Chilliwack teachers appeal for trustee pressure

A group of Chilliwack teachers pleaded to school trustees for more advocacy and support in the bargaining process.

A delegation of teachers expressed sympathy at Tuesday night’s school board meeting for the added responsibilities placed on the district’s administrative staff over the last 75 days.

But those responsibilities are nothing compared to what teachers have experienced over the last 10 years, said Katharin Midzain, president of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association.

Jan. 28 marks the 10th anniversary of Bills 27 and 28 being implemented by the provincial government, which removed class size and composition from collective bargaining.

“That multiplies out to about 1,980 days of classes where students have not had the support that they need and teachers have not had the time or resources to adequately meet the needs of every student under their charge,” said Midzain, who expressed appreciation to the board and district staff for making the best of an “intolerable” situation.

But, “we need more from you. We need you to help us break the log jam that is happening at the provincial bargaining level. We need you to advocate strongly for the provisions that had been in place before Bills 27 and 28… We need your help to lobby the government for what’s right for our students.”

The BC Teachers Federation enacted phase 1 of job action on Sept. 6, which has resulted in a reduction of administrative and ministry mandated services by teachers, such as supervision at recess and before and after school supervision. Administrative staff have had to pick up the slack.

Ten teachers filled the district office to express the increased pressures they’ve experienced over the last 10 years.

Lisa Ego, chemistry teacher at Sardis secondary, is often at the school well into the night making labs and preparing chemical solutions for four different classes, because she no longer has prep time.

Liz MacKenzie, an elementary school counselor and vice president of CTA, said she has a caseload of more than 1,000 students, many of who she can’t adequately support because of the increased workload.

Dan Petek, English teacher at Sardis secondary said several of his students are below reading levels because of cutbacks.

“By the time I get them in grades 10, 11 and 12, they have significant challenges to work with,” said Petek.

Lee-Anne Clarke, Grade 8 English teacher and teacher-librarian at A.D. Rundle middle school, said she also has students struggling with reading – some as low as kindergarten levels.

“I love my job, I really love being a teacher,” she said. “However, the erosion of [learning assistants] has meant that I am the primary person … expected to do it all.

“And the kids are suffering.”

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