'Teach only' in Surrey schools
As Surrey students headed back to school this week after a two-week spring break, things were not entirely back to normal for teachers, who continue to protest provincial legislation passed earlier this month.
While Bill 22 put an end to strike action by members of the BCTF (B.C. Teachers' Federation), the union has scheduled a vote April 17 and 18 to decide whether teachers will engage in a new plan which includes withholding all involvement in extra-curricular activities.
Until then, a "teach only" strategy is in place where teachers are encouraged to limit their volunteer work and not start any new extra-curricular activities. Teachers are also asked not to help with school assemblies or "actively participate" in meetings called by principals.
"The emphasis will be on teaching and doing only what is necessary for teaching (planning, preparing, marking and so on)," reads a Surrey Teachers' Association (STA) memo.
However, job action that began in September will not continue, meaning teachers will resume supervision duties (lunchtime and after school).
Term one and two report cards that were sent home blank will not be re-issued, but teachers will be issuing final report cards in June – except for high school teachers, who will be providing some marks early for university and scholarship applications.
The STA planned to hold a special meeting at the Cloverdale Agriplex tonight (March 28) to share the BCTF's action plan. Individual districts have the right to decide, as Delta has done, to immediately withdraw voluntary extracurricular activities.
Bill 22 extends the current teacher contract terms until the end of August and imposes a cooling-off period until then. It gives government-appointed mediator Charles Jago – former University of Northern B.C. president – until June 30 to seek agreement on issues, other than pay and benefits, that adhere to the province's net-zero mandate.
Prior to Jago's appointment by Education Minister George Abbott this week, STA president Denise Moffatt called the process a "sham" because the mediator's scope has been so severely limited.
The teachers' union argues the new law makes things worse for students with provisions such as the removal of limits on the number of special needs students who can be in one classroom (three is the current maximum). There is also a new teacher evaluation and selection process which promises to be controversial.
The legislation gives the government the authority to impose huge fines – $1.3 million a day for the union or $475 per day for individual teachers – if teachers strike during the cooling-off period.
A second vote by BCTF members would have to be held with a majority in support for the union to proceed with an illegal strike.