Teachers rally in Coquitlam to raise awareness about cuts

School District 43 teachers held a rally Tuesday afternoon in Coquitlam to raise awareness about the impact cuts are having on jobs and classrooms. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
School District 43 teachers held a rally Tuesday afternoon in Coquitlam to raise awareness about the impact cuts are having on jobs and classrooms.

Hundreds of teachers lined Como Lake Avenue in Coquitlam today, Tuesday, to raise awareness about education cuts in School District 43.

Wearing black shirts and carrying placards or a number representing their spot in the recall list, many were laid off teachers who don't know at which school or even if they will be teaching in the district next year'.

"For many families, it's devastating," said rally organizer Kara Obojski, who said she was pleased at the turnout and the number of cars that honked in support as they went by.

She said the rally was organized to raise awareness of the impacts of cuts in the district after $13.4 million was chopped from spending to balance the budget.

"I'm a parent and I'm worried about what experience my son will have, he's only in kindergarten," Obojski said.

More than 800 unionized teachers and support workers received layoff notices last week. That will cause disruption in schools, warned Amanda Long, one of the teachers who was laid off. She doesn't expect to get her job back in September because she's at the bottom of the recall list.

Among the teachers who stood for an hour along Como Lake Avenue between Hillcrest middle school and Dr. Charles Best secondary was Centennial teacher librarian Philip Salembier, who said he's worried about the impact of cuts on students.


Although he's not expecting to get laid off, Salembier came out in solidarity for teachers who did get a notice and expressed concerns about the loss of about 15 electives at his school, and whether the library could be kept open for students.

He'll go back to teaching English but said he's likely to displace another teacher. "This is the worst I've ever seen it," Salembier said about this year's budget cuts and lay off situation.

He also expressed worries that special needs children would get fewer services with the loss of speech and language pathologists, psychologists, special education assistants, councillors and youth workers.

Amy Azaroff, a primary school teacher, who received a layoff notice said she came out to the rally to "raise awareness so people see what is happening to teachers and schools."

The rally had a festive feel to it, although it was billed as a "mourning for B.C.'s education system. People had toddlers and dogs in tow, and some people brought drums and played them. One group even laid out a blanket and sat down.

Two students who came out to join the rally said they were worried about the effect that cuts would have on their education because of fewer electives and reduced supplies.

"We heard so much about what's going on," it's really sad, said Alexandra Burton, a Grade 10 student at Riverside secondary in Port Coquitlam.

Later tonight, SD43's board of education is expected to review its quarterly report on its finances at a public meeting and a $500,000 deficit is still projected for the end of the year.



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