August 29, 2014 - 6:16 AM
Earlier this week, I went out to cover strike action on the local front. The problem was, I couldn’t find any teachers.
There was little sign of them in the city; no sound of car horns being honked in support, no thumbs being wagged in the air, no protest signs, no chanting, no teachers. In other communities across the province, teachers had returned to the picket lines, but Vernon was different.
Vernon Teachers’ Association president Heather Malcolm explained that local teachers weren’t giving up the fight, they were just changing strategies.
The recommendation of a recent B.C. Teachers Federation conference in Kamloops was that local associations should choose for themselves how to carry out strike action this week, Malcolm said.
Instead of picketing outside their schools, Vernon teachers chose to concentrate efforts outside the Vernon School District offices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. If a deal isn’t reached over the long weekend, they plan to resume regular picket duty at schools starting Sept. 2.
Their intentions with the school district were clear at a public board meeting Wednesday night. Teachers spoke passionately, angrily, and at times through tears.
“I feel like the system is setting us up to fail,” one teacher said.
They asked the board to push for mediation so they can get back to their students, but it was also evident they were asking for something more: They were pleading with the school board to be on their side.
A teacher brought up the story of the Cowichan Valley School Board and how it refused to submit a balanced budget. The trustees were all fired, but at least they stood up for their schools and for their students, the teacher said. School districts make gut-wrenching decisions every year on what to cut and what to keep.
“We need to say there’s not enough money. These problems would go away if children were treated with respect,” she said.
Teachers’ immediate goal may be mediation, but what they really want is to see some passion from board trustees; a willingness to step on some toes, make some noise, and stand up for a common goal: Their students.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014