Spring school sports go on despite teacher withdrawal

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The senior girls soccer show will go on — at least for now.

That’s what Fraser Valley North AAA high school league co-ordinator and Centennial Centaurs coach Larry Moro told The Tri-City News on Monday after BC Teachers’ Federation members voted decisively last week to withdraw from all extra-curricular activities, including sports.

BC School Sports (BCSS) responded last Friday by announcing it is going to proceed with the planned season for the 35,000 students involved in girls’ soccer, track and field, rugby, golf, tennis and mountain-biking, although it’s largely in the hands of the many volunteer teacher coaches to decide if they continue.

This season, five School District 43 teams play girls’ soccer: Centennial, Dr. Charles Best, Heritage Woods, Terry Fox and Riverside.

“Right now, games are a go,” Moro said in an email. “A few teams have dropped out in Surrey but I haven’t heard of anyone in our league dropping out. I am hopeful none will as Riverside, Heritage Woods and Centennial (my co-coach) have community coaches and Fox has a vice-principal. Best, I think, is continuing as usual so hopefully we’ll be able to finish the schedule.”

BCSS second vice-president Rob Colombo, who works as athletic director and a teacher at Port Coquitlam’s Riverside secondary, told The Tri-City News last Friday his group is simply looking out in the best interests of students in sports.

“We’re an organization which covers all sports,” Colombo said. “We are not a political body. Our coaches are both teacher volunteers and community volunteers and we are here to provide the opportunity for kids to participate and play for provincial championships.”

Colombo said he “would hate to speculate” about possible fallout between teachers who differ on the extra-curricular ban and BC School Sports said in a press release: “The board of directors of the BCSS recognizes and respects the position of teachers during the current labour dispute with the government. BCSS views extra-curricular activities, including coaching, as voluntary and will respect the decisions that individual teacher coaches will make on their personal involvement with school sports. We are hopeful that community volunteers, administrators and teachers will continue to support student athletes.”

B.C. teachers voted a resounding 73% in favour of a resistance strategy to oppose Bill 22, the controversial Education Improvement Act. Besides withdrawing from extra-curricular activities, the result of last week’s vote — in which 29,000 of the union’s 41,000 members cast ballots — calls for the start of a public awareness campaign to mobilize opposition to the legislation and for the possibility of a future vote on a full-scale strike, which would be deemed illegal.

BCTF president Susan Lambert called the result, with 21,625 teachers in favour and 7,846 opposed, a strong vote of confidence in the action plan crafted by delegates to the BCTF’s annual general meeting in March.

“This vote sends a powerful message to the government that they must rethink Bill 22, listen to the concerns of teachers, respect our rights and invest in services to students,” Lambert said in the release. “Teachers are united in this terrible piece of legislation... We simply have to take a strong stand.”

BCSS, meanwhile, relies on 15,000 volunteer coaches annually to run inter-school athletic programs for 18 sports, which conclude with 45 provincial championships. Of the 15,000 coaches, 58% are teachers, including 15% that represent private/independent schools and are not part of the BCTF, Colombo said.




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