Teacher job action in Maple Ridge won’t disrupt exams

Principals and vice principals to mark and administer provincial exams in SD42.

School principals and vice principals will be pitching in to administer and mark provincial exams, preventing any disruption for students during the ongoing teacher job action.

A few hundred students wrote their provincial exams in January, with the bulk of students writing their exams in June.

School District No. 42 Director of Human Resources Harry Dhillon said the district is working with the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Union to make sure there is no disruption to students, while adhering to the rules of the job action.

“There’s no impact on students,” Dhillon said. “Any student that wants to write a provincial exam can do so.”

In some cases, however, teachers are being called upon to mark tests, but that does not violate the teachers’ job action, said Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra.

According to a ruling by the B.C. Labour Relations Board, teachers are allowed to mark provincial exams if the school district has made every attempt to utilize management.

This past month, just two provincial exams – French Immersion Social Studies 11 and First Nations 12 – required teachers to mark them.

“We didn’t have any administrators capable of marking those tests, so we relied on the teachers who taught the classes,” said Dhillon.

With the bulk of provincial exams to written in June, both Dhillon and Serra expect more teachers will be called upon to mark the tests.

Serra said teachers and district staff have been cooperating to ensure the job action doesn’t disrupt students. An amicable working relationship with the district has made that easier.

“I know that we don’t have a lot of the issues other districts have,” Serra said. “It doesn’t always have to be a fight.”

School staff will also be administering the province’s controversial Foundation Skills Assessment test for Grade 4 and 7 students. School principals and vice-principals took over marking the exam two years ago, but with teacher job action, they will be administering the test as well.

Teachers across the province have been taking part in the job action after contract talks with the province broke down last summer. As a result, teachers have not been meeting with administrators, taking part in extracurricular activities, or preparing report cards using the provincial template.

The provincial government is currently facing a $3.1 billion budget deficit. The contract the province has proposed would see teacher wages frozen for the first two years of the contract. A similar contact has been offered and agreed to by other public sector employees.

Teachers, for their part, are asking for a 15 per cent increase over three years, at an additional cost of $300 million over the span of the contract. In 2006, B.C. teachers signed a five-year contract with a 16 per cent increase in wage and benefits, as well as a $4,000 signing bonus.