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DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HIDE March 04, 2002 We get one message from the superintendent that brings us guilt, lectures us on obligation and even brings us some praise (“the best cadre of professional staff in the country.“) Then we receive the missile from the deputy superintendent to threaten, misinform, and order. What happened to Dr. Renihan’s working collaboratively and independently? Perhaps that was just yesterday’s news. Today “duties will be performed as required.” There are problems with both messages. Dr. Renihan tells us to “keep learners at the center.” I am beginning to feel put upon every time I hear this because we are having more guilt and obligation dumped on us. Where were Dr. Renihan and his fellow superintendents when the government was making class sizes larger? Advocating for greater flexibility. Where were administrators? Stu Dale campaigned for increasing class sizes. Who were the only advocates for children? Teachers. The Board and administration support the Liberal Agenda. They want to increase your workload. They actually advocated worse learning conditions for children! Now they are suggesting that we should put learners at the centre. I wish they would support learners the way teachers have. Who has fought for the budget? Dr. Renihan says that we have the best cadre of professional staff in the country, yet he states, “They need to restore not only the fragile trust of public confidence, but also the confidence of teachers in Surrey.” I agree we are the best in the country and I don’t think we lack confidence in ourselves. Who then is responsible for us being held in low public esteem? Perhaps senior management and the Board are not up to the task of making the public aware of how good we really are. One of the stated (draft) goals of the Board is to “promote a culture that celebrates, exalts, and recognizes high achievement in all curriculum areas.” The Board wants to create a culture that destroys the work of an entire generation of teachers that attacks teachers who stand up for better working and learning conditions. Turning to Mr. Drescher’s letter. This is a scaled down version of the case that the District is presenting at the Labour Relations Board. This case is about expanding teachers’ job descriptions to include extra curricular activities such as fundraising. Drescher talks about confusion regarding the job action and legislative change. There is no confusion. The legislation sucks. Learning and working conditions are worse. We are continuing to follow the BCTF Action Plan passed by the RA. The only change in that plan was direction from the LRB that we supervise district standardized tests. The rest of the plan remains legally in place while the LRB is deciding the case, not the School District. Indeed, the strike is over but the devastation of student educational programs is not. We need to continue to advocate for children because our educational partners, superintendents, school administrators, trustees and BCCPAC are not. They all praised the cuts. Many trustees and senior administrators attended the Surrey Chamber of Commerce lunch to celebrate Mr. Campbell’s successes. I assume the children of Surrey paid for the lunch through lost educational opportunities. What are the duties of teachers? Without getting into lengthy technical arguments, which are better left to lawyers at the LRB, the duties are what we are required to do which is to meet the educational needs of students by teaching the provincial curriculum during instructional hours. There are some additional planning, assessing and reporting duties over which we have some discretion and input. Nowhere does Mr. Drescher mention the collective agreement freely negotiated between the Board and the STA. There are both benefits and obligations. It is not his prerogative to unilaterally wipe them out. Only the Liberals can do that for us. As to Mr. Drescher’s expectations, we have some differences. We agree that all teacher duties should be performed but that does not include voluntary activities. All those things that you have always determined for yourself to be voluntary extras continue to be voluntary extras. You determine how you can meet your professional obligations. Mr. Drescher reminds us that we have an obligation to work with administrators. I would put it another way: Administrators have an obligation to work with teachers collegially, respecting the long-held practice of professional autonomy in order to foster the good will that is essential to schools. AO’s who order teachers to perform voluntary activities, who bully and intimidate, will not achieve the cooperation and collegiality that Dr. Renihan purports to support. This is not a matter of work now; grieve later. If you are in doubt, contact the STA office for advice. The action plan developed by the R.A still continues. A copy is attached. We would once again reiterate our advice on School Based Team, Staff Meetings, and Parent/Teacher Interviews.
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