Letters to the Editor: Feb. 6

Open letter to parents of SD5; Canadian icon at risk; Teachers lead the way

Open letter to parents

We need your help to change the school calendar.  We want our schools to provide five full days of education every week like the majority of public and private schools in B.C.

There is no valid educational reason for adding minutes to each day so one full day can be eliminated every second week.  The BC Ministry of Education refers to these extra days as Vacation Days.

We requested an opportunity to provide input for next year’s school calendar to the board at the February 10th School Board’s Meeting.  The Secretary Treasurer refused stating ‘At the time the Board sends the proposed calendar to the public an opportunity will be provided to the public to provide written input to Board.’

We had hoped to provide input before the calendar was put together, but we will wait and hope that parents will support our efforts to request the elimination of the extra nine NIS (Not in Service – Vacation Days).

The calendar needs to change.  The needs of families have changed.  The extra nine days should to be eliminated to better meet the needs of today’s parents, and students.  There is no drop-in Day Care, as there was in the past, and there are fewer extended families living close by who might be able to help.

Others have challenged the NIS days before.  When they asked for evidence to support the nine NIS Vacation Days, they were told teachers, and students were polled, and they had all approved.  Wouldn’t you approve if you could get an extra nine vacation days without any loss of pay? Asking students if they want to keep the extra days off from school is like asking a child if they want to keep Christmas.

While these nine days do not affect a teacher’s salary, they cost many parents a day of lost wages or, if it can be found, the price for costly Day Care.

This is the beginning of a new term for the newly elected School Board Trustees.  We hope they will demonstrate a willingness to listen to the needs of parents, and families in an open consultative manner.

Help change next year’s calendar.  Sign a petition to remove the nine NIS – Vacation Days.

Petitions for change are available from erpalmer505@gmail.com

Leena Wright and Erika Rieve Palmer/Cranbrook

Canadian icon at risk

In the 2012 federal budget the Conservative government announced their plan to cut $115 million from the CBC’s annual budget between 2012 and 2015. An additional cut of $130 million by 2016 was announced in April of 2014.

Total job loss – 1,307 jobs. Impact on those who care about what it means to be Canadian – significant!

Why should we care? It is the CBC, our public broadcaster, that keeps us informed on what the issues are across our country (e.g. Cross Country Check Up), keeps us entertained (e.g. The Debaters) and gives us the opportunity to laugh while we learn (e.g. The Rick Mercer Report) to name just a few program highlights.

When you live in a largely rural region like the Kootenays, CBC radio becomes the friend that travels with you along our highways. Simply stated, we need expanded CBC coverage, not less.

Cutting millions of dollars will take us in the wrong direction both nationally and internationally. We need the CBC when we travel on business or vacation, or as part of the Armed Forces, to keep us in touch with home.

In the early 1980s I coordinated a series featuring BC’s Provincial Parks with CBC television called Adventure BC. I traveled the province with a producer, a cameraman and program host Bob Switzer, provided by CBC television. Using local experts, we featured what makes parks and heritage places like Cody Caves, Ft. Steele, and St Mary’s Alpine such important assets.

More Conservative government means not only will regional programming be a thing of the past, meaningful national coverage will also be seriously at risk.

If we care about Canada and the things that define us as Canadians, we can’t let that happen.

Wayne Stetski/Cranbrook

Teachers lead the way

Contrary to Tom Fletcher’s assertion that BC teachers and the BCTF are not “adapting,” we are actually leading the way in protecting and enhancing education in our province. The BC Teachers’ Federation is actively involved in BC’s task force on assessment, the graduation requirements review, and the curriculum redesign teams. Our two Vice-Presidents and I have been meeting with senior Ministry of Education staff on these initiatives as well.

As a union of professionals, we work hard to enhance our practice in support of teaching and learning. The BCTF has 32 provincial specialist associations—ranging from science, social studies, and art to technology and trades education—that put on exceptional professional development conferences, write reports, and lead important teacher inquiry projects.

Recently, the BCTF has partnered with UBC and the BC Superintendents Association to create a province-wide mentoring program that will formalize an integrated system of support for developing and retaining teachers in BC. We also funded, created, and launched a new online platform called TeachBC that enables teachers from across BC to share their research and teaching resources.

There are a lot of excellent things happening in BC schools and teachers are front and centre making it all happen. However, we cannot forget that any government strategy, initiative, direction, plan, etc., needs funding. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for this government to fund the basics like improving class size and composition. A change in government attitude towards funding is the first adaptation BC students need.

Jim Iker/BCTF President