As a publicly elected school trustee, and therefore part of the negotiations between the BCTF and the BCPSEA (which represents all school boards in the province) I have watched the ongoing stalemate with dismay.
As boards, we are bound by the edicts of the provincial government and find ourselves with our hands tied during negotiations. Therefore the entire process must be reevaluated, and I would suggest that the provincial government should take over provincial bargaining as invariably it steps in to either impose or negotiate an agreement with teachers.
Originally, I felt that mediation might finally solve the differences between the BCTF and the government and when the government announced its intention to appoint a mediator in the dispute I felt somewhat optimistic that the end might be in sight. However, as the saga continued, I began to lose hope that a solution was on the horizon.
The first stipulation was that the mediator would have to work within the government’s net-zero rule and the second was that the mediator’s recommendations would not be binding. So, one asked, what really was the point?
Then we learn that the mediator appointed by the government says, “One would have to question the wisdom of the government in appointing someone like me.” He then states that he felt he was given a “mission impossible”.
This hardly instills any degree of confidence that this process is worth the time and money that will be spent over the next few months. $2,000 a day seems a large amount to pay someone who doesn’t even think they are suitable for the job at hand, and doesn’t believe that the job they are being paid for is a viable project.
Also, it has come to light that the mediator was somehow involved in the drafting of Bill 22 (the back to work legislation). This hardly looks like an independent, unbiased mediator to me.
At Wednesday’s board meeting (April 11), I brought forward a motion that the board write to the premier and the Ministry of Education expressing its concern regarding the controversy regarding the appointment of the mediator. My motion was supported.
Here in the Central Okanagan the education of our public school students has continued with little obvious disruption. Teachers have continued to provide excellent programs and support to students; our management staff have stepped in to cover student supervision before and after school (which now is once again being provided by teachers); and trustees have continued with their work in the school district.
Visits to schools and discussions with parents have shown that at the local level there is a great deal of confidence in our public education system.
While some of the planned discussions on school catchment areas, the district facility plan and French Immersion have had to be put on hold because of the extra work senior staff have encountered during the job action, we hope to get to those issues in the fall.
In the meantime, board and committee meetings continue, with the budget discussions for 2012- 2013 being front and foremost right now.
Recently, trustees have attended meetings with West Kelowna Council, Westbank First Nation and Kelowna City Council, to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest. These meetings are important, as we work together in the best interests of all our students.
Feel free to call or email me with any questions or concerns.Please note my new email address. Moyra.Baxter@sd23.bc.ca
The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Central Okanagan Board of Education.