Like many administrators in the Vernon School District, superintendent Bev Rundell spends her mornings supervising at an elementary school playground.
Since the start of the province-wide job action by teachers, administrators are taking on tasks that would previously have been handled by teachers outside of instructional time.
“Though it is extra work, our exempt staff (superintendents, secretary-treasurers, senior school district managers, principals, vice-principals — employees not covered by a collective agreement) is enjoying the opportunity to interact with students and parents,” said Rundell.
Job action, implemented on the first day of school, involves teachers’ refusal to undertake administrative tasks or to attend unnecessary meetings, while focusing all of their energies on the classroom.
Negotiations began before the end of the last school year in the wake of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that ruled Liberal legislation of Bills 27 and 28, which stripped teachers’ contracts and limited their ability to bargain, is unconstitutional.
Rundell said while some extracurricular activities have been affected, teachers are continuing to teach, assess and communicate to parents about their child’s progress.
“Our teachers’ union has assured us that throughout their phase one strike action, they will continue to do this,” she said.
“We hope that our teachers are regularly communicating with parents about student progress, but as teachers are not communicating to principals/vice principals, we recognize there may be some inconsistencies.”
In addition to fewer extracurricular activities and field trips offered at both the elementary and secondary schools, parent education programs such as Come Read with Me, Come and Count with Me have also been affected.
“Parents have voiced their concerns about the loss of extracurricular activities, field trips and are worried about report cards,” said Rundell.
Vernon Teachers’ Association president Bruce Cummings said while formal report cards will not be completed during the job action, parents will still be kept informed of their child’s progress.
“Parents will know how their children are doing at all times, simply by contacting the teacher,” he said.
Rundell said everyone at the district remains optimistic that both the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) will continue to bargain in order to reach a contract agreement.
“The Minister of Education has indicated the province is willing to offer millions of dollars to support students with special needs,” said Rundell.
“We would welcome and support these extra resources for our vulnerable students.”
While it has been a difficult time for the district, Rundell said everyone values the important work that teachers, administrators and support staff are doing to support student learning.
And on a positive note, she believes the opportunity to interact with students and parents every morning has been a welcome one.
“We all come back to the office with positive stories about our students — even though it might be about finding worms and helping to build houses for them,” said Rundell.