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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 2, November/December 2003

Christy's college

Your education history should be private

Here is a letter that Carol MacNamee, of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Union, wrote in response to an editorial in The Ladysmith–Chemainus Chronicle, September 22, 2003, that said a teacher data base open to the public through the college is a fine idea.

Dear Sir:

You have stated in your "View Point" article that a teacher’s history including educational background, discipline action, etc., should be made accessible to the public. Your statement begs the obvious question Why? How will knowing where or when a teacher went to university or what she or he studied help a parent or the general public? Will knowing that a teacher taught in another district or province make a student read better or think more critically?

Before a teacher can be certified in this province qualifications must be approved by the College of Teachers. Before teachers are hired in a district, they are interviewed and their applications screened by senior administration. If the college does its job properly and senior administrators do their jobs properly, then there is no question regarding qualifications. For anyone else to have that knowledge is not only an invasion of a person’s privacy but useless information for anyone other than senior managers who hire teachers.

You have stated that legitimate privacy concerns should be addressed, and I assume, and hope, that you mean freedom of information and privacy law; I can also assume that you haven’t read the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy’s statement that "A disclosure of personal information is presumed to be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy if the personal information relates to employment, occupational, or educational history...or if the disclosure may unfairly damage the reputation of any person referred to."

You are correct in saying that disciplinary action resulting from a hearing of the College of Teachers is already public and is published by the college. That information is readily available to the people who need the information—senior management on behalf of school boards who actually employ teachers in this province.

Carol McNamee, president, Nanaimo District Teachers’ Union.


Letter to Malaspina College

by Marcie Mehaffey

It has given me great pleasure over the last number of years to take student teachers from Malaspina University College. I went through Malaspina University College’s education program a number of years ago and respect the instructors I had and the goals of the education program. I have enjoyed having your student teachers in my classroom, and I liked feeling I was giving something back. In spite of my connection and respect for your program, I am writing to let you know I am no longer prepared to participate as a sponsor teacher.

You must understand that Bill 51 and the appointed college members are causing a great deal of distress to teachers. The constant attack by Christy Clark on teachers and on public education has parents worried, teachers demoralized, and the system approaching chaos. I find it very hard to believe that the dean of education at Malaspina is supporting Bill 51 and this government by sitting as an appointee on the College of Teachers.

As a classroom teacher, I accept that I have very little control of or say over the negative politics that swirl around public education these days. However, I can stop those politics from coming directly into my classroom, and I can refuse to support those who promote and create the negativity.

Unless there is a change in either the College of Teachers or Dr. Mike Grant’s involvement in the College of Teachers, I will not be taking a student teacher next year. The only reason I took one this year is that I had committed to it in June and felt a professional obligation to honour that commitment.

I am prepared to reconsider my decision if there are any changes to Dr. Grant’s involvement in the College of Teachers or if you, as a faculty, are taking any steps to resolve what must be a difficult situation for all of you.

Marcie Mehaffey teaches at North Cedar Intermediate School, Nanaimo.

Letter unpublished by The Province

I am not a teacher but a person who has fond memories of the people who taught me and those who taught my three children—all successful and good citizens. I find it disconcerting that your paper is constantly attacking the teachers of today. I think it is fair to say that the educational system could use improvements as well as the medical profession, the law profession, the newspaper business, and all levels of government. When may I expect to read your constant belittling of doctors? lawyers? editors? governments? No?

In your paper today you give a thumbs down to the BCTF because a large percentage of the teachers refuse to pay their annual fee to the B.C. College of Teachers this year. Why should they pay? The provincial government has taken control of the college in its increasingly bullying fashion. The fees have gone up 50% to $90 in one year, while the government has given less than 2% wage increases for this time. The teachers have been stripped down to 40% of the board yet are expected to pay the full shot. Forty percent of $61.20 would be more like it.

I believe it is time for newspapers to put far more effort into exposing the lack of accountability in all levels of government. Your Michael Smyth does a good job in his column on the provincial government, but it is a scatter-gun approach. Can you not produce some well-written, fair, and accurate articles on the government? There is certainly enough fodder on deceit and waste alone, to keep your readers interested.

Eric Purdy, North Vancouver

College of oligarchs?

by Pat Clarke

Some of the more vociferous boosters of the new college in our B.C.-Liberal-friendly local media have been performing amazing acts of verbal contortion trying to explain why a regulatory body with no real responsibility to those who pay for it is a good thing and should work well in serving the public good. They would have crafted the same arguments to support such beacons of human rights and democracy as Family Compact and Chateau Clique.

As a former social studies/ history teacher, I am feeling a little sheepish about this. It is obvious we did a less than stellar job with members of our current government, and their acolytes on the current BCCT council, in getting them to understand some of the fundamental principles of responsible government and democracy.

A horse is a horse of course, and an oligarchy is an oligarchy. Any way you look at the B.C. College of Teachers as the B.C. Liberals have reconstituted it, it is an oligarchy: a college of oligarchs. One hundred forty years after we thought we got rid of that particular form of governance, here we are in Bizarre B.C. bringing it back again.

One of the nasty attributes of an oligarchy is its total disregard for responsibility to the constituents, the people who pay for it. In the case of the BCCT, 90% are public school teachers. The absence of democratic responsibility and the resulting tendency to high handedness is demonstrated by the procedures at the council meetings. They are mostly in-camera affairs with short, token, public sessions where the actual members of the college may be permitted to ask a question that may or may not be answered. And if a peon member thinks she or he can always go to an annual general meeting of the college and effect policy there, forget it. The BCCT annual meeting is advisory only. An appointed and non-representative council makes college policy in secret meetings, just like Family Compact and Chateau Clique and oligarchies everywhere.

"Appointed and non-representative" is the hallmark of an oligarchy. Even after the scheduled election of councillors in 2004, the college will not be representative of and therefore responsible to the majority of its dues-paying members. Most of the members of the college council will be, as with the current 100%-appointed group, there at the behest of someone other than the members. In most cases, that someone will be the minister of education. Given our current minister’s tendency to whimsy, we can expect the worst. Her councillors, and they will be "hers," will be inclined to please their benefactor, and with a $250 a day per diem, they may well find the temptation to do the minister’s bidding irresistible.

In doing the minister’s bidding, her councillors don’t need to be at all concerned with how they spend the money. They don’t have to answer to the dues-paying members on that or any other score. They don’t have to worry about any approbation from the minister. She could not care less how the money is spent. After all, it is not taxpayers’ money, just teachers’.

Oligarchies are also characterized by an overweening attachment to control and privilege. The appointed college councillors will have lots of both to sustain them. Since the new BCCT has virtually no aspect of responsibility or accountability to its own members, it will have lots of opportunity to occupy itself elsewhere. The minister has been quite emphatic. To paraphrase her, this college is not going to be at all concerned with responsibility to members. It is about going after them. To expedite that pursuit, she has invested the college with considerable power and given the new councillors an aura of authority they could become quite attached to. In her zeal to establish a "watchdog" she has set up a kind of star chamber where the appearance of vigilance outweighs any consideration of the basic principles of natural justice. "So go ahead and make your accusations about teachers," she is saying. "Don’t worry about proof or libel; just go for it, and this college I’ve appointed will take care of it."

The historical precedents for this kind of arrangement are unpleasant to contemplate. The power relationships are drastically uneven, and their effects are chaos; mistrust and ill-will are the usual outcomes. What is especially galling about all of this is that we know that. We know governance without responsibility and accountability does not work. The good news is that the college of oligarchs will eventually meet the same fate as all oligarchies. The oligarchs will end up in history’s ash can. But like all the others, they will have to be pushed.

Pat Clarke is the director of the BCTF’s Professional and Social Issues Division.



In their own words

The Liberal takeover of the B.C. College of Teachers is destabilizing schools throughout the province. Interviews with people now running the college reveal their view of teachers.

Any kindness can be viewed as grooming for abuse

College registrar Marie Kerchum was featured in an article by Janet Steffenhagen, published in The Vancouver Sun, January 5, 2002, while she was deputy registrar. Here are her comments about teachers and the role of the college:

The B.C. College of Teachers says students are not receiving adequate protection against rogues in the school system because of testy, influential resistance to its demand for a report every time an educator is disciplined. The college, the regulatory body for the teacher profession, says it’s at loggerheads with the professional associations for trustees, superintendents, and principals—along with the teachers’ union—over the issue and has appealed to Education Minister Christy Clark for help...

Kerchum said the college needs to know about all disciplinary actions in order to identify behaviour patterns, particularly when educators are transient. Actions that appear minor in isolation could signal a bigger problem if there have been warnings about the same behaviour at other times, in other districts.

Some districts won’t report disciplines if it doesn’t involve sexual contact, but that could mean they are ignoring the "grooming" of a victim by a sexual predator, which can start off in a way that is seemingly innocent, with car rides or the giving of gifts, Kerchum said.

The only example Kerchum gave of a failure to report was of an unnamed private school.

Not enough complaints about teachers

When asked on The Bill Good Show, September 29, 2003, about the extremely small number of complaints, Marie Kerchum, the new registrar of the college stated:

Yes. Since May, I would say, and since this legislation has been announced, I would say that’s very small. However, it could be, as well, that many persons are unaware of the process so there will be an education program launched by the college to ensure all persons, the public in general, is aware of the process.

The "education program launched by the college" is a brochure explaining the "Person Complaint Process." If anyone has a complaint about a member of the college, past or present, the brochure will explain how to complain

It’s not really a college of teachers

On October 3, 2003, Rick Cluff, host of CBC Radio’s Early Edition, interviewed Val Windsor, president of Delta Teachers’ Association, followed by Carl Ratsoy, political appointee on the College of Teachers’ transitional council. Here is a partial transcript:

Carl Ratsoy: A lot of people believe that the College of Teachers belongs to teachers and it might take a little while to really understand that the College of Teachers does not belong to teachers. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation, the union, belongs to teachers. The college is something that’s set up by the provincial government, so if anyone owns it, it’s really the government, or really the public owns the body.

Rick Cluff: OK, then. Let me stop you right there, then. Why should they pay 90 bucks for membership in something they don’t own, they have no rights to, that’s just a tax grab?

Carl Ratsoy: Well, the college is an organization that employs people to do the legislative mandate of the college and, to do that, to employ people, you need to pay people. So, we need to levy a fee. I suppose it sort of makes sense, in terms of user pay, those who are related to the nature of the work should pay for the work.

Rick Cluff: But you see what I’m getting at, like, I don’t want to speak for Val Windsor, but one of their concerns was if the college is going to be put together by the ministry, and if it’s going to be run by the ministry, then why should they pay 90 bucks to belong to what is their professional association, or used to be their professional association?

Carl Ratsoy: Well, again, it’s not just their professional association. You have to understand that there are more partner groups than public school teachers in education...

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