UBC Faculty Association in Mediation for Contract

Letter from UBC Faculty Association president issued today following a meeting of the Faculty Association Executive.

Dear Member,

Your Faculty Association bargaining committee has been negotiating contract language and monetary issues with the UBC Administration since February 15, 2006, and has not yet reached an agreement.

At 13:00 today we started the mediation process at the BC Labour Relations Board with Mark Brown (Registrar, Deputy Vice-Chair and Associate Chair of mediation division) as mediator. We shall communication updates as soon as they are able.

Elliot Burnell
President, on behalf of the Bargaining Team
UBC Faculty Association

University of Prince Edward Island Faculty Association Strike Over

Members of the University of Prince Edward Island Faculty Association went on strike at 7:30 am Tuesday morning, March 21, 2006, after late-night negotiations on Monday failed to achieve an agreement. Spirits of strikers were lifted by support from the honking horns of cars and passers-by and students stopping with coffee, donuts and greetings of solidarity. The Strike ended April 5th, 2006.

The strike concerned central issues of salary comparability within the region, workload, benefits and ending mandatory retirement. Late on Monday night (March 20) the employer rejected the association’s substantially revised framework for salary and teaching workload.

According to Wayne Peters, Association President, “This strike concerns fundamental issues of respect for academic staff and quality of education. Our members are determined to have a workplace that at least compares with other universities in the region.”

Information on the UPEIFA strike here.

Education Week Opens with the Investigation of School Board Business

Welcome back to school and to Eduction week (see proclamation here). As school doors open we learn that the Liberal government’s plan for school boards to become venture capitalists has run into some difficulties in New Westminster.

Vancouver Sun education reporter, Ms. Janet Steffenhagen, reveals that: Education Minister Shirley Bond has ordered a review of a business company operated by the New Westminster school board after some parents complained that the company has devoured almost $1 million that could have been spent on schools and students.>(Vancovuer Sun online source; Download file.

Vancovuer parent Dawn Steele comments that this is exactly the sort of problems that parents have been worried about since the current government enacted legislation to permit venture capitalist activies by school boards.

These are EXACTLY the concerns we raised when Vancouver announced its plans to do the EXACT same thing. Thankfully, the former school board scuttled the whole thing very quickly, but we can be sure that these suggestions will rise again, and they raise enormous issues:

  • As this story points out, the School Act provides no clear regulatory structure to ensure accountability.
  • Incompetent/untrustworthy Boards hide their activities and their mistakes behind a veil of secrecy, pleading the need for corporate privac.y
  • Most such activities seem to be directed at overseas ventures — where risk is most extreme, which only demonstrates the naivete and gross inexperience of our “entrepreneurial” trustees.
  • Entrepreneurship is by its very definition high risk — the stats show that most ventures fail, even when you’re launching something far more mundane on your own home turf.
  • Such ventures bleed badly-needed funds away from schools for start-up capital and they bleed our schools even more when they fail.

The moment we accept this idea of depending on entrepreneurial activities to finance education, we are choosing to stake our children’s future on a gamble. Districts that strike it rich can educate kids well, while those that fail will deprive thousands of children of quality education, through no fault of their own. Where is the level playing field?

Parents, PACs and other education partners who care about our children and the principles that underlie our public education system must say NO to entrepreneurial financing of public education in the strongest possible terms. Let our politicians finance their own salaries and pension schemes from offshore China ventures instead if they feel the need for adventure.News articles related to this issue
Businesses run by B.C. school boards lose money

Parents question company

Where are the answers?

Questions are justified

Accountability is necessary

BC Educational Leadership Research. Issue 3.

The parent Involvement issue of UBC’s School Leadership centre is up and online. A range of articles, including my own reflection on the October Teachers’ Strike, can be found that discuss forms of parental involvement. Here is the opening to the editor’s introduction:

Two years ago the School Leadership Centre joined with representatives from several of the major educational partner associations in BC and with UBC researchers to engage the topic of parent involvement. The Parent Involvement Research Committee (PIRC) has since undertaken a number of activities to advance the understanding and practices of parent involvement. Ann Henderson and Karen Mapp (2004) have methodically collected a large array of American research studies that conclusively argue that parent involvement in schools makes a positive difference for students. However, when Ms. Henderson presented in 2004 to an audience of parent leaders from the lower mainland, sunshine coast, and the Island, it quickly became evident that parent involvement in British Columbia was already functioning at a level of sophistication that her research was just beginning to suggest might be fruitful. From that time forward, it has been clear that researching our own parent involvement practices in BC is a necessity. Not only is there much that we can offer to the global educational community, but if we don’t understand and theorize the strengths and weaknesses of what we do, then we are prone to give up valuable traditions that have evolved here through generations for the latest policy flavour of the month. Moreover, as many visitors I have met here at UBC over the last few years have observed, the education community here is like no other. The articles in this issue of the BC Educational Leadership Research reflect our uniqueness: from innovative leadership, to successful experiences, to lack of minority parent inclusion, to political fractiousness.(Continue reading the introduction and Table of Contents)

Testing Mania -the path to compliance and error

First we test the students, then we test the teachers. Maybe we should test the parents too? Just joking, but at what point do we realize that testing is about compliance and the generation of market revenue and not about education nor the assessment of real learning. Testing helps to make compliant subjects willing to be evaluated without question –just the sort of person who will refuse to join a union, who will refuse to stand up for themselves when threatened, just the sort of person who makes a great Mac-worker (to borrow Doug Coupland’s now famous term). Philospher and radical educator Bertell Olman comically makes the point in his book How to take an Exam . . . and Remake the World at the Same Time.

BC’s minister of education has put the control over aspects of some BC Standardized tests and the rights to sellsome of these tests into the hands of a private Edmonton-based publishing company, Castle Rock . Of course companies like these feed off of the anxiety of parents and students about making the grade in a test-centric world. The BC page of this company sells “quality, curriculum-based resources” to teachers, students, and parents. Without the push to standardized tests introduced by the string of provincial Education Ministers and former Edomontonian deputy minister Dosdall, there wouldn’t be a market demand for these types of resources. Pushing tests creates a busines opportunity and the chance for goldrush profits for those with an inside track.

The BC Society for Public Education has a veryuseful resource page on standardized testing.

Read about what is happening in the United States with privatized testing.
Educational Testing Service to pay millions for errors in teacher tests

The Educational Testing Service has agreed to pay $11.1 million to settle a class action suit over errors in its primary teacher-licensing test, The New York Times reported. The funds will be used to compensate teachers who lost jobs or some wages because of their incorrect test scores. The Times reported that 27,000 people who took the test in 2003-4 received scores that were incorrectly low, and that more than 4,000 of these people were incorrectly told that they had failed.

As with student testing in schools, states have increased testing for current and prospective teacher, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support the claim that standardized tests predict who will be a good teacher. (Continue reading at the blog Where the Blog Has No Name.)

Message from the Deputy Minister of Education

Since the Valentines Day Throne Speech of February 14, 2006 Emmery Dosdall, Deputy Minister of Education, has been distributing a Friday missive to the masses (i.e. superindenents, trusstees, and principals). They make for intriguing reading and I have inlcuded the first set of them here for your reading pleasure. I look forward to an engaged discussion of these carefully crafted message bites.

Have a great Spring Break

February 10, Download file
February 17, Download file
February 24, Download file
March 3, Download file
March 10, Download file

SOS Talk: An email list for Public Education Advocates

SOS-talk is an active email list dedicated to the support of public education. Many of its original members where active in the 2002 SOS Vancouver parents’ campaigg in defense of public education. At that time the provincial government introduced a series of legislative changes to education which including a manadated teachers contract an dincreased to the Medical Services plan, but they didn’t provide the funds to pay for it. In Vancouver alone the school board budget cut was 25 million dollars.

Vancouver SOS Principles

    * Public education is the right of every child and a cornerstone of a democratic society.
    * A high-quality public education system is an investment in the social and economic future of our society.
    * Government is responsible for providing adequate and equitable public school funding, recognizing the iffering needs and circumstances of children in all parts of society.
    * All partners in the public education system—parents, teachers, administrators, support workers, trustees, provincial government members and local communities—have a responsibility to work cooperatively in the interests of all children.

If you agree with these principals and wish to join sos-talk send an email message to owner-sos-talk@interchange.ubc.ca in which you identify yourself, state your level of invovlement with education, and any other details you feel relevant. Membership is reviewed but the discussion is open and unmoderated.Quote from the 2002 SOS letter writing campaign

We are a diverse group of PAC reps and parents trying to reach other PACs in BC, inviting you to join us in a massive, province-wide letter-writing campaign against proposed education cuts.

Our campaign began when Vancouver parents and PAC chairs came together to form an ad hoc, non-partisan parent group called S.O.S. (Save our Schools) – see attached Information Sheet. As parents we decided that instead of fighting each other for shares of an inadequate budget, we would stand up together and ask the provincial government to live up to its promises. We are currently collecting thousands of letters in Vancouver and starting to work with PACs and DPACs in other districts across BC to ensure adequate provincial funding for a quality public education system.

It is urgent that all PACs and parents who share our concerns act now because school districts must submit their budgets by late April. By collecting enough letters, we hope to convince school trustees and the provincial government to re-consider decisions that will hurt all our students.

The crux of our campaign is to ask the provincial government to fulfill its promises to make education a top priority and to protect education funding. Specifically, we ask that they fund the increased costs that were legislated, but passed on to school districts. We also ask the government to restore the funding that many districts lost due to their new funding formula, as this will force many districts to cut services or even close schools.

Additional background and resources related to the emergence of the SOS campaing can be found on the BC Parents for Public Education page and on the BC Society for Public Education page.

Teacher on Call and System-wide Teacher Shortage

Is there a labour shortage? What is the impact of the shortage upon our children’s education? What plans have been made to address the problem -long term?

Those are the sorts of questions that I would like to ask the various educational leaders. My two boys report that there are a lot of sick teachers, subs covering several classes and administrators seeming to be popping into to take a class more than they have ever seen. The situation got tot such a level that the Vancouver School Board Human resources office felt the need to issue a memo that tries to put out the rumour mill –but a careful reading would lead any clear thinking person to say that it looks like a serious labour shortage that won’t be short term.

Download Februry 22, 2006 memo to administrators.
Download March 1, 2006 TOC Clarification.The problem even seems to have got the attention of the provincial association of Principals and Vice-Princiapals. IN a CBC interview association president Tom Hierck says thousands of B.C. teachers and principals are expected to leave their jobs in the new few years:

“Our surveying shows we’ll need a thousand new principals and vice principals in the next three to four years. Well, those principals and vice principals will come out of our teaching force. Those teachers will then need to be replaced…And that’s just with principals and vice principals You can extrapolate to the teaching force.” As quoted by CBC, February 23, 2006

The BC Teachers Federation has been seeing an increasing problem on the ground as districts attempt to cover sick teachers and live up to their commitments for professional development leaves. Grass roots teacher have reported the follow general trends n the shortage of Teachers on Call:

    Leave requests being denied.
    Professional Development and other release time being denied.
    Retirees being sought; non-certificated people being hired.
    Some positions in areas such as school psychology, math/science, French programs, home ec. and special education are impossible to fill.
    Rural areas are hardest hit for ongoing positions and certificated teachers on call, but increasingly this is also being experienced in urban centres.
    Increased pressure on ill teachers to prevent them from taking sick leave; non-enrolling specialist teachers not being replaced.
    Some beginning teachers still complain at not being able to get on a TOC list which could be related to school boards’ concerns about hiring rights.
    Teachers are losing preparation time and cannot take accumulated lost preparation time.
    Lack of access to teacher education programs for the non-certificated people who have a first degree, and; use of teacher assistants to replace teachers.

The overall impact of the current shortage is likely to be a long term problem. It may well exacerbate class size issues. The shortage will likely have an impact upon the learning experience of many students. While this is a North American wide problem, the situation in BC has some of its home grown aspects. Since 2001 the provincial government has been waging a war against teachers and public education. Under the guise of improving standards (I trust I am not alone in my bemusement at the rhetoric of constant improvement that issues forth in ministry missives and a rang e of school and district planning documents) the ministry of education has been preparing the ground to spin off lucrative aspects of the system for private industry and to base everything under the so-called efficiency of the market. By the time they are finished the socio-economic divisions within our society will be so wide that the notion of class mobility will have faded into the realm of the quaint fairy tale.


A detailed article on this subject can be found in the Vancouver Elementary Teachers’ Association newsletter. Download file

Teacher shortage has parents scrambling

Janet Steffenhagen
Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Parents of Grade 1 students at Birchland elementary were surprised this week when their children arrived at their Port Coquitlam school to find no teacher and no substitute.

The school had to scramble to make alternative arrangements, which included having the school secretary, the principal and a resource teacher take turns minding the class.

Birchland is not unusual. Hundreds of B.C. schools have found themselves in similar situations as the usual flu-season shortage of substitute teachers has been exacerbated by a recent hiring spree of full-time teachers intended to address widespread concerns about large classes.

Province Backs down and Reinstates Provincial School Completion Certificate

Here is an example of grassroots organizing and political pressure that worked. Parent activists who suport inclusive education raised the alarms about this issue, followed with an online petion, and were able to keep the provincial school leaving certifica.

Background information from previous entry here

The provincial government released the following press release earlier today:

Ministry of Education ,2006EDU0016-000141, March 1, 2006


VICTORIA – The Province will continue issuing school completion certificates for students with special needs.

As part of the new graduation program, school districts assumed responsibility from the Province for issuing school completioncertificates. The new graduation program was developed after an extensive, provincewide consultation process.

However, many parents have indicated the provincial completion certificates are important to them and their children, so the ministry has decided to continue to issue the certificates.

School completion certificates recognize the accomplishments of students with special needs or other students who have succeeded in meeting goals of their educational program, other than graduation.

School boards will be developing the criteria students will have to meet before a certificate is issued, and will be required to make the criteria public. Once a school board has determined a student has met the criteria, the ministry will then issue a school completion certificate.