Ucluelet teacher says class size, composition key strike issue

JACKIE CARMICHAEL Westerly News School’s out, but the strike was still on for West Coast teachers as of Sunday. Teachers staged a picket event at the school zone in Ucluelet on Thursday as the strike entered its third week.

Teacher Carey McPherson said a key issue in the walkout is class size/composition.

“This year in September, our Ucluelet Elementary School is looking at a possible class for grades 5-6-7, with 30 students – and eight of them are special needs. And one teacher,” McPherson said. “I have seen the plans, I have heard directly for the administration that that is the plan for September, right now,” she said. “The demand of the teachers is that we have a say in the class size and composition. Because we have the ruling of the Supreme Court of BC 12 years ago that says we have a say in that, and that was our contract with the government, and Christy Clark was the education minister at the time. They broke the contract, stripped that language from our collective agreement, and they’ve also done

$3 billion of cuts to education in 12 years,” McPherson said.

The striking teachers appreciate the support they have received from the community, she said.

“The general public has been very supportive in waving and honking. I’d like to say thank you for those that did,” McPherson said.

“We’re fighting for the kids,” she said.

McPherson said while the teachers haven’t had the cost of living increases given to other unions, that isn’t the top issue for the teachers.

“The cuts to education have to stop,” she said.

The Labour Relations Board has ordered school districts to provide by noon Wednesday a list of all summer school classes that should be designated an essential service.

The interim order, issued Friday, asks the districts to provide the B.C. Teachers’ Federation with a list of all Grade 10, 11 and 12 remedial courses that it intends to offer.

The order restricts enrolment in these courses to students who failed a course and have no choice but to repeat it in 2014 summer school. These are students who cannot take the failed course during the following school year, the order says.

The school districts must also provide the names of excluded personnel – principals, viceprincipals and other staff with a teaching certificate – who will be assigned to teach the courses, and an assessment of how many teachers will be needed. The school district must also provide the list of students enrolled in the courses.

-with files from the Times Colonist.