Teachers union issues motion of non-confidence in Cariboo-Chilcotin School District

By Greg Fry
November 23, 2017 - 11:04am

KAMLOOPS — Unionized teachers in the Cariboo have given School District 27 a failing grade when it comes to complying with last year's Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

The failure to do so prompted the Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers' Association (CCTA) to unanimously pass a motion of non-confidence in the superintendent, secretary-treasurer and school board trustees at a special meeting Monday night.

The union is also alleging financial mismanagement and has concerns around personnel practices. This isn't the first time the CCTA has expressed concerns, as a year ago the CCTA executive passed a motion of non-confidence in the school board.

"We have reached the point of frustration with trying to have some positive things come out of our dealings with the district," says President Murray Helmer. "And it just seemed like there was no willingness at the district to comply with the collective agreement language that was restored."

He says additional personnel are needed, not to mention additional services for special needs students, and Helmer says that's where the alleged financial mismangement comes in.

"A lot of issues around personnel practices that were having major effects in schools across the district and some outstanding financial concerns where the district is banking a lot of money the ministry is providing to have services in schools and it's sitting in surplus contingencies at the district level and has been for several years."

Helmer says some hires have been made since last year's Supreme Court of Canada ruling but notes they also lost "a lot of teachers at the end of last year when the job market opened up provincially."

"A lot of members looked elsewhere. Part of that was because of the situation here. There was not a lot of value placed on the services they were bringing forward."

He says the Union would like to see that money make its way into the classroom to the "benefit of students."

School Board Chair Tanya Guenther chides the union for taking an internal dispute public.

"Well, as with any matters that are of concern for any of our stakeholder groups or any members of the public or staff members, there are processes in place that allow them to bring these concerns forward," she told CFJC Today. "So, it is kind of disappointing that the teachers' association would choose to bring this to the media as they have not actually directed any correspondence regarding these concerns to the Board of Education."

Asked if the district was complying with the Supreme Court ruling, she reiterated there are "processes in place" to bring concerns forward, adding that the board looks "to the collective agreement for specific language on how to address issues."

But when asked if enough hires have been made, Guenther said she didn't "have the specific numbers," adding the Superintendent of Schools Mark Wintjes would be better able to answer to that. Wintjes didn't respond to CFJC's interview request in time for the publication of this story.

Guenther did say, however, that difficulty in hiring enough teachers isn't an issue specific to School District 27.

"I know across the province, there is a shortage and there's been a lack of teachers to fill these positions. Specialty positions have been a challenge to fill as well."

Moving forward, Helmer suggests things are at a standstill until the district acts.

"The Ministry of Education made it clear to all districts if more finances are needed to provide the services then by all means request them. Those requests haven't come forward from the district. They feel they're in compliance and they feel they have nothing left to work on in order to have full compliance with the language. We disagree."

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