Retired teachers don’t appreciate minister’s ‘letters of appreciation’

A certificate of appreciation from the B.C. Education Ministry was a slap in the face for several retired Chilliwack teachers.

A certificate of appreciation from the B.C. Education Ministry was a slap in the face for several retired Chilliwack teachers.

On March 12, Minister of Education George Abbott sent a formal letter to all retired teachers thanking them for their “contribution to the education system, the teaching profession and, most importantly, the children of British Columbia.”

Some are questioning the government’s motives.

Linda Fritsch, who retired five years ago, was “livid” when she read the letter.

“It’s infuriating they would have the audacity to do this at this time,” she said. “Had it come a few months after I retired, that would have been nice, but to get it five years and three months later, it’s unbelievable.

“Why now? What’s the ulterior motive?”

According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, there was no ulterior motive.

When the BC College of Teachers was dissolved by the government last year, and the Teacher Regulation Branch took its stead in January, retired teachers were notified their non-active teaching certificates would be invalid. Unless they paid the $120 active membership fee, they would not be a part of the organization’s membership.

As such, it was “deemed appropriate” to send a letter to non-active teachers thanking them for their service.

In B.C., there are currently 14,000 retired teachers, of which 8,590 received letters from the Ministry of Education at a cost of $12,194.

Suzy Riddolls, who retired in 2004, would have much preferred to keep her non-practicing certificate over the letter of acknowledgement.

“Instead of spending money to mail a certificate of appreciation to retired teachers, perhaps the government could have just allowed these retired teachers to keep their non-practicing certificates,” said Riddolls.

“Getting the letter was just another slap in the face, because right now [the education system] needs money and what did it cost to send out 14,000 letters?”

For Owen Skonberg, who retired four and a half years ago after a 30-year career, and has no plans to return to work, it’s the principle of the matter.

Skonberg had framed his non-practicing certificate, and now it means nothing, he said.

In a letter to Abbott, he expressed his displeasure.

“I retired almost five years ago and am appalled that you would congratulate me when you strip me of my certification that I worked so hard to earn,” he said.

“You and your Liberal cronies have once again used our tax dollars to send out useless papers. The money would have been far better spent settling the conflict with my fellow teaching colleagues.”

Other teachers have also written letters to Abbott and some have returned Abbott’s letter to the ministry.