Chilliwack teachers take fight to the picket lines

Chilliwack teachers were picketing outside schools Thursday, May 29.

Central elementary teachers and CUPE staff picket outside the school Thursday

Central elementary teachers and CUPE staff picket outside the school Thursday

It wasn’t hard to find passionate teachers on the picket lines Thursday.

Even if they hadn’t been mandated to be out there for four shifts, several said they would have been anyway.

Rain and all.

“This is all about students,” said Chilliwack middle school teacher Kellie Ganske. “It’s about giving them the best education they deserve.”

Something Ganske and her colleagues firmly believe they are not currently getting.

CMS teacher Tracy Morford has 10 students with special needs in one class, but only one educational assistant.

“All of these students have very different needs,” she said. “We do the best we can with what we’re given, but we can’t possibly deal with all their individual needs.

“In the media it’s unfortunately been all about wages, but class size and composition is very near and dear to our hearts.”

Laurie Sarnaski, a teacher at Central elementary, disparaged over her inner-city school having limited library time due to staffing cuts.

Currently Central students are getting a half an hour of library time a week, with no time at recess or lunch.

The current teacher-librarian, who has accepted a position elsewhere and won’t be replaced, works four per cent of his day in the library; the school district doesn’t replace positions that are less than 20 per cent.

“Many of our students don’t have books at home; our library is their only access to books,” said Sarnaski. “But my students can’t get into the library because there’s no staffing.

“Libraries foster a love of reading, a love of books, and if we had more teacher-librarian time, and libraries that were open, I am sure we would see an increase in a love for reading and possibly an increase in our reading scores and levels,” said Sarnaski.

Central elementary teacher Katharin Midzain said Premier Christy Clark needs to be held accountable.

“This is about more than contract negotiations, it’s about democracy and the lack of respect Christy Clark has shown for democratic principles,” she said.

Teachers weren’t the only ones carrying political sandwich boards. A large contingent of CUPE support staff were on the picket lines as well.

According to CUPE 411 president, Rod Isaac, the majority of his membership – 825 in total – were out in one form or other supporting teachers.

“The government doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on in schools on a day-to-day basis and how they are underfunding education,” said Isaac, standing outside Chilliwack secondary, after already visiting five other sites.

“The chronic underfunding of schools needs to stop.”

kbartel@theprogress.com

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