Any time $50 million is poured into education, it’s good news for students and staff, says district superintendent Bill Ford.
How the money will impact School District 20 (SD20) is unknown at this point, but Ford says administration has reached out to the teachers’ union to begin a dialogue.
“We are starting conversation with the local union this afternoon,” Ford told the Trail Times Monday. “That’s just really to come to the table and to say we know that we have some work to do,” he added.
“At this point I wish I had more to share, but two things I can tell you are that yes, we will get funding. And any time there are extra resources being put into the system, that’s a good thing for kids and it’s a good thing for staff, so it’s very positive.”
SD20 facilities remained closed for the holidays last week when the Ministry of Education announced the province was kicking in $50 million for school districts across B.C. to immediately begin hiring teachers.
The funding is for the 2016-17 school year and equivalent to compensation for approximately 1,100 teachers and student supports such as special education teachers, speech language pathologists, behaviour intervention specialists, school psychologists, and Aboriginal support teachers, according to the Jan. 5 news release.
The announcement followed a recent Memorandum of Agreement between the teachers’ union, BC Public School Employers Association and the province, which outlined $50 million as a first step in response to the decision from the Supreme Court of Canada regarding restored collective agreement provisions.
“The funding is part of what’s called an interim, priority measures to hire teachers and support for students,” Ford noted. “So much has happened in education … the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the BCTF so the language that has been reinstated is from 2002, it’s really old language and what happens is that the world evolves.”
The dated language is challenging and can be quite problematic, said Ford.
“Also what’s happened is there’s been a significant move in (B.C.) for provincial bargaining, so class size and composition is actually bargained provincially and not locally.”
However, the interim money does allow school districts and local unions to begin a discussion and at the end of the day, he says more support for kids is always of benefit.
Ford then speculated on how more jobs could shake up the system and possibly affect rural classrooms.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but when you start hiring like that, 1,000-plus teachers across the province, it has the potential to be kind of wacky out there for a while,” he shared.
For example, if a teacher from the north of B.C. is interested in moving south, this could be an opportunity.
“This is my perspective,” he continued. “But for small rural school districts that already struggle to keep their roster full, I think this could be complicating factor in terms of other districts hiring.”
Kootenay Columbia’s list of TTOCs (Teachers Teaching on Call) has its own challenges, says Ford.
“We don’t have a very deep (TTOC) list,” he explained. “We have lots of names but some are only interested in certain schools or (certain) days.
“So as soon as we start pulling from that list we anticipate that being a challenge for us locally as well.”
Though the actual number of teachers hired has yet to be determined, Ford mentioned an interested factor that could sway future decisions between SD20 and the Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union.
There are more kindergarten students in SD20 than there are students in any other grade.
“That’s a first for us, and if that trend holds, it bodes well for us in terms of growth,” he said. “Our high schools are kind of holding … but if next year’s ‘K’ is as large as this year’s ‘K,’ it’s very exciting – especially after many years of declining enrolment.”
Ford mentioned another twist in adding more teachers between now and June – the teachers’ collective agreement has rules about hiring midway through the school year.
“Again it’s a good news story that there is money going into the system,” he concluded. “We are still waiting to hear how much and what<span class="Apple-converted-