The Board of Education, School District No. 53 (Okanagan Similkameen), is extremely saddened by the current state of negotiations between the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA). The impact of the current stalemate has been widely felt in all of our communities. Our staff and educational partners are dedicated to quality education for all students and the current situation is deeply concerning and frustrating for everyone.
We know that our parents are anxious for their children to return to school, whether it is for their first day in kindergarten or for their final year of high school. We as your elected trustees want an end to this stalemate and our schools to be back in session without further delay.
Members.of our communities have asked us about our role in this dispute. Your trustees have written numerous letters to the ministry of Education as well as to our local MLA to ask for a negotiated settlement to be reached between the BCTF and the BCPSEA. We have urged the ministry to increase per student funding to keep up with inflation and have complained about downloaded costs by government to school districts. We have shared our concerns-regarding stable and sustainable funding at meetings with both our MLA and the ministry. We want to ensure you that we will continue to advocate on behalf of our students for adequate funding for a quality education for students in our district. Our board has also formally endorsed the BC School Trustees Association’s “Back to School Action Plan” and has asked both parties to implement the recommendations within that plan. The plan can be found on the BCSTA website at www.bcsta.org. It asks both parties to return to the bargaining table and:
• to work towards a freely negotiated settlement that both parties can support and which
falls within the economic mandate set by the provincial government and makes improvements to class size and composition; and,
• that any savings resulting from the strike and lockout stay within the public school system to benefit students.
Our board believes that our teachers deserve a fair wage increase and that learning conditions for our students in the classroom need to be addressed at the bargaining table. We want flexibility on class size and composition and improved classroom conditions in our district to meet the needs of all students.
We know that the issues are complex and that it is not just about money; but we do need an agreement that meets the needs of students and provides long-term stability for public education. We want both the government and the BCTF to be flexible and to make moves so that this dispute can be settled.
We know that the strike has caused a lot of uncertainty and disruption to student learning but we are encouraged by an update from the ministry that was sent to superintendents which states “The ministry is monitoring the labour situation closely and will work with school districts on a strategy to reduce the impact on students once school resumes. The ministry is currently developing options on how students can complete the courses they need to advance to the next grade level or post-secondary programs, despite the instructional days lost due to t he strike.”
We urge concerned parents and community members to communicate their concerns directly to the negotiating parties and to check our school district website at www.sd53.bc.ca for the latest updates to the current situation as well as links to additional information.
Please feel free to contact your trustees with your concerns and questions. If you have specific questions regarding your child, please contact your local principal during normal school hours.
We would like to thank everyone in our communities for their ongoing patience and understanding and we hope that there will be a resolution to the current labour situation soon.