By David F. Rooney
After months of holding its collective tongue, the SD 19 Board of Trustees bowed to pressure from striking teachers on Wednesday, July 9, and agreed to issue a public letter that says it is concerned about the teachers’ strike/lockout and its effects on students, staff and families.
That letter was sent by e-mail on Thursday afternoon, July 10, to Education Minister Peter Fassbinder, BCTF President Jim Iker and BC Public Schools Employers’ Association Public Administrator Michael Marchbank. Please click here to read the letter.
About 30 teachers, and a few parents, attended the 5 pm meeting to ask trustees why — if they believe as strongly in education as they say they do — they have not, until now, criticized the government or publicly asked it to resolve the deadlock at the bargaining table. That’s a question that teacher Sarah Newton asked the board in an open letter sent to it at the beginning of June. Please click here to read Sarah Newton’s original letter to the SD 19 board.
It was clear to everyone present at the board meeting that many of the teachers are emotionally devastated by the strike/lockout.
After a lengthy description of the current state of negotiations by SD19 Chairman Alan Chell, the board teachers began verbally poking the board asking them why they have been so passive in the face of what has become an ugly situation.
“You are our elected officials,” said Begbie View Elementary teacher Colleen Wall. “I am asking you, as my elected officials to stand up for… BC kids and their education.”
Trustees from other boards, other teachers said, have visited picket lines in their districts and shown some sympathy for the educators who have also seen the government claw back 10 per cent of their pay. So why not Revelstoke’s trustees? That puzzles teachers since three of the board’s five trustees — Jeff Nicholson, Brian Dubasov and Elmer Rorstadt — are former educators.
“We are doing what we can do to influence things,” Chell, who has been closely monitoring the negotiations on behalf of the BC School Trustees Association, told the teachers.
However, those efforts by the board have, until now, been private. And that was not good enough for the teachers.
“It’s time for you as a board to make public and private statement to government,” said Grade 7 teacher Catherine Lavelle, adding that the board must “advocate to government — not for government.”
While most of the teachers present believe their fight is with the Ministry of Education and its minister, Peter Fassbinder, and Premier Christy Clark they probably don’t feel any enmity towards the SD 19 board of trustees.
“I do feel that trustees are there to support us as teachers and parents but… what are your thoughts?” asked Begbie View teacher Rory Luxmoore. “Because this silence of yours suggests you’re okay with the 10% cut. I have a hard time dealing with this. Want to hear that this is killing you guys.”
At that point Rorstadt asked Chell if he could introduce a motion to send a letter to Fassbinder, BCTF President Jim Iker and BC Public Schools Employers’ Association Public Administrator Michael Marchbank (Marchbank was appointed to run BCPSEA last year after Chell and the rest of its board were removed by the province.) expressing the board’s deep concern about the impact the strike is having on school district staff, students and families. Seconded by Trustee Mauro Morrone it was passed unanimously.
Besides being signed by the SD 19 Board of Trustees it is also going to be signed by Arrow Heights Elementary School Principal Todd Hicks on behalf of the BC Principals and Vice-Principals Association. Revelstoke Teachers’ Association President Jennifer Wolney would not commit to signing the letter, saying she wanted to see the wording first.