Full impact of teachers’ vote not yet realized

Abbotsford teachers, parents, students and administrators are still trying to determine exactly what and how activities will be impacted.

  • Apr. 23, 2012 10:00 a.m.
Full impact of teachers' vote not yet realized

by Vikki Hopes and Dan Kinvig, Abbotsford News

Teachers, students, parents and administrators in Abbotsford are still trying to determine how certain activities, such as grad, will be affected and what adjustments will be needed, following the provincial teachers’ vote last week to withdraw participation in all extracurricular activities

The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) announced Friday that teachers who voted were 73 per cent in favour of a “resistance strategy” to oppose Bill 22, which prohibits them from striking and imposes a six-month cooling-off period.

Teachers have been embroiled in a year-long contract dispute with their employer, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.

Jeff Dunton, president of the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association, said the vote was a difficult one, but teachers needed to take “drastic action.”

He said volunteering for extracurricular activities such as sports, drama productions and graduation ceremonies is not part of their job, although teachers have done it for years because they enjoy it.

The vote is a statement to government that they have not been appreciated for their efforts, Dunton said.

“Teachers are finally looking and saying they’re not fully respected, and they’ve been treated badly for a number of years, and Bill 22 is only the tip of the iceberg.”

He said teachers this week are immersed in completing second-term report cards – following an order by the Labour Relations Board that they must do so – and they have not had an opportunity to determine all the activities that constitute volunteer time.

Not all teachers are complying with the BCTF directive.

On the senior boys rugby scene, a number of teams in the Fraser Valley dropped out earlier in the year when teachers at individual schools voted to withdraw participation in extracurricular activities.

But three local senior boys rugby programs – at Abbotsford Collegiate, Robert Bateman and Yale secondaries – forged ahead with teacher-led coaching staffs. All three are planning to continue on even after the province-wide BCTF vote.

“I just feel like I made a commitment prior to this (vote) coming through to run the season with these boys, and I don’t want to let them down,” Abby Collegiate coach Sean McLaughlin said. “I’m sure that it will make some people unhappy, but at the same time, I have to do what I feel is right.”

Yale coach Doug Primrose said that with rugby season approaching playoffs, it doesn’t make sense to pull the plug at this point.

“We’ve already started, and we told the kids we were going to finish, so we might as well continue on and see what happens,” he said.

Bateman coach Dave Chambers said, “I don’t really want to get into politics with the sport.”

The provincial senior boys rugby championships are scheduled to run in Abbotsford, May 30 to June 2, and Primrose said that event will go ahead.

But other students have felt the repercussions.

Yale Secondary Grade 12 students Alissa Degianni and Marleau Brown both participate in soccer, rugby, and track and field. All those sports have been cancelled.

Both said they are worried their scholarship potential has been affected, with no opportunities for college or university coaches to see them compete.

The two are also concerned that teachers are not taking part in graduation activities, but are hopeful parents and administrators will fill in the gap.

“We have a huge grad class, so we’re hoping parents step up. We’d hate to lose it (grad),” Brown said.

Kevin Godden, superintendent of the Abbotsford school district, said he is  “very concerned” that Abbotsford’s rich traditions in sports and arts will be sullied by the job action.

He feels graduation ceremonies are made more meaningful for students by the participation of teachers. But schools and parents will continue planning these events, and “make this year as special as we can,” he said.

“I want the public to continue to have confidence in our school system, that we do the best we can for our kids.”

Bud Loewen, president of the District Parents’ Advisory Council, said it’s too soon to tell how parents feel about the vote, but more feedback will come out as the weeks progress.

“I think they might be in a shock right now a little bit,” he said.