Toward a Preferred Future

Excerpts from a letter I wrote today:

There is no doubt that throughout the Province a demoralizing cloud of despair has settled upon Public Education.  I suspect that many people will look back on this experience with sincere regret; our legacy will be the fallout of an acrimonious debate that has done nothing to improve education – but that has contributed to severe and long lasting negative impact.  Rather than creating a space of enlightened, collaborative opportunity to work together for a preferred future, a space of heat that distracts from the heart of the matter has been established.

 I am an educator who since 1987 has taught hundreds of children, worked tirelessly in various school environments and who has sought to improve learning conditions by means of various administrative appointments I have held since 1998.  My path shares more similarities than differences with teachers and administrators throughout the province.  It is from this place of common interests and shared vision that I wish to move forward.

A question I am asked frequently is how I feel regarding Bill 22.  In my opinion the legislation opens more windows of opportunity for the future of public education than it closes.  Admittedly I harbor significant distaste for any legislated conclusion to a bargaining process and I have spoken publicly about that.  The inclusion of the Learning Improvement Fund to attend to the needs of “unidentified” or “grey area” students, and the requirement for whole school collaboration regarding organization for learning are important steps forward – valuing the voice, expertise and contributions of our Teachers.  These two aspects of the legislation move us away from a silo model of decision making and school organizational structures designed around students’ “codes” rather than students’ actual needs.  

I disagree with any legislation that directs class size.  In my opinion class size should  be neither legislated nor bargained; class size decisions should be data driven and made at each school.  We know, for example, that some classes can be bigger depending on the instructional style or content requirements, or needs of the students.  On the other hand, we know some classes should be smaller – depending on the same factors.  With regard to hiring practices, our District’s Collective Agreement already contemplates a process that honors suitability for a position, along with seniority, so I can support this part of the legislation.  Supervision and evaluation are a normal requirement for any profession – and, when approached from a perspective of growth and support – are a very helpful means of moving an organization forward. 

Collective Bargaining will continue, and hopefully at the end of it we will see a contract that will advance us forward.  You can already see that there will likely be parts of it with which I disagree – but I will work with it – hopefully in a space of enlightened, collaborative opportunity to work together for a preferred future – as I mentioned before.

I hesitate to express myself in writing in these tenuous times, because there is a chance that my words could be twisted and used to propagate an “us versus them” trajectory in the District.  In spite of my best efforts, this has happened before.  However,  I trust that my words will not be twisted into some sordid tale that I disrespect our Teachers or that I do not support our Teachers even though some of our colleagues are quite intent on chiseling deep crevices between Administration and our Teachers.  To me, this practice is distasteful and simply makes it more difficult to move forward together.

Although I disrespect some of the means that are being employed, I do value the right of every human being to express themselves and to protest where they feel they need to.  In the end, I hope that you will join me in a more productive conversation about how our District can work together – moving forward.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Toward a Preferred Future

  1. Giant Rider says:

    In writing this piece, Jeff, you have shown strength of character and a strong moral compass. I find myself in agreement with your observations.
    The “us versus them” agenda has pervaded public education since unionization in 1987 and it continues unabated. If blame is to be apportioned, it does not all fall upon the BCTF, the government, boards or adminitrators; I’ve seen examples of wedges driven by all of these parties.
    I applaud your hopeful outlook.

    Bob Wanless
    Retired Director of Human Resources, SD8

  2. Rebecca Blair says:

    Hi Jeff, the biggest concern about Bill 22 is that it does effectively put an end to collective bargaining – your claim that it will continue is contrary to the very intent of the Bill. The windows being opened or closed are all specific to the fact that the government does not want to engage in collective bargaining, and wishes to minimize the impact of contract stripping.
    Legislated class size replaced contract language which teachers had bargained. They often gave up salary raises to get better classroom conditions – Bill 22 purports to address the fact that the Supreme Court ruled the legislated class size (Bill 33) as illegal. This Bill perpetuates the impositon of working conditions which should be bargained.
    Our post and fill language meshes with the language imposed by Bill 22 nicely, as you say. It is language which limits opportunities for members, and ultimately leaves hiring in the hands of the employer – with no regard to the length of service a teacher has provided to this Board. Seniority needs to be included in a fair hiring process, and that is why most contracts in the province do have seniority in the post and fill language.
    The monies promised in the LIF are inadequate; conversations in this area will be about how to do more with less. The government is not providing adequate funding, the Board is in the unfortunate position of dribbling the funds out bit by bit. The real divide, or chasm, is not between administrators and teachers, but the reality of classrooms and what the government spins out as adequate funding.
    I wish that your interpretation of the impact of Bill 22 explored more fully the real reasons behind the damage done by this Bill.

    • jjonessd08 says:

      Thank you for your contribution, in your role as Co-President of the KLTF. In fact, Bill 22 does not put an end to collective bargaining; it extended the current contract and respects the fact that collective bargaining will commence; your own President Susan Lambert has indicated an acknowledgement that Collective Bargaining is starting again. As you know, I believe most employers would disagree with you – as would many of your own members – that seniority should trump suitability for hiring decisions. I look forward to our continued discussions and opportunities to establish a pathway for us all to move forward in our District.

  3. Rebecca Blair says:

    Hi Jeff – you have assumed the union was asserting seniority in some way “trumps” qualifications for a position. That is absolutely innaccurate. One must be qualified for a job – not “suitable”, which is the current offensive term being used. We are qualified professionals, and we should be respected in the hiring practice for the years of service to this district. As professionals, we should be entitled to some preference when we spend years in service to a particular employer.
    Members of the Creston Valley Teachers’ Association will always see Bill 22 as a direct attack on our profession – and as I have said in many places, it is not the current Board or management who are the ones who are to blame for our concerns. Look no further than the legislation this government continues to bring to life – and be concerned for the very fabric of our public education system. We worry not just for our students, but for what the future will bring to the very structure of the Boards of Education. Always enjoy our conversations, looking forward to many more.

    • Steve Montgomery says:

      Thanks very much Becky for stating the truth regarding the current state of affairs of Education in BC. Interesting how we teachers find that the comments and actions from the administrators and district office in SD8 constantly using the same dogmatic rhetoric as Minister Abbott. From this teacher’s perspective, it seems that our administration has completely lost touch with the teachers on the frontlines in this district who actually do the work in education – otherwise why would district office balance next year’s budget solely by cutting teachers and the teacher resource centers while not a single job will be lost at the district office. This is not the way to build trust. This makes our job a whole lot harder and it doesn’t seem fair at all.

      • jjonessd08 says:

        Thank you for your comments Steve. One of our challenges in our district is that student population has decreased, yet we have kept schools open; this is why we don’t see an decrease in school based leadership. We did also spend quite a bit of time analyzing District administrative positions. While we recognize it doesn’t seem fair, we believe that for the time being we could not make reductions at this level. We did make reductions at the District level in several areas however. Between now and next year when we anticipate another 700,000 reduction in our operating grant to align with a continued decline in student numbers, we will continue to analyze where we can make appropriate adjustments in levels of staffing. As for the District Curriculum Resource Centres, we are anticipating a realignment of ways that teachers can access the materials and resources which are currently housed and distributed from two resource centres in our District. We believe we can create signficant efficiencies in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s