Letters: Heavy-handed approach blocks road to agreement with teachers

Dear Editor,

Following is an open letter to Premier Christy Clark and Minister Peter Fassbender:

Your heavy-handed treatment of the BCTF continues to block the road to mediation and settlement of the current dispute.

I implore you to use your considerable influence on the BCPSEA negotiating team to remove clause E80 so that mediation can take place now, and a negotiated settlement can be reached without further delay.

Your political actions and media statements indicate clear intent to dismantle quality public education.

That is not your mandate. Your job is serving the people of our province for the greater good of all British Columbians, not just those who voted for you or who support you financially.

Decisions about the school system must also be made for the greater good, not with the intent to force an increasingly two-tiered system. 

This is your moral responsibility.

Anything less short-changes our children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, and will create an increasingly stratified society.

That is not a British Columbia we can be proud of.

I have worked in the school system since 1981. I have given it my all.

My experience includes teaching French Immersion, FSL, ESL & IB and serving as a district teacher.

I have been department head of languages and information technology.

I am a specialist teacher: a teacher-librarian.

I have seen extensive, debilitating budget cuts over the last number of years.

Were it not for federal funding for French programs, international students’ fees and parent fundraising for technology, it would be even bleaker.

For example, the supply budget for my high school library has for several years been less than 20% of what we had for a similar number of students at my previous school in the 1990s.

This year, my administrator raised it to about 40% of those now historic numbers in an attempt to recognize the potentially powerful role of a teacher-librarian working on digital and traditional literacies, often one-on-one with students and side by side with teachers.

Quality resources should be available for all students at all schools.

Research clearly shows that achievement is higher where there are properly funded and staffed libraries.

Our students gain relevant skills for the modern world through project-based, participative, individualized and collaborative learning.

To do this, they need access to guidance in critical thinking and research, both in class and in the library.

Recently, I have been equating school libraries with the ALR: rich land that we all need, easily built on, that disappears if not protected.

For the last two years, the amount of teacher-librarian time in my school’s library has been reduced.

The existing Learning Improvement Fund (LIF), supposedly there to compensate, did not help our situation or the even worse one at other schools in our district.

Few of our elementary schools have any teacher-librarian time, and some of our high schools now find themselves without trained teacher-librarian specialists.

The recent sweeping cuts of teacher-librarians in Coquitlam are profoundly disturbing – students are suffering.

Like my colleagues, I attempt to compensate through my own energy, time and good will. I do this because I know what the students deserve.

I find myself trying to work even longer hours to teach in the classroom as well as to get the job done in the library, supporting students and colleagues in a timely way.

Just ask my friends and family how well I do about balancing my life during the school year. I am always striving to make things better, to rework lessons, to improve students’ opportunities for learning.

This is hard to sustain in the context of decreasing support of public education.

Let me get back and do my job, Ms. Clark and Mr. Fassbender. Along with everyone else, my Grade 12 students are anxious to get going, and I am, too.

Please stop blocking mediation with a clause that tries to negate Supreme Court decisions.

Put needed money back into public education now and let’s get on with teaching B.C. students.

Alison Hewitt, Langley teacher

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