’” Doney said, according to a transcript of the news conference.

But Mark Thompson, professor emeritus of industrial relations at the University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business, said the risk of this clause outweighs any benefit for the province’s 40,000 teachers.

Childcare options – from CBC Radio

From the link: “With the start date for British Columbia schools in question, parents are looking for child care options for their children come September. Below is a list of some of the programs being offered in northern British Columbia. If you have any tips on child care programs in Prince George, Prince Rupert, Fort St John or points in between let us know by emailingdaybreaknorth[at] or by joining the discussion on our Facebook page.”


Inclusion BC Press Release – Special Needs during any school closures

The Ministry of Children and Family Development will be providing additional Supported Child Development funding to cover in-school hours for families with special needs children currently accessing services.


Thanks to Inclusion BC’s advocacy efforts and those of families across the province, the Ministry of Children and Family Development will be providing additional Supported Child Development funding to cover in-school hours for families with special needs children currently accessing services.

What does this mean?

Any family who receives services under the current program are eligible to receive additional funding to SCD/ASCD service providers in the event of school closures due to the ongoing labour dispute. Supplemental services will be offered to families of school age children with special needs currently receiving SCD/ASCD services upon request.

Just like regular SCD/ASCD services, the supplemental SCD/ASCD services are intended to ensure inclusion of children and youth with special needs in child care environments. This initiative will provide additional supports that families of children with special needs may require due to the lack of school programs for their children. These supplemental SCD/ASCD services are in addition to the $40 per day Temporary Education Support for Parents recently announced by the Ministry of Finance.

We want to thank the BC government and the Honourable Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development, for listening to the voices of Inclusion BC, the families and our member agencies across the province.

We spoke, you listened and you acted.

For more information, visit

A report from BCTF Kamloops gathering

An announcement Sunday that teachers will resume picketing this week is bound to disappoint those were still hoping that B.C. public schools might open on schedule Sept. 2.

Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), told hundreds of union members who had gathered in Kamloops for a special representative assembly and summer conference that they have more work to do before they’ll get a fair deal with government.

We need to increase the pressure once again,” he said, while declaring that pickets will soon be in full force across the province.  “We have asked our locals to ramp up the pressure on schools boards and local MLAs.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association had said it would lift its lockout until Sept 2 for teachers who wanted to partake in previously arranged professional development during the final week of August or prepare their classrooms for the coming school year.

It now appears that won’t be happening.

Iker also urged members to begin thinking about how they can influence school board elections in November.  “Right across this province, teachers need to take an active role in electing school board trustees who will advocate for public education,” he said. “We need to push candidates to find out where they stand on issues like underfunding, bad-faith bargaining, unconstitutional laws and contract stripping.

… [snipped]

According to a tweet from Global BC’s Keith Baldrey, the BCTF distributed a memo to members this weekend titled: Intensify the pressure and stay the course.  It called for rallies outside the offices of Premier Christy Clark and Labour Minister Shirley Bond, he tweeted.

Folks, this dispute will go long into September,” Baldrey added.

Several articles of interest

“…The sad state of the Education Debate is most dramatically revealed in British Columbia public education, where the system is experiencing a protracted ‘crisis’. The gulf separating the Government and the BC Teachers Federation is now a canyon and the total breakdown has all the elements of a “class war” with students as the victims. In this game of brinkmanship, BCTF militants like Tobey Steeves are attempting to depict the conflict as “an encounter” with what Naomi Klein termed the“shock doctrine,” a cruel by-product of world-wide “disaster capitalism.”

It’s time to reclaim the sensible middle ground. More thoughtful educators like Kirp are correct in claiming that “teaching is not a business” and system-wide reforms based upon the business model are bound to fall far short of expectations. Failing to build professional relationships and organizational capacities can and do make or break any —and all –well-intentioned, clearly needed, school reforms.

The real lesson is that system-wide reforms live and die in the classroom.  “It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships,” Kirp wisely points out. “All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.”…”

From July 31st, but still useful background information.

“The ongoing labour dispute between B.C.’s unionized teachers and their employer, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, has been characterized by a battle to garner favourable public opinion, with clarity often giving way to spin and carefully chosen statistics designed to sell a particular point of view.

Without a contract for more than a year, the members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation are out on strike, and progress at the bargaining table appears hard to come by. The messaging from both sides leaves students, parents, voters and other observers struggling to untangle the complex issues involved. Here, we answer some of the most vexing questions.”

“The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducts core
competency tests that are solid predictors of future economic growth – more
so than “input measures,” such as average years of schooling. PISA assesses
the academic ability of 15-year-olds across three subject areas – reading,
mathematics and science. While Canada’s outcomes remain well above the
OECD average, they have been slipping.

The 2012 results rarely mentioned the relative ability of Canadian schools
to overcome the education disadvantage of students from families with low
socio-economic status. Canada ranked fifth among OECD countries in terms of
minimizing the negative impact of low socio-economic status on mathematics

“Canada and Finland are two countries with nearly identical average mathematics scores in 2012 (Finland 519, Canada 518). Their top and bottom quarter scores are also close. And consequently so are their respective gradients. The slope of the Canadian gradient (31.2) is the “flattest” among the jurisdictions illustrated; Finland’s is second lowest (33.3). Both are well below the OECD average (39.2), which means Canada and Finland are offsetting social disadvantage more effectively than is the typical OECD country.”

and part 2:

“…Teachers across the country seem to be mad as hell and not willing to take it any more.

Some of the battles are very public. In fact, in the next year, a great many students across the country could be caught in disputes between teachers and governments.

As well as the B.C. conflict, teachers in Saskatchewan have rejected a second proposed deal, those in Alberta are resisting a proposal that they have to requalify every five years, while their counterparts in Prince Edward Island are protesting against job cuts, Newfoundland has appointed a conciliation board because contract talks broke down, and cash-strapped Ontario risks labour disruptions this fall despite last week’s vote of confidence in a premier who entered public life as an education activist.

But the malaise goes even deeper. With summer approaching, many parents – now required to juggle child care, holidays and work – look at all the friction and scratch their heads. Some can only dream of the security, wages and benefits that a teaching job provides. What more could a person ask?

Talk to teachers across the country, however, and what emerges is something far more complicated than a quest for cash.

They claim to be struggling to cope with ever-greater pressure from parents, administrators and governments to perform at the same time that society no longer seems to value that performance the way it once did.

Are these concerns justified? And what can be done to resolve the conflict and keep it out of the classroom?…”

Michael Smyth interview with Minister Fassbender
For the past two weeks, British Columbians have been told a “media blackout” prevented release of any public updates on bargaining between the government and the striking teachers’ union.

It seemed like a good idea: Stop the public rhetoric and media mudslinging and finally get on with negotiating an end to the strike/lockout that has shut down our schools.

But the old saying “no news is good news” doesn’t apply this time. The two sides have not held formal face-to-face talks since Aug. 8.

The endlessly warring factions did meet separately with miracle-working mediator Vince Ready on Aug. 13, fuelling optimism a deal could be reached to open schools as scheduled on Sept. 2.

But not even Ready has been able to bridge the gap between two sides that apparently see no point in even trying to bargain with each other.

Most of the summer has been wasted, while our kids’ education hangs in the balance.

The government seems serious in its intent to wait the union out, refusing to legislate an end to a dispute that’s already cancelled the last two weeks of the previous school year.

The government quietly launched a “parent information” website this week with updates on the non-existent bargaining and suggestions for what kids should do with their spare time come September.

The site — — suggests kids take first aid and food-safe courses to replace their classroom learning. No, I’m not kidding.

It also has a “Learning Resources” link that connects users to “interactive games and activities for young learners,” online text books and “self-study resources.”

This is what our education system has become: Download your own textbooks and educate yourself.

But I suspect the website is aimed more at striking teachers than at frustrated parents.

The government’s unwritten message to teachers: We’re not going to budge. We’re not going to legislate you back to work. We really are going to tolerate the schools being shut down in September.

Are teachers willing to play along with this game of chicken? The government clearly hopes the union’s resolve will weaken as the strike/lockout inflicts deeper economic pain on teachers.

The average teacher has lost $5,200 in unpaid wages to the conflict. The government is signalling that it’s willing to keep siphoning teachers’ wallets, as they plan to pay parents $40 a day per kid while schools are shut.

News that some teachers are planning to abandon picket lines to set up home-schooling businesses no doubt delights the government and worries the union. The government wants teachers to lose heart and start questioning their union’s strategy.

Curse them both. Kids and parents are the innocent victims of their bitter war.

The B.C. School Act requires the province to educate our children.

“The purpose of the British Columbia school system is to enable all learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society,” the law says.

The fact that the union and the government have wasted most of the summer, instead of working toward fulfilling this solemn mandate, is a downright disgrace.

DPAC Chair report from BCCPAC Meeting

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.

Sarah Holland

PS: I just have to add – we had one parent attending by Skype, from a campground that offered wifi. That’s commitment. 🙂