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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 2, October 2007

Readers write

Lessons from Europe

This summer, I toured France, Italy, Morocco, Spain and Portugal. Eighteen airports later and countless security checks (the most bizarre being Heathrow where we were required to shuffle shoeless through some type of screening device), I was glad to be home.

As beautiful as Paris, Venice, Marrakech, Madrid, and Lisbon are—nothing compares to the beauty of our island in the Pacific. However, there are a few things we could learn from Europe and North Africa. Lights in hotels and public buildings are motion sensitive; air conditioners automatically turn off when you open a door or window; your hotel key card must be inserted into the wall in order to use the lights. Windmill generators are everywhere. Cars are compact and fuel-efficient. Public transport is reasonable and accessible. In every country there was evidence of reduction in energy consumption, on a large and small scale.

Not so in beautiful British Columbia.

In not one country, including North Africa, did I witness homelessness, people in despair, beggars, and addicts to the same degree as I see everywhere in BC. Does this mean those issues do not exist in Europe? Of course not, there will always be those who are struggling with mental illness, addictions, disabilities, abuse, and neglect. The difference is, there is money allocated to social and rehabilitative programs. They have also taken the Kyoto Accord seriously.

Currently in BC, one in four children lives in poverty. That is six to nine students in every class. As teachers we know how this impacts learning and well-being. I find this statistic shocking, although as a school counselor I am not surprised. I listen firsthand to the desperate experiences students share with me and not one of those students has expressed a desire to grow up without the prospect of a safe place to sleep, food in their tummies, and someplace to turn to in difficult times.

To paraphrase a very wise person, the true measure of the worth of any civilization is the degree to which it takes care of its most vulnerable members. In this, British Columbia has failed miserably.

The entire world will bear witness come the 2010 Olympics. A superficial "cleanup" will not hide the truth. How do we want to be remembered?

Susanna Kaljur, Comox Valley

Thank you from North Ridge

The staff of North Ridge Elementary School would like to thank the many individuals and school staffs who have sent kind words and wishes, gifts and tributes, as well as messages of condolence on the loss of Manjit Panghali, a valued teacher and friend. The North Ridge community is reassured by your support and comforted by the warm thoughts of our colleagues and friends throughout the Surrey School District.

Messages of support and condolence have come from as far as Bulkley Valley district as well as schools in Lower Mainland districts. Again, we thank all those who have sent kind words of understanding and wishes for healing.

We remain emotionally devastated by the loss of Manjit, a beloved staff member and friend, but we have been sustained by the support of our community and by continuing to meet the needs of the students of North Ridge who Manjit cared for and loved so much.

In sincere appreciation.

Bob Insell, on behalf of the staff of North Ridge Elementary

TOCs and seniority callout

Kendra Litke in her article on TOCs and seniority callout, (September 2007, Teacher) presumes (quite rightly) the competence and professionalism of teachers on call, and argues that a "by request" system, makes implicit judgment of individual TOCs, and by doing so, attacks that professionalism.

The latter presumption bothers me. Would that mean for instance that a teacher who nominates a colleague for "Teacher of the Year" (sponsored by several PSAs of the BCTF) is, in that positive act, passing negative judgment on other unknown individual teachers?

That aside, I am deeply offended by Litke’s astonishing claim that individual teachers who currently use the request system may make their choice based on "nepotism and friendship networks." Now that is a quite explicit attack on the professionalism and integrity of individual teachers.

John Barnet, Surrey

Teacher newsmagazine censorship?

Please tell me if I am missing something. As a retired teacher, it is difficult to keep up with the latest news on the education scene. It was therefore very illuminating to have received two issues of the September 2007 Teacher newsmagazine of the BCTF. Both issues were identical in every respect save one—an article appearing on page 5.

The first September issue contained a somewhat innocuous article entitled "BCTF Labour dispute, Four-day strike, four-week lockout," written by Peter Owens. The article outlined, in a straightforward chronological manner, the history of the labour dispute between the BCTF and the BCTF staff union (Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers, Local 464). This dispute resulted in the longest shutdown of services (five weeks) in the history of the BCTF.

In the second September issue, received two weeks later, Owens’ labour dispute article is completely missing, and has been replaced by two articles: "The rich and the rest of us" and "CCPA launches new web site."

According to The Vancouver Sun, September 26, 2007, the BCTF halted distribution of the newsmagazine, pulled the Owens article, and then resumed distribution. I guess I was one of the lucky ones who received both the before and after censorship issues.

As if it weren’t painful enough observing the two unions, members of which were my former colleagues, locked in a particularly nasty set of negotiations, the BCTF then took the unprecedented unilateral and undemocratic step of censorship of an informative article from the Teacher newsmagazine.

It is indeed ironic that the BCTF had allegedly been trying to strip the CEP 464 contract, including retiree benefits, in a similar unilateral manner to the provincial government stripping of teacher contracts. As teachers, we always considered that "the BCTF is us." Given the shameful example of these internal battles culminating in such blatant censorship, I’m no longer certain that’s true. Such reprehensible tactics have no place in union negotiations.

Ken Abramson, Retired teacher, Vancouver

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