Back to school, back to dealing with school issues

With the drama of bargaining, picket lines and rallies finally in the past, teachers, parents and students can now turn their attention to returning to classes next week. That means all those back-to-school pointers and advice columns the rest of Canada read before Labour Day are suddenly relevant for readers in B.C. Here’s a sampling:

Resist the back-to-school overspending tyranny

A helpful personal finance column by Rob Carrick urges parents to mind their budgets by thinking twice before upgrading perfectly good technology, skipping a few extraneous items on school-supply lists and saying no to those buy-one-get-one-half-off-another sales.

Read the full article here.


How to help kids stay cool about back to school

Psychologist and author Sara Dimerman advises on preparing kids for expected anxieties at different school levels. For example:

Grade 1 is both exciting and anxiety-provoking. Your child is likely standing tall knowing that he has joined ranks of the older kids. However, he may also be apprehensive about taking on more responsibility and spending recess on a different playground. … Rest assured that these feelings and behaviours are normal and it’s a good idea to tell him so. Share that even teachers feel nervous before school begins again. Go for a walk around the exterior of the school and spend some time in the new playground.

Read the full article here.


The top three back-to-school stresses for teens

If you’re the parent of a teenager, here’s more advice to help you anticipate students’ stress, from columnist Anthony E. Wolf:

Talk to them. Let them know that you understand that the beginning of school can be stressful. It can seem a little strange, even overwhelming, getting back into a routine, but all kids feel this way. Reassure them that if they do feel apprehensive about it, they are not alone.

Read the full article here.


Kids’ snacks that make the grade

Growing kids need to refuel every two to three hours to keep their blood sugar (glucose) levels stable as sustained blood sugar means kids will have more energy to concentrate in class and participate in after school sports. The added calories from snacks provide an opportunity to boost your child’s intake of important nutrients like calcium, iron and zinc.

What kinds of snacks? Dietician and columnist Leslie Beck suggests things like edamame, trail mix and fresh fruit and yogurt.

Read the full article here.

What to expect Thursday as B.C. teachers vote on the tentative agreement


Brentwood Bay Elementary teachers from left to right: Rhayna Archer, Fiona Mosher, Carmen Di Lucca, Jacqueline Jim and Aimee Lampard in Brentwood Bay, B.C., will be among the teachers voting Thursday on whether to ratify a tentative settlement  that would end the strike which began in June. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

Brentwood Bay Elementary teachers (from left to right) Rhayna Archer, Fiona Mosher, Carmen Di Lucca, Jacqueline Jim and Aimee Lampard in Brentwood Bay, B.C., will be among the teachers voting Thursday on whether to ratify a tentative settlement that would end the strike which began in June. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

B.C.’s 40,000 public-school teachers will cast their votes today on the collective agreement achieved by the union and the government after marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend. Results of the vote will be released at 9:30 p.m. in a news conference by BCTF president Jim Iker (streaming link here), and we’ll have them available in a story on our B.C. teachers’ strike topic page.

Study sessions are being held this morning for members so they can learn more about the proposed six-year deal and ask questions. Online, the union posted a one-page PDF entitled “10 reasons to vote yes” as commentators online debate the merits of the agreement. The proposed contract includes a 7.25 per cent salary increase, improvements in extended health benefits and the teaching-on-call rate, an education fund to address class size and composition issues, and money to address retroactive grievances.

The question being put to teachers is this:

Are you in favour of ratifying the agreement-in-committee reached on September 16, 2014?

The deal must also be ratified by the employer. According to a letter sent to parents in the Central Okanagan school district by superintendent Hugh Gloster, the province’s 60 school districts have until 3 p.m. Friday to complete their own ratification vote. If BCTF members ratify Thursday night, however, schools will be open Friday morning and teachers doing prep work will be on the payroll.

Reported elsewhere

Private schools are reporting an overall 5 per cent uptick in enrolment in B.C. over last year, a sign that some parents weren’t prepared to wait for public schools to open. Rates vary across the province based in part on independent schools’ capacity to accept new students, but history shows the public system may have lost many students for good. Says Peter Froese of the Federation of Independent School Associations of BC:

“In our experience, based on past labour disruptions in the public sector, we find that the families that have chosen independent schools in… our fixed structures — they tend to stay.”

While many questions about the school schedule will be worked out at a local level by school districts or even individual schools, there are mandated hours of instruction for public school students in B.C.:

Under the School Act’s school calendar regulation, school districts must offer the following minimum hours of instruction annually: 853 for kindergarten, 878 for grades 1 to 7, and 952 for grades 8 to 12.

With reports from Justine Hunter, Andrea Woo and The Canadian Press

What to expect Monday from the B.C. teachers’ strike: More bargaining and a startling video

Talks to continue

The weekend bargaining session that saw representatives from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association in talks behind closed doors at an area hotel will continue Monday. It’s the longest the two sides have met since the start of September in their efforts to resolve the strike that has postponed the start of the school year for more than half a million students.

As the parties left the table early Monday morning, where mediator Vince Ready was also present, they maintained a media blackout on their talks, saying only that they planned to resume negotiations later in the day.

More rallies

According to the website Rally for Change, there are three events being organized for Monday:

  • 10 a.m., Victoria: An independent rally “to support human rights” will take place at Lansdowne Middle School
  • 10:30 a.m., Maple Ridge: Protesters will gather for an independent rally at the MLA office of Maple Ridge-Mission rep Marc Dalton (33058 First Ave.).
  • Noon, province-wide: Children and seniors in particular are being asked to join the picket lines across the province and bring a lunch. Organizers of this rally “support proper funding of public institutions, facilities and programs.”

At 6:30 p.m., another group is calling for protesters to show up with pots and pans to make noise for public education on the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver. This will be followed by a candlelight vigil. The organizers want participants to use the hashtag #potsandpans for social media updates, and more details can be found here.

An unexpected lift from Mother Nature

Perhaps this isn’t the kind of thing that can be expected to happen again, but this video from the picket lines posted Sunday shows a rather strange sight amid the hot late-summer weather. We knew things were being whipped up into a frenzy, but not like this.

With a report from The Canadian Press

What to expect Saturday and Sunday from the B.C. teachers’ strike

A sliver of optimism is visible this weekend as the two sides in the B.C. teachers’ strike remained silent Friday while lead negotiators met behind closed doors. Nevertheless, emotions continue to run high for parents, students and teachers, and there are several signs of that as the strike is almost certain to stretch into a 10th day of cancelled 2014-15 classes on Monday.

10 a.m. Sunday, Vancouver

A so-called “super rally” calling for arbitration is being organized at the Vancouver Art Gallery downtown for Sunday morning, plainly backing teachers. From the organizers:

This is going to be big. Organized by parents, backed by students. Arbitration is supported by public officials across the province, including the Vancouver City Mayor. We want to hear your voice in support of public education.

Attendees are being asked to wear red, and the rally will begin at the gallery’s north plaza. More details here.

5 p.m. Sunday, Surrey

A peaceful protest in support of public education will take place at Holland Park on Old Yale Rd., according to organizers.

Reported elsewhere

Raffi Cavoukian, the beloved children’s entertainer who has made no secret of his support for teachers and anger at the provincial government, wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post Friday detailing his position.

It pains me to conclude that my provincial government lacks heart, and it has its priorities backwards. It views public education as a costly burden, not an investment in kids, our future, and a requirement for enlightened culture.

Christy Clark Is Balancing the Budget at the Expense of Kids and Teachers

I’ve been reflecting on why the months-long dispute between the B.C. government and teachers has shaken me so. Why should I be this bothered about a labour dispute? Why am I so mad at Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender — aren’t there two sides to any story?


In a letter sent to The Globe and Mail this week, one teacher pulls no punches in his disdain for both sides but especially the union, and ends up supporting a legislated settlement:

Dear Editor:

For three months the teachers’ strike has seriously hurt students and parents, and sullied the image of the province. So a solution is long past due.

The BCTF is fighting an ideological, polarized battle against the government and has no intention of stopping its action, despite its futility, despite its cost to member teachers, despite its cost to students, despite its cost to public education (which it purports to defend).

Individual teachers cannot bring this strike action to an end. Article 1 of the BCTF Code of Ethics states: “The teacher acts in a manner not prejudicial to job actions or other collective strategies of her or his professional union.”

Parents are divided and busy making arrangements for their children, so their pressure, while appreciable, is not enough to end the strike.

So there is only one party left — the government. They have essential services law. The Minister of Labour can say the dispute threatens the health, safety, and welfare of people in the province, and especially students.

The ball is in the government’s court. Further inaction by Minister of Education Peter Fassbender is inexcusable and should cost him his job.

Jim McMurtry, public school teacher, Surrey

What to expect Friday from the B.C. teachers’ strike: Rallies, and hope at the bargaining table?

As parents and students prepare for rallies at at least two Vancouver schools Friday, news reports tell us there was a meeting Thursday between B.C. government negotiator Peter Cameron, BCTF president Jim Iker and mediator Vince Ready, and another planned at an undisclosed location Friday.

8:15 a.m., Vancouver

Noon, Burnaby

On Thursday, a catering owner posted to Facebook about a difficult job he’d taken on the day before: difficult because he was confronted at a Maple Ridge civic anniversary event that included an appearance by B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

What to expect Thursday from B.C.’s teachers’ strike: Why the 99.4% BCTF vote figure is misleading

If you’re looking for information on Thursday, Sept. 18, go here.

Late Wednesday night, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker stood before TV cameras to report that 99.4% of teachers who voted were in favour of ending the strike if the government would agree to drop proposed provision E-80 and accept binding arbitration. The figure is high, and has been cited often this morning on social media and in news reports. But it’s worth noting that the BCTF represents approximately 41,000 public school teachers, meaning around 10,331 teachers didn’t cast votes. That would put the number of ‘yes’ votes at 30,485, or 74.4% of BCTF members.

What to expect Thursday

There are no events scheduled from either bargaining group, though teacher picket lines are still up across the province. As always, we’re keeping an eye out for significant events.

Reported elsewhere

Following news of the BCTF vote, CBC Radio’s The Early Edition interviewed both Mr. Iker and B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender on the results and the stalemate that is keeping schools closed. The audio of that interview is below, including a remark from Mr. Fassbender at the 16:40 mark that prompted host Rick Cluff to exclaim: “You’re going to wait till October?”

BC’s small businesses are worried about the BCTF strike: CFIB

Nearly half of BC small businesses say the teachers’ strike will have a negative impact on their bottom line, according to a new survey.


What to expect Wednesday from the B.C. teachers’ strike: Teachers to vote on arbitration, and a community march

B.C.’s 41,000 teachers have their chance today to vote on whether they should agree to go back to their classrooms as long as the government agrees to binding arbitration in their labour dispute.

But the vote was symbolic from the start – in the days before B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker proposed the vote Monday, the B.C. government categorically refused the binding arbitration proposal, saying giving up control of the cost of any settlement to a third party is not something the government will consider.

As the dispute appears increasingly entrenched, other unions and some businesses are stepping up to help. Today, the B.C. Nurses Union plans a “major” announcement regarding support for teachers.

The nurses are next up at the bargaining table and the government has repeatedly indicated any increase in a teachers’ deal beyond its stated parameters could heighten expectations of other unions. The nurses have had their own fractious labour relations with the province in the past, but nurses have an added club in their negotiation arsenal: There aren’t enough of them.

8:15 a.m., East Vancouver

A procession for public education hit the streets around Laura Secord Elementary School from 8:15 to 9, with organizers asking participants to walk slowly and wear black “to signify the many losses that public education has suffered.” As pictured above, our John Lehmann was there.

11 a.m., Burnaby

The B.C. Nurses’ Union is planning an announcement regarding support for striking teachers. Follow @AndreaWoo for more

9 a.m. – midnight, East Vancouver

Commercial Drive taco joint Bandidas Taqueria will be donating 100 per cent of profits to Families Funding Teachers. This will occur each Wednesday throughout the work stoppage.

6 p.m., Vancouver

David Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, holds a meeting for community members on the teachers’ strike at Point Grey Community Church, 3512 West 7th Ave.

Teachers will vote, but will the government listen?

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has organized a vote of its members that will take place in time for results to be available Wednesday evening (UPDATE: at 9:30 p.m.). Expect an overwhelming show of support for arbitration.

From a BCTF flyer:

The teachers of BC have asked the government to enter with us into binding arbitration, the quickest and most fair way to resolve this long and difficult dispute.

Teachers will vote on Wednesday, September 10, to approve the end of the strike if the BC School Employers’ Association agrees to the BCTF’s proposal to enter into binding arbitration.

Within a couple of days, we could see students and teachers back in classrooms, and families back to their busy fall routines.

What’s left out is that it takes two to tango, or at least agree to arbitration, and the province hasn’t moved a centimetre on its position that arbitration will be too costly.

With a report from The Canadian Press

What to expect Tuesday on the B.C. teachers’ strike

Jump to Wednesday’s lookahead.

Mike de Jong Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark, left, looks on as B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong tables the budget in the B.C. Legislature in Victoria in February, 2013. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

10 a.m., Victoria

While neither the B.C. Teachers’ Federation nor the government’s negotiators have public events planned Tuesday, there is one item on the schedule that could be of interest to those following the dispute: Finance Minister Mike de Jong is expected to release the province’s first quarterly fiscal report of 2014-15, with an overview of the forecast for the current fiscal year. Expect reporters to put questions to Mr. De Jong about what the province’s financial situation might mean for a future contract with teachers. UPDATE: Increased surplus doesn’t change amount available for teachers, B.C. Finance Minister says

Reported Elsewhere

Does a teachers’ strike invalidate a student’s transit discount pass? It may seem illogical, but The Province is reporting that one high-school student was told by a driver to pay full bus fare when she presented her student discount Go card on Monday. A Translink spokesperson said the cards are still valid, but that the agency didn’t have enough information to investigate that incident.


In Victoria, school employees who aren’t teachers but are represented by CUPE are refusing to cross the picket lines. As part of an agreement with the province, they get paid anyway. From the Times Colonist:

“They come. We have a picket line [of teachers] outside the office. We take roll call. Because there’s a picket line, they can’t cross it. They leave and they’re paid for the day,” said Jim Cambridge, superintendent of the Sooke district.

Full story here.