I spend a great deal of time in schools. I have been PAC Chair at a local school for four years. I spend hundreds of hours a year volunteering my time feeding students, fundraising, attending field trips, event planning, chairing meetings and most importantly advocating for our students.
I had two children finishing up grades 1 and 8 when the Liberal government ripped up the BCTF contracts and locked the teachers out of the classrooms. This was a direct blow not only to teachers but to my family. In my eyes, the premier of our province had no respect for teachers, or value in my children’s education. I reached out multiple times to our MLA at his office, phone and email. No return calls or emails.
My daughter missed her last report card, her Grade 8 graduation ceremonies, awards banquets and a proper transition into high school. My son missed out on year-end field trips and celebrations. Most importantly, both of my children missed out on months of education. May and June and then September came and left without my children being in a classroom.
In 2015 we were told our school was slated for closure. I attended and advocated at every public meeting in Penticton, unlike our MLA. But you know who was there? Tarik Sayeed and Rob Fleming – NDP Education Critic. Rob advocated in Victoria for education, holding the Liberal party accountable. Our MLA sat silent for 10 months telling everyone his hands were tied. Then in the final hour, the Liberal government realized they were going to lose many votes. It was at this time that the Liberals wrote two identical press releases and had both Osoyoos and Penticton MLA’s overturn the decisions that our elected trustees had made with the very budget that the provincial government gave them to begin with. A little too late after teachers and families sold their homes and moved out of our district.
The most shameful part of the school closure fiasco was that it divided our communities. It put a division on schools and friendships. For that, I will never forgive the Liberal party. The same party I voted for four years ago.
I voted again last week. I proudly voted for Tarik Sayeed and the NDP Party. I voted for the person who has always listens with respect. I voted for education.
Tracy Van Raes