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Central Okanagan has enough teachers but substitutes a concern

Image Credit: Jenn Stahn
September 05, 2018 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - The Central Okanagan School Board is reporting none of the problems recruiting and retaining enough teachers for the estimated 22,500 students returning this week, superintendent Kevin Kardaal says.

“We’ve filled all our positions, including French Immersion,” Kaardal said. “It’s a really great place to work and we’ve been very lucky in recruiting. I think part of it is the paradise we live in. It’s an attractive place to come live, a family-oriented valley.”

Kaardal also gives credit to staff. “Internally our human resources department does a fantastic job and our principals do a great job of welcoming them,” he added.

Many school districts around the province have reported problems filling positions across the spectrum of subjects as the province struggled to respond to the Supreme Court ruling of 2016 that restored classroom staffing to 2002 levels.

That set off a surge of hiring as the province tried to hire 3,500 new teachers. In some cases, school districts were forced to hire non-certified university graduates as teachers.

The Central Okanagan school district last year added 131 teachers, creating a roster of 1,661 teachers filling the equivalent of 1,344 full-time jobs.

Central Okanagan Teachers Assocation president Susan Bauhart said she generally shares the superintendent’s optimism but has concerns over the number of substitute teachers on call, something she said was a constant problem last school year.

“That’s the question mark for us and I think there may be a similar situation this year,” Bauhart added. “Last year it was a regular occurrence. We did not have enough teachers on call to satisfy all the needs.”

Of particular concern, Bauhart said, was the regular use of special education assistants being used as frontline teachers.

“At least we didn’t have uncertified teachers the way some districts did,” she added.

Bauhart said that between illness, new curriculum and technical training, it’s not uncommon for the district to need 150 substitute teachers on a given day.

She expects to hear by Friday an estimate of student numbers and will have a clearer picture of the need for substitutes, Bauhart added.

“I keep hearing they’ve hired 200 teachers but I don’t know, we will see when the dust settles later this week.”

The Central Okanagan Teachers Association is part of the umbrella B.C. Teachers Federation.

The contract between the union and the province’s 63 school district runs out June 30, 2019, with contract negotations expected to begin in March.

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