‘Solidarity Forever’ at Kamloops board of education meeting

Calling on both sides of the teachers’ strike/lockout to find some way to end the impasse

By Dale Bass

Kamloops This Week

Denise Harper has called on both sides of the teachers’ strike/lockout to find some way to end the impasse.

The chairwoman of the Kamloops-Thompson board of education asked the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the government’s bargaining agent, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) to seek an alternate method to resolve the issue.

“Otherwise, any claim to be doing this for the children has a very false ring,” Harper said.

Harper told trustees at the Monday, Sept. 8, board meeting that she sent the letter earlier in the day and apologized for not consulting with trustees beforehand.

However, she added, given the public positions taken by the BCTF and Education Minister Peter Fassbender, she wanted the viewpoint of School District 73 heard.

Harper said afterward she was gratified trustees agreed with her letter.

About 200 teachers and parents rallied in front of the Ninth Avenue board office before the trustees’ meeting, calling on them to come out and speak with them.

When the public portion of the meeting began, many from the group crowded into the conference room. The overflow stayed on the stairwell and in the lobby, where they could be heard during the board of education meeting singing the labour-movement anthem, Solidarity Forever.

Kamloops-Thompson school district Supt. Karl deBruijn gave an update to trustees on the labour dispute, which has seen BCTF president Jim Iker call for binding arbitration, Fassbender rejecting it and Iker then announcing teachers will vote on going back to work if the government accepts binding arbitration.

The sticking point — beyond Fassbender’s assertion the government does not believe in binding arbitration — is the one holding up any movement toward a settlement, the contentious language addressing class size and composition, a matter the courts have ruled twice teachers have the right to bargain.

After deBruijn’s brief report, trustee Joan Cowden addressed the group of parents and teachers, noting she began her teaching career 42 years ago at Arthur Hilliard elementary in Kamloops.

Cowden said upon starting the job, she was told not to expect it to go past December, depending on who won the provincial election that year.

“The reason given was a lack of government funding, so we haven’t come too far,” she said.

Elsewhere with the board of education . . .

• DeBruijn told trustees preliminary registration numbers show 523 more students at schools but, until classes resume, he can’t be sure if these are all new students or simply families moving to different neighbourhoods.

• Because of job action in June that affected exams, marks being submitted and report cards prepared, de Bruijn reported, students in grades 11 and 12 will receive transcripts with their marks during the first week of school so they can ensure requirements for graduation are met. The transcripts will have blended marks based on course work and provincial exams

• Students in grades 1 through 10 will receive a letter during the first week of school with their grade placements, which will be reviewed after school has begun.

• De Bruijn said the district will attempt to issue proper report cards once the strike/lockout ends.

• Directors of B.C. School Sports have advised school boards it will continue with leagues, zones and provincials for those student teams in place with volunteers willing to assist their operation. For example, the organization plans to proceed with fall zone and championships schedules for football, volleyball, boys’ soccer, field hockey, aquatics and cross-country. Teams still need permission from districts to compete.