Maple Ridge school board asks province to return to bargaining table

Board chair Ken Clarkson said trustees felt it was important for the school board to lend its voice to calls not to legislate teachers back to work

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education is asking the provincial government’s bargaining body to continue contract negotiations with the B.C. Teachers Federation, a move trustees hope will help bring about an end to job action by teachers locally.

“Our board shares the responsibility to ensure education to our children is delivered in the most positive environment,” the letter to the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association states.

“We encourage you to bargain to a successful conclusion that ensures no disruption to our children’s education.”

The letter also requests a contract settlement that is “supportive and beneficial to our public school system.”

Board chair Ken Clarkson said trustees felt it was important for the school board to lend its voice to calls on the province not to legislate teachers back to work.

“If teachers end up getting legislated back to work, it makes the working environment pretty toxic, and it doesn’t resolve anything,” he said.

Clarkson said, personally, he’d prefer to see a teacher strike as opposed to continued job action, as both sides are trying so hard to avoid a conflict that nothing is being resolved.

“Work-to-rule is harder on the system, in my opinion,” he said. “A strike doesn’t last as long, and it puts pressure on both sides to come to an agreement. Work-to rule slowly sucks the lifeblood out of the system, and when it’s all over, all that energy is a lot harder to get back.

“It’s a passion-killer.”

Clarkson said continued job action can  also cause dissension among teachers, and that can last long after they have gone back to work.

“Some [teachers] may take exception to teachers who continue to do extracurricular work,” he said.

Since job action began at the start of the school year, district administrators and exempt staff have been filling in for teachers as playground supervisors during recess and lunch hour.

While no report cards will be handed out if job action continues, Maple Ridge Teachers Association president George Serra said grades will still be available from teachers.

“Teachers are still marking assignments, so parents can contact them directly to find out how their child is progressing,” he said.

Serra added that all grades for graduation requirements will still be recorded, so students GPAs won’t be affected by the job action.

“We don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s future,” he said.