NPA votes against Vision/COPE school budget

Post by Mike Klassen in

35 comments

mcbride annex school
A proposed list of Vancouver schools is slated for closure

I attended last night's Vancouver School Board meeting to hear what I knew to be inevitable. My child's school would be put on a list for closure. To me it's a sad occasion that McBride Annex Elementary, a small school with so many great staff, parents, children and wonderful history with the community will have to close. But as this year wore on – our fourth at McBride Annex – I realized that we were losing ground.

In the past decade the Vancouver school district has had enrollment drop by five thousand students. In the past two years we've lost just over 1000 students. McBride Annex, which has a capacity between 150 & 200 students, had around 75 this year. Over the past four years we've seen a loss of between ten and twenty students annually. With all those kids out of the system, we're stuck with unused (and expensive) capacity.

When schools don't succeed, the community at large is affected. I've stressed the idea with anyone who will listen that our local schools are the key ingredient of a successful community. Parent connections are most profound when children socialize. You gain trust, you look after your neighbours. People work for the common good of a community especially when children are factored in.

When the population of a school declines you lose important critical mass. You also lose the advantages of larger school settings, which have funding for additional resources. By not marketing our schools well enough to parents we've created an opportunity for independent schools. We've loosened rules around catchments in response to the intransigence of unions, which has had unintended consequences for schools and communities. There are many factors that are leading us to close schools other than just declining birthrates.

At last night's budget meeting we heard all the usual rhetoric. We saw a few parent reps in support of a fledgling Mandarin program, but the room was otherwise filled with union reps in support of the Vision/COPE trustees war on Victoria. Trustee Jane Bouey argued that they wanted to include as many schools as possible on the closure list so the ones most likely to close aren't singled out. How magnanimous of her. What in fact Vision/COPE are doing is casting as wide a net as possible in order to get more parents in the system upset.

Then I watched as Trustee Mike Lombardi jumped in with a last minute motion to spend an additional $1,000,000 on staffing. Where did the money come from? It's a one-time grant from the Province, so of course BCTF's representatives on the board are going to hire people despite the fact they have no budget past one year. I was incredulous when Chair Patti Bacchus stated that they had enough in reserves to be able to sustain it past one year. So they're using reserve funding for staffing? My gosh, how irresponsible is that?

I also listened to Trustee Sharon Gregson make unfounded accusations against the Education Minister, claiming that Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid was circulating "her own list" of schools to be closed. "Shame!" yelled CUPE union representative Paul Faoro. Then Gregson went on to list how many people would be affected by the budget cuts. Did she talk about kids or communities? No. Gregson listed off all the workers whose lives will be disrupted by changes in staffing.

When it comes to Vancouver's school system Gregson's comments are the most telling. This is not in the slightest about children or parents, this is about union jobs. In the end the budget passed with Vision/COPE voting in favour, and the NPA voting against.

I try to take a glass half full approach in most of my dealings. To me there must be a positive in the loss of a local school next year. I want us to talk to parents and ask them for their priorities and find ways that to achieve them under the roof of one school in our catchment instead of two. I want there to be a legacy benefit to Sir Richard McBride school (the larger K-7 school in the neighbourhood) from the Annex. For example, a fraction of the savings can and should be directed to a capital project at the main school that enhances the community.

Are we hearing these kinds of ideas? Are we listening to parents instead of scaring the living daylights out of them? Certainly not from Vision and COPE. Expect them to play the political card like a violin for months to come. And don't expect them to talk about what's great about Vancouver's public schools, because they never have. Not once.

While I cannot speak to the situation in other communities affected by school closures, my hope is that a bigger school with larger populations will benefit our kids, their parents and our community at large. Critical mass concentrates volunteers for non-curricular programs, aids in fundraising for special projects, and enhances school spirit. If there is a silver lining in the sad occasion of closing school buildings, it's that with more of us in one facility, we can build from that strength.

I don't think I'll be a lone voice on this. Many parents have already said to me that they see the benefits of coming together. That said, I've no doubt that the agitators will try to do everything in their power to create dissent. Lost in all of the rancor will be the needs of children, and our communities.

- post by Mike

35 Comments

I'm guessing you turned your hearing aide off during my comments or perhaps just chose not to hear me say, as I listed off the professionals we'll be losing from our schools, that it is children who'll be impacted by not having those special needs workers, principals, office staff, etc in their schools. And, no apologies for being worried too about the people who are impacted by the job losses.

Opportunist Sharon.
You've been elected as COPE years back. Then you jumped ship to a bigger ship. Vision on your part? Yes. You sent letters to parents as "Director of Progamming Krapola" in the Joyce Collingwood neighborhood when grants were cut by the Province to daycare programs few years back to urge parents to do your job. Come November 2011 you'll be remembered but not missed!

Goodbye Sharon. Your decision to close all those schools means you will be defeated in 2011. Enjoy your retirement after the next election. We need some fresh faces who will actually stand up for kids. I voted for you last time, but I'll now be campaigning against you. I look forward to it.

I wonder if the lefties at the BCTF have ever stopped and wondered why their customers (parents with school aged kids) are leaving...Hmmm they are willing to pay more to an independant school for their kids to get an education. They keep asking for more money/benefits/time off (solution to funding problems - more time off!)but kids keep leaving...message to BCTF...it might just be you.

Long term the issue is teacher/administrator salaries and pensions.
Take a look at the School district salaries in the Sun website.
Hundreds of Elementary School Teachers making $85,000/year (for 10 months work) +. Some as high as $100,000. For Elementary School!!!!
Theyretire at 57 and then collect 60% of it for 30+ years.
But they want more money for staff.
If it were not so sad it would be comical.

Sharon,
Your board has asked everyone but your precious employees and their trough-munching unions to accept the reality of the problems.
Less students, more money, but you still can't make it work.
Enrollment drops 2%, money rises 2%, salaries rise 5-10%.
$185,000/year superintendents wandering around answering to no one.
And the board wants to keep hitting the taxpayers for more.
I can't wait for the general strike. That's what its going to take for the taxpayer to reset the pendulum.

@rf

Yeah, how horrible of us to pay teachers a good wage...I mean what kind of service do they provide anyway?? Educating kids? Hah!! What a bunch of chumps...they don't deserve half that pay---and you're right they only work 10 months!! Now of course they work god knows how much overtime, talk with parents on their weekends, volunteer for team sports, music, field trips all of their own time...but they get the summer 'off'!

We as a society really are suckers paying these good for nothing teachers a decent wage...

I try to take a glass half full approach in most of my dealings.

Right. Unless it has anything to do with Vision, and then it's automatically empty.

Brenton you make me laugh! You are the biggest defender of Vision and always come to their defense. Now you fling this at Mike about the how he picks on vision. Boo hooo. OMG you are too much. Vision has proven to be complety incompetent on so many files that I'd be a bit careful to get too much egg on your face!

ahhhh the old 'teachers are the most valuable people in our society' rhetoric.
Of course, crappy ones are not held accountable. I can only imagine the piles of homework those grade 3 teachers take home with him. Oh, and the midnight phone calls to discuss little johnny's finger painting.

High School teachers.....I can live with it. Don't try to sell me that elementary school teachers are burning the midnight oil and volunteering for sports teams. Or that working more than 8-3 is 'overtime'.
And don't try to sell me that $85,000 is a good wage. It ridiculously good to the point of insane.
There's also 10,000 people lined up to do it. We are not going to have a elementary school teacher shortage at $60,000 max a year.

Oh, and the grind of getting that elementary education degree. I guess we have to make sure that they choose teaching 8 years olds over rocket science.

Whatever rf, you obviously have no intention of changing your mind. You're either so far removed from the system you're clueless or just being a douchebag. Mocking teachers is sure a great way to prove your point.

Of course there are crappy teachers just like any profession. So what? Just cause some are crap they're all crap?

Working past 8-3 is overtime, if you work more hours than you're paid for--what do you call it?

I call it "the real world", boohoo.

I've got several teachers in the family. The consensus among them is that it's ridiculous how easy, flexible, and over compensated they are.
One of them, an elementary school teacher, said, and I quote, "the difference between my job and running a daycare is that I get paid $80/hour instead of $15."

Aha, I see! I suppose if your family member thinks teaching is nothing more than daycare they probably don't deserve $15/hr much less $80/hr.

I'm sorry your view of teachers has been so skewed because the ones you speak of are obviously the crappy ones you loathe. That must make for awkward dinner conversation.

If there's thousands of teachers waiting in the wings for work, we're probably seeing the best of the best getting the jobs. Certainly my experience is that most of young people I come across are scary-smart, so I think the majority of teachers are doing a pretty fine job.

There are no other jobs I can think of where community service outside of work hours is an prerequisite of employment, so it's weird that we expect teachers to give up their free time for this purpose.

For every $85,000 a year teacher, there's another making a fraction of that. Nearly all workplaces reward seniority in this manner (more $$). A non-issue IMO.

Elementary and High School teachers face different challenges, but I don't think one is more important than the other, although if anything, the foundation skills learned in elementary school are the crucial ones.

Our culture denigrates intelligent, thoughtful people, because understanding an issue, or taking the time to gain knowledge is often hard work and we hate it when someone is willing to put in the effort when we aren't.

It's hard to imagine a worse scenario than a school staffed by underpaid, overworked teachers, yet that seems to be the desire of many people such as RF. And then what? Unlikely to be a positive outcome.

Right....that's why all the smartest kids in high school and university become teachers.....
Like I said, the problem is not teachers making a good salary. The problem is teachers making nearly $100k a year with sweet pension, many of whom start the pension and then go back to work with sweetheart contracts from buddies in the principals office.
And when they are taxpayer funded, and the funds have run dry, sanity has to prevail.
The rest of us take pay cuts during the tough times. I don't see that happening in the public sector. It's just more more more.
California and Illinois are effectively bankrupt thanks to over paying average jobs and handing out gold plated pensions.
And ironically, the public sector left wingers are the one who want to constantly tax and punish the very companies that their precious pension funds are holding in order to create their pension security.

"you're clueless or just being a douchebag"

boohoo, in an earlier post you asked me:

"Can you make your point without cheap shots? ;)"

Now either rf really touched a nerve or it is just the usual left wing hypocrisy. When you do it, it's fair comment but from others it's a cheap shot.

Ah, yes. Sharon Gregson.

The pistol packin' mama, that even the Secondary School Teachers Association couldn't stomach supporting during the election.

Shooting off her big mouth, again.

@ bill

Why is it 'left wing' hypocrisy and not just hypocrisy?

Keep up the good work with the mindless, simplistic labeling if you makes you feel good. But at the very least address the greater point while you do it.

@rf

lol

Perhaps boohoo, you should question CUPE and the BCTF as to why they stopped parents from volunteering for many of those extracurricular activities you've listed.

They saw it as an 'opportunity' for extra positions and extra dollars.

And, why are too many kids graduating without full 'credits'?

When I was in school (and yes, it has been a few years but not that many), I vaguely remember professional days. Now, they are every few weeks, with half days on Friday and swing days....

Classroom hours have dropped, yet, salaries increase.

If you want to know why people are turning to the private school system - they put in an average of 190 more instructional hours per year.

How much money could they system save if the teachers were paid for a half day Friday rather than a full day as they are now?

Perhaps boohoo, you should question CUPE and the BCTF as to why they stopped parents from volunteering for many of those extracurricular activities you've listed.

I'm sorry, but could you list any activities where this has been the case.

List examples.

It was just last night...literally just last night...where I participated with my daughter at an extracurricular activity on school grounds...with not a a teacher in sight. Just parents.

"Right. Unless it has anything to do with Vision, and then it's automatically empty."

Brenton, when it comes to Vision Vancouver, there is no glass.

and boohoo reveals yet another militant teacher mantra.

'If you do not feel undervalued, overworked and overpaid, you are a lousy teacher'!!!

I say move new teacher salaries up to $50,000 and then roll the top end salaries back to $65,000.

And enough of this 'earn an extra $7000 a year' if you go and take a useless "Masters" from Western Washington University. What a joke that thing is. Teachers spend 6 weekends shopping in Bellingham during the summer, write a 2000 word paper about 'what i did on my summer vacation' and come away with an extra $7000/year+ forever.
Talk about pissing away tax payer money.

@ rf

Again, I'm sorry your family members appear to be crappy teachers. They do not reflect typical teachers.

Can you stop with the massive generalizations? Like I said, there are crappy teachers out there. But you just label them all as crappy and that's just foolish.

@ max

As already asked, I'm sure you could provide some examples where parents aren't being involved anymore? Is that like how I didn't go to Quebec on an exchange with some kids? Like how I wasn't at the fish hatchery last month with my kid's class? Like how I don't volunteer 1 night every week to coach their sports? Like that?

When I was in back in high school while us kids with the better grades were applying to get into the colleges of commerce, medicine and law, the jokers, jocks and malcontents were applying to get into the college of education.

The difference in those days was a 10-15% grade point average, meaning our kids were going to be taught by those who could barely get a 70% passing grade.

Now these teachers are all between 40-45, and making the highest of salaries others are discussing below.

With most of them working in the public school system it's no wonder public education has diminished in quality, and those who can afford it are fleeing to private schools.

Um....boohoo...I used the word crappy once. I said "crappy" teachers are not held accountable. This is a reference to the BCTF blindly defending every brother and sister in the union.
How you took that to be generalization about all teachers is a little rich.

Should I have said, "the specific teachers that are crappy"? because I think it is obvious that that is what I implied.

Bottom line. No elementary school teacher is worth $85,000/year. Half the instructors at UBC make less.


@rf.

Nowhere have you indicated anything other than a sweeping generalization of teachers. You then gave the example of your own family member who thinks they're just glorified babysitters. He/she is the person you should take issue with because he/she is the teacher you loathe.

We just have a philosophical difference in the value of teachers I suppose. I can't think of a more important profession, yet in the grand scheme there are many other professions I think are nowhere near as important that have much higher salaries.

"there are crappy teachers out there"

Boohoo, given that it is the Teachers Union that protects crappy teachers by preventing the College of Teachers from doing its job, would you support reforming the College to eliminate the control of the College by the Teachers Union?

Well with a child who has now been ten years in the public school system my experience suggests a 30/40/30 mix in the teaching profession. 30% good to excellent, 40% competent and 30% poor to unfit for the job. The last lot bug me more than salary levels and their protected existence in the public system has to be one of the main causes of people moving over to private education.

Also perhaps we should stop this unquestioning repetition of the mantra of our wonderful education system. I believe that by the time they graduate our pupils will have had cumulatively 2 years less schooling than their equivalents in Europe and Asia. Looking at the standards required of my son's cousins in England that doesn't suprise me at all. Here's a little anecdote from a few years ago.

Travelling on a train in the UK a family in the adjoining seats was complaining about British education standards. Meanwhile I was discussing travel plans for the following month with my son and his friend, then both 13.

Them, "What is next month?"

Me, "Well, it's June now so ...?

Blank looks. Turns out they had never been taught the months of the year and couldn't name then all in order. The (younger) kids in the British family could do it, of course, along with other more or less useful lists such as monarchs since 1066 and a good stab at the periodic table.

On returning and mentioning this at school I discovered that I'm completely out of date and this kind of thing is not important.

As requested:

Volunteers in Schools

Volunteers performing duties in a CUPE job description is in violation of the collective agreement. When there is so much work
that you cannot possibly complete it in your normal work day, the Board needs to hire more employees. We should not permit parent volunteers, co-op students or other employee groups to cover the work. The Board works with the Union in upholding
the integrity of the articles in the collective agreement. If there is a volunteer performing your job duties, call your OCT representative and report it.

And another one:


CUPE TARGETS PARENT VOLUNTEERS

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents clerical, custodial and other inside workers in public schools.

Job security for CUPE workers is a major concern and CUPE is calling for clearer guidelines in the role of parent volunteers within the school.

CUPE maintains that many workers lost their jobs due to cutbacks in ministry funding and parent volunteers are now performing these tasks.

@ bill.

Yes, you can't volunteer to teach math. But you can volunteer to drive kids, help coach sports teams, go on fields trips--you know, all that extracurricular activity that rf says doesn't exist.

And yes, there probably is a better way to deal with the crappy teachers. By saying I support teachers does not therefore mean I support the union and all it stands for. I sure hope that argument isn't being presented.

It's not volunteering if you complain that you should be paid for it.

And just because my relatives feel that teaching math is easy, fun, and compares it too babysitting DOES NOT MAKE THEM CRAPPY TEACHERS!!!!

We are all hard done by, boohoo. The vocal teachers and their bully unions are perpetually unhappy. It's been like this my whole life.

I think we will know we are on the path to oblivion when the teachers are actually happy.

You're implying parents expect pay for their time? That's the first time I've heard that....

How would you describe someone who compared their professional employment to something a 12 year old could do?

And if you think teachers are happy with the current union situation...yeah, I give.

The BCTF is perhaps the greatest obstacle to meaningful reform in education because they are a trade union and not a professional association. Why?

1. Unions always back their members whether they are in the right or wrong. That is why nothing gets done at the College and why nothing will as long as the BCTF exerts its influence.

2. Unions do not like the performance of their members to be measured. That is why the BCTF fights the standardized exams that form the basis of the Fraser Institute report. The Fraser Institute report has its shortcomings but I have yet to hear the BCTF offer up other ways to objectively measure results across the various school districts.

3. Unions do not like the idea of merit pay based on performance instead of seniority and education. Consequently, there may be as many teachers that are under paid as there are overpaid as the BCTF drags performance down to the lowest common denominator.

Perhaps the most important recommendation of the controller general was to break the control of the unions over the VSB. The unions are only doing what they are supposed to by maximizing the number of union jobs. The trustees should be fulfilling their responsibilities by doing what is best for the students and not the unions.

Mike, have you ever considered submitting an FOI request to the VSB to find out how many teachers in the last school year were determined to be substandard educators? I think you would find the number was tiny. In a system of thousands of teaching staff, one might expect that as many as 5% were not performing. But you will find the number to be much smaller. That suggests that the administrators are not doing their jobs.

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