Grads go ahead as SD43 grapples with teacher volunteer withdrawal

Some SD43 concerts, middle school sports and other after-school activities likely won
Some SD43 concerts, middle school sports and other after-school activities likely won't be going ahead as members of the BC Teachers' Federation protest Bill 22, which they see as an attack on collective bargaining rights.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

A decision by B.C. public school teachers to withdraw from volunteer extracurricular activities has caused some disruption but most graduation activities and long-planned field trips are going ahead, at least at schools The Tri-City News contacted this week.

But some concerts, middle school sports and other after-school activities likely won't be going ahead as members of the BC Teachers' Federation protest Bill 22, which they see as an attack on collective bargaining rights.

Administrators are picking up the slack and parents are jumping in to help with commencement and grad dinner dances that teachers won't be helping with or attending this year.

The withdrawal, supported by 73% of teachers who voted, is part of a political strategy to get the government to change its mind on Bill 22 and will be followed with a campaign next year to oust the BC Liberals from power.

"Teachers will be following up on the majority vote that came out and a number of teachers will be wrapping up extra-curricular activities or they won't be continuing," said Coquitlam Teachers' Association (CTA) president Teresa Grandinetti.

Teachers who refuse to follow the majority vote could be subject to an internal review by the union, although Grandinetti said she won't be "going around and handing out strike tickets."

"The idea was this was an area where teachers themselves thought they could make a difference," she said. "They would let the government know they had run out of options and this is the only piece that is truly theirs."

At Port Coquitlam's Terry Fox secondary, where the musical Legally Blonde was cancelled last month, parents and administrators will be taking over the responsibility for commencement while the dinner/dance and other grad activities may look "different" this year, according to principal Heather Murphy. She said teachers did so much advance work, the job will be fairly easy to complete.

But an awards night involving the whole school that usually draws between 800 and 900 parents will be difficult to arrange without teacher involvement, she said, noting it will still go ahead. School sports, meanwhile, are continuing with parent participation and most long-planned choir and band field trips are going ahead while evening concerts will not, she said.

At Sir Frederick Banting and Pitt River middle schools, most extended field trips have already taken place and a Quebec trip planned before the BCTF vote is still going ahead.

But there is a rumbling among some parents that teachers' withdrawal to protest Bill 22 will not have the desired effect in terms of rallying support for the teachers' cause.

At Centennial secondary, where parents are jumping in to fill the roles typically done by teachers, there are concerns about what duties are still required and how to do them.

A parent who is helping to organize the grad events stated in an email that teachers' union reps have informed the Coquitlam school's parent advisory council that they won't be assisting with commencement or the dinner/dance and there is concern that parents still don't know what tasks need to be done and how to do them. Parents are also concerned about the future of after-school tutoring, band trips, EuroTour 2013 and other activities.

Bruce Dent said there is a growing level of frustration among parents and while the PAC supports the escalation of teacher action in principle, there could be a backlash.

"The parent advisory council recommends that CTA better communicate their position to the public at large if they hope to minimize parent negative reaction," Dent said.

The CTA's Grandinetti, while not commenting specifically on the Centennial situation, agreed that relationships will be strained between parents and teachers and among teachers themselves. "There will be problems in schools. I know that for a fact," she said, adding that she hopes people will be able to resolve their differences.

"You need to be honest and say why they're doing it. It's nothing to do with them personally, it's a bigger picture."


Two drama productions are going ahead at SD43 schools despite the extracurricular activity ban.

As of Tuesday, Dr. Charles Best secondary planned to continue with its evening shows of A Midsummer Night's Dream April 28 to May 5 because of the cost and complexity of the production, which was too far along to call off, said principal Mary O'Neill, who said that once the production was in the works, the drama teacher "checked it out" with the union.

Gleneagle secondary is also going ahead with its production of Seussical the Musical, set for May 9, but principal Gerald Shong said it's tied to course work for the musical theatre class and, therefore, permissible.

The Coquitlam school's planned production of The Outsiders was cancelled because of teachers' withdrawal from extracurricular activities.


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