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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 6, April 2005

Sign language tense

by Garth Holmes

Judging by our sign story, May 17 is going to feature a petulant election. My wife and I hung two large signs on our fence. They both said, "2500 fewer teachers 113 schools closed." Our house borders a school’s property and backs onto a busy street. One sign faced the school at the corner of the street; one paralleled the street.

After a few days, there was a knock on the door. A school district employee told my wife that he had been ordered to determine whether the sign was on school board property or not. He had been called in on his day off to do that. They tried to find the survey posts for our property. The search was unsuccessful, so he said he would come back the next day to determine the property lines.

The discussion was cordial. We said that if the sign was not on our property, we would move it to our front lawn, right next to the street where parents pick up their children.

The employee pointed out that if the sign was indeed on our property, one option was for the board to build a bigger fence in front of it, to prevent its being visible. My wife countered with the possibility of the sign’s being put on poles taller than the board’s fence. That was the last we heard of it. We did not see anyone surveying, and no fence went up. We were never told that the issue was closed.

Apparently a member of the public had complained to the district administration about the sign. The employee received orders to check the signs. Cooler heads then prevailed. A phone call from a trustee to the superintendent averted further action.

Too bad. All sorts of fun things could have happened. The local and provincial media would have been invited to showcase "The Fence." My wife’s original concept of putting the sign on long poles grew to include wheels, so that we could run it easily past any fence the district put up. There were visions of their building us a really high fence as they moved to cut off the sign from its new positions. We could have mounted our sign on the lilac bushes that we are thinking of removing. Voila, instant new fence.

There are two less pleasant parts of the whole story, however. Someone in a decision-making role in the district demonstrated the belief that the current underfunding of education is not a suitable topic for public discussion. As well, there appears to be enough money in the board’s budget to pay the employee whatever his call-out cost was, but not enough to fill simple requests for classroom resources.

By April 18, the signs had been knocked down twice. Someone isn’t comfortable with the Liberal record.

Garth Holmes teaches at Columneetza Secondary School, Williams Lake.

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