||Volume 24, Number 6, April 2012
In the reprinting of this letter, the historical context was unfortunately omitted. This letter was originally written in January 2002, just before Bill 28 was passed, and submitted to the Gulf Islands Driftwood. Given the current situation the content is just as applicable and timely 10 years later.
– David Denyer
Open letter to parents, administrators, and school trustees
By Bo Curtis
You got everything you wanted. You win.
With a stroke of legislation, teachers in this province are no longer permitted to discuss class size or composition in any future contract negotiations. Class sizes in Grades 4–12 will be increased to average 30 per class, district-wide. Children with special needs will be offered no special help, nor will their teachers. Counsellors, librarians, and learning assistance teachers will work only if “flexibility” allows.
For over a decade, teachers have given a higher priority to working and learning conditions than to salary increases, and as a result we have not kept up with inflation. It was a reasonable trade-off, and teachers have been proud of negotiating a collective agreement that protected the needs of students.
With the support your associations have given the BC Public School Employers’ Association, that collective agreement no longer applies. There will be fewer of us, working under more difficult conditions, and for a lower salary in real dollars. When schools deteriorate, I only ask that you remember who “won.”
Parents: When you complain that your child is not receiving the individual attention that she or he deserves, please remember that you have advocated for larger classes through the support the provincial Parent Advisory Council has given BCPSEA.
Administrators: When you assign untenable classrooms, loaded with children with special needs and no support staff, please don’t claim you had no choice; you have chosen this “flexibility” through the support the BC Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association has given BCPSEA.
School trustees: When you send the layoff notices to teachers who have given years of their lives to your district, please don’t blame it on funding formulas and staffing ratios; you have chosen such restrictions through the support the BC School Trustees Association has given BCPSEA.
I ask you to remember because I fear you will forget. I fear that teachers, bludgeoned by an imposed “contract” and spat on by an angry public, will become weary of trying to rise above the public perception of a self-serving, underworked and overpaid profession, and will instead sink to meet that expectation. Then, once again, the teachers will be blamed. Please remember that the teachers were advocating for reasonable class sizes, support for students’ needs, and a salary that reflects the level of professionalism that you expect.
You have advocated for larger classes, no support, and lower salaries. You have won.
Bo Curtis, proud to be a teacher, Gulf Islands Secondary School