Students’ report cards marked by ongoing job action

Greater Trail parents can soon expect to receive a report card that again speaks to the ongoing job action underway.

With students already sliding into their second semester, Greater Trail parents can soon expect to receive a report card that again speaks to the ongoing job action underway.

The formal document, sent out this Friday to J. L. Crowe students, will not include comments, nor will it note a student’s work habits or marks for grades 8-11 (unless it’s a subject taught by a principal or vice principal). Grade 12 students, however, will receive their marks required for post-secondary application, scholarship purposes and graduation.

“That’s disappointing again for us but I do encourage parents who want to know how their child did in a course to contact their teacher directly,” said Greg Luterbach, School District 20’s superintendent of schools.

Teachers stopped filling out report cards, attending staff meetings, helping with fundraising or performing other administrative duties in September as a tactic in bargaining for a new collective agreement.

Where teachers bow out of administrative duties, management has had to pick it up. Filling in while kids take exams last week is one of the most recent requirements of such staff, who’ve had to juggle their new requirements with regular professional development work.

The  B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF)  have had over 70 sessions since March last year and have not gotten any closer to reaching a deal.

“This is the longest strike in B.C. education history but it’s certainly not a complete withdrawal of services,” said Luterbach. “We have a concern that this is continuing and that it’s not going to have a positive impact on kids.”

The parties continue to negotiate but the sides remain far apart, agreed Andrew Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union.

“The positions we bring to the table reflect members’ needs as professionals and their concerns for the students they see every day in their overcrowded, underfunded classrooms,” he said. “For a decade, teachers have been pushed to do more and more with less and less.”

In hopes of kick starting negotiations, the BCTF recently brought a new reduced package to the bargaining that asked for wage and benefit improvements that would amount to about $300 million a year.

But this was shot down by a government pushing for a net-zero mandate though the cost was far less than the estimated $2 billion cited by the employers’ association.

“B.C. teachers have fallen way behind their counterparts in other provinces,” said Davidoff, noting professionals in Alberta make $20,000 more than their colleagues in B.C. while Ontario is not far behind with $15,000 more. “With the huge gap between teachers’ salaries in B.C. compared to other provinces, it’s only fair to make small steps toward catching up.”

Beyond increased salaries, the union is also negotiating for improved preparation time to tailor lessons to individual children’s needs, along with improvements to benefits and learning conditions.

Teachers and the province are also at odds over 10-year-old legislation that was the subject of Friday’s symbolic “dark day in education,” where teachers were encouraged to wear black to mark the 10th anniversary of legislation that stripped teachers’ contract provisions relating to class size and composition.

Last year, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found parts of the legislation to be unconstitutional, giving the province a year to fix it.