All schools across the Southeast Kootenay district are going to see an increase in staffing levels following a $50 million deal between the province and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
Regionally, roughly $552,890 of that — an interim deal between the two sides as a result of a Supreme Court ruling — is coming to local schools, according to Lynn Hauptman, superintendent for SD5.
“Every school in our district got something,” said Hauptmann, “and it ranged from a couple of blocks of teaching time to a full time teaching position, but we’re also able to add in, we’re hoping to find a district psychologist position, some additional relief time for our student services teachers to update all the paper work they have to do and some additional time for our english language teachers.”
The funding is strictly for staff teaching time that was determined after meeting with administrators at schools across the district as well as with the Cranbrook and Fernie Teachers’ Association.
Shelley Ballfour, with the Cranbrook and District Teachers’ Association, along with Christina Smith, who heads up the Fernie Teachers’ Association, both said meetings with district staff were very productive as they looked at school needs in the Southeast Kootenay.
“The first instalment of $50 million is a small step in the process to start repairing the damage to the public school system over the past 15 years,” Balfour said. “Permanent funding for public education for public education must be reinstated in the upcoming provincial election budget.”
Now that staffing levels have been decided, schools are able to post jobs to recruit any new teachers who are needed to fill the newly-created positions or time blocks, said Hauptmann.
The $50 million doled out by the province was a result of a long-running feud between the provincial government and the BCTF going all the way back to 2002. In December, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a decision by the province to strip class size and composition language from a 2002 collective bargaining agreement was unconstitutional.
Now, with the court ruling in hand, the BCTF is working with the province to sift through the contract language and restore staffing and funding levels to what they were 15 years ago.
However, that also carries some challenges, Hauptmann said.
“Both the ministry and the BCTF continue to negotiate at the negotiating table around the 2002 language because what they’ve discovered is that it’s not as simple as reverting back to the 2002 language because there are things that are significantly different from then to today,” Hauptmann said.
“So they’re working around that at the provincial level and we carry on, but this is recognition that we need more staffing in our schools so we were given the go-ahead to spend a little over a half a million dollars.”