Coquitlam teachers seek help for TOCs

Teachers, principals, parents and support workers all have different ideas about how School District 43 should spend its operating funds. - FILE
Teachers, principals, parents and support workers all have different ideas about how School District 43 should spend its operating funds.
— image credit: FILE

Don't lose ground on class sizes was the urgent message of the Coquitlam Teachers' Association in an otherwise optimistic budget presentation this week.

The teachers were among a large group of delegates who turned out to the School District 43 board of education meeting Tuesday to talk about how the district  should spend approximately $260 million in operating funds. Although the meeting took place just two days into regular school operations after a three day teachers' strike and months of job action, CTA president Teresa Grandinetti said her presentation had an optimistic tone because she doesn't believe the district will be making any cuts this year.

On the contrary, there may be new opportunities because the district balanced its budget so far this year and got a slight boost in per-student funding as well as money for special needs and at-risk students for next year.

The district also saved some cash when teachers were off the job for three days, and Grandinetti would like to see that money put back in schools.

More money should also be put aside to hire teachers on call (TOCs) to replace teachers doing professional development because they took a hit when an extra week was added to spring break and and extra day added to the Remembrance Day weekend, Grandinetti said.

"The big thing is they are saving $600,000 because of the extra week [of spring break] on the backs of TOCs," she told The Tri-City News on Wednesday.

Still, Bill 22 was never far from her mind, Grandinetti said, because teachers are concerned the removal of class size standards could result in larger classes.

She wants the district to keep its commitment to class sizes lower than 30, even though it costs an extra $2 million a year. Noting that SD43 has some of the largest class size averages in the province (see chart), she would like to see them made smaller, if possible.

"I'd like to see them sticking to that class size or making it better. Our numbers at Grade 4 to 7 are the highest in the province at 28 [the district average]. That's still less than 30 but it's still the highest," Grandinetti said.

Meanwhile, other groups made some suggestions for how the district spends its money.

The Coquitlam Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association asked for a reduction in teaching time so principals could work on the district's Learning Without Boundaries initiatives. CPVPA president and Scott Creek middle school principal Judy Robb also asked for discretionary staffing to address needs of vulnerable students and requested the return of student groundskeepers in summer to cut back on the weeds and blackberry bushes.

"When the school looks second-rate," she said, "families might be dissuaded from discovering the learning environment within."

SD43's teacher librarians, meanwhile, asked for enhanced service for students, especially at CABE (Coquitlam Alternative Basic Education school), Coquitlam Open Learning and the district's new Inquiry Hub, for students blending online and face-to-face learning.

CUPE, which represents SD43 support staff, called for the addition of two jobs, a clerk's position and a student services position, to help with various issues facing support workers.


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