Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cranbrook Trustees re-instate recess during job action

Teachers were surprised and frustrated when a number of school Boards unilaterally decided to cancel recess this fall. In one of those Districts, Cranbrook (district 5), the teachers' association has pressed Trustees and Trustees have decided to re-instate recess time. Every District should follow Cranbrook's lead and management should be fulfilling their obligations under the Essential Services law rather than canceling services to children.

"As teachers return to school this fall, we are disappointed to discover that School District No. 5 administrative staff have decided to cancel our elementary students’ recess. We have asked them to reconsider their decision because children benefit from this traditional exercise and nutrition break." wrote Wendy Turner, President of the Cranbrook District Teachers' Association (CDTA).

The teachers' job action includes supervision during non-instructional time. This means in Districts where teachers regularly provide supervision the District must assign management staff to that work. As the Cranbrook District Teachers' Association explains:

"BC’s public school teachers, who are classified as essential service providers, are very frustrated with stalled provincial bargaining, especially in regard to the restoration of working and learning conditions that the government legislatively and unconstitutionally stripped from our contracts. So, like many other workers, we have sought to influence our employer by withdrawing some services we normally provide. The Labour Relations Board facilitated an employer/employee agreement as to which tasks could be withdrawn. Except during an emergency, supervision of students beyond the classroom is classified as a nonessential task for teachers that can be performed by management.

This means that the employer must now exhaust every possibility to have management personnel do supervision before teachers can be asked to assist. In a previous “teach only” campaign, School District No. 5 management was able, with fewer personnel and more schools, to perform all the necessary supervision without requiring teachers to breach the job action, and without canceling recess. A large majority of school districts around the province, urban and rural, have not canceled recess. Their administrative staff have made room in their schedules to be with students on playgrounds."

Surrey, which is the largest District and has the lowest ratio of management to teachers is able to continue all recess supervision. This means every other District should too.

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