LETTERS: Look beyond the numbers in teacher dispute

Penticton Western News letters to the editor for the Aug. 29 issue.

Look beyond the numbers in teacher dispute

With Sept. 2 just around the corner, the bargaining impasse between the provincial government and the BC Teachers’ Federation hinges on numbers – numbers about wages, benefits and class size.

But, behind those numbers are over half a million students who are waiting anxiously to start their school year on time. Whether it is their very first day in kindergarten or the beginning of their last year as a high school student, they are the reason any of those other numbers matter. School trustees across B.C. want our schools open and ready for students on Sept. 2.

We have called on the government to immediately put strike savings back into schools to help address concerns regarding class size and composition.

We have told the ministers of education and finance that the money for the proposed $40 a day subsidy for parents would be better spent on students in schools. We continue our advocacy for improved education funding, and our trustee representatives at the bargaining table are calling for maintaining flexibility on class size and composition to improve the learning settings for students. The two parties are approximately a percentage point apart on salary and one year apart on the proposed term of the contract – items that could be resolved through mediation.

However, the proposed increases to benefits, the workload fund and the $5,000 signing bonus request makes the full package well outside the affordability range. B.C.’s public education system ranks among the very best in the world, due in large part to our talented and dedicated teachers. Trustees believe that teachers deserve a fair wage increase, but the BCTF’s overall compensation proposal needs to be aligned with other B.C. public sector agreements.

The issues are complex. This is not just about money. Ultimately, we need an agreement that meets the needs of students and provides long-term stability for public education. A deal can be reached. Students can be back in school on Sept. 2. The government and the BCTF must move on the numbers and put students first.

Teresa Rezansoff

President

BC School Trustees Association


Reconsider SOPAC’s request

Thanks to Steve Kidd for his clear and concise reporting in Wednesday’s Penticton Western News (Performing arts society not ready to give up fight) regarding my presentation to council for SOPAC, more to the issue than your competition.

The consequence of which I had to write a letter to their editor to clarify SOPAC’s request before council. If you had a chance to read the editorial in Friday’s Herald, Aug. 22, which refers to the presentation I made on behalf of the South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society to council at their Aug. 18 meeting, you will notice  the editorial totally misses the intent of what SOPAC were asking council for.

The presentation was made in reference to the publicly owned land on the corner of Nanaimo and Ellis St. These properties were initially purchased by the city to have a purpose built performing arts centre (PAC) constructed on that prominent corner. The reasoning behind the original purchase in 2008 was to encourage residential, commercial development along Ellis Street as is set out in the Official Community Plan, where it is identified as a “cultural corridor.”  This is known as long-term planning for the future.

The request SOPAC put before council was to have a “restrictive covenant” (provided for in the Municipal Charter) placed on the title of these properties.  Under the Charter a restrictive covenant provides that if a council was to consider selling or rezoning these public owned properties for any other use than the original reason behind the purchase, the residents of the municipality should be informed of the council’s intent, in a specially convened and well advertised public meeting.

In Herald’s Friday editorial, it supported the position taken by the majority of council to deny a “restrictive covenant” on these public owned properties? It was argued by the majority of council that they would need an updated “business plan” to agree to SOPAC’s request.  This is totally misleading and fails to address the intent of the resolution. Had SOPAC requested council to start planning to build a performing arts facility, an updated “business plan” would have definitely been required and presented by SOPAC.  This would just require an update to the 2008 business plan which is in city hall.

The resolution before council that a “restrictive covenant” be placed on the properties at the corner of Nanaimo and Ellis St., could not be clearer in its intent, the resolution reads in part; “on the use and/or sale of the covenant properties.”  A  “restrictive covenant” on the title of these valuable public owned  properties simply means that in the event that council was to consider a change in “the use and/or sale of the property” other than a performing arts centre (at some future date), council must convene a well advertised public meeting to explain their reasoning prior to any change to the initial intended use of the Nanaimo Avenue and Ellis Street properties.

The majority of council failed to grasp the intent within the resolution. A “restrictive covenant” gives support to the position that Coun. Vassilaki was putting forward “opposed to any sale of public land” and yet he voted against it? The resolution gave support to his position, before any “sale” decided on these city owned properties, a “public meeting” would be required giving councilor Vassilaki the opportunity to see if there was support for his position? The decision of council have now denied the owners (city taxpayers), the right to present their interest before council on the future use and/sale of these valuable public owned properties. I would encourage council who voted against this politically responsible resolution to reconsider SOPAC’s request.

Jake Kimberley

Penticton


Cheers to councillor

Coun. John Vassilaki is a man of his word. I have had two occasions when help was needed and after a lot of thought I called John.

When the dog licenses increased a couple of years back he checked into it for me and called me back. We are on a very fixed income here with two chronically ill family members. John offered right away to pay the difference, once only. His wife, Barbara, is a caring woman and delivered it to our dogs.

The second occasion was with the 2014 Prosperity tax notice to see if we were eligible for an extra tax benefit. After speaking with the mayor a solution was put in place. After carefully thinking this over we declined.

If John Vassilaki decided to run for mayor our household will gratefully support him. We need a person of compassion and empathy for the little people like us with limited resources.

Barbara Rennie

Penticton


Education needs to be a priority

As a high school teacher who creates individual education plans for students with learning disabilities and who is the sole learning support teacher in a school of nearly 500 students, I see students’ needs going unmet due to large class sizes and a shortage of certified education assistants.

Students with learning disabilities and students whose IQs are below 75 (standard score) have had all funding cut; the government no longer provides financial support to schools so that these students can receive the education they need and deserve.

The onus is now solely on the classroom teacher who must, on top of planning and assessing her class/classes, find a way to adapt the curriculum so that each non-average student in their class can be taught in a style that complements his/her unique learning needs.

While I work with the learning disabled students on my caseload as much as possible, there are another 70-plus students who require one-on-one learning support because of low-average IQ. This equates to working with close to 100 students: keeping tabs on who is falling behind; reteaching a portion of a lesson in a manner that helps a student get it; being a reader and/or scribe; advocating for students’ learning needs; finding alternate work spaces during tests and exams to help reduce anxiety.

Students deserve better, and so do teachers. Many teachers at the high school level are opting to work 857 FTE just so they can cope with their workloads.

Many others are burning out and experiencing stress at a dangerous level.

This is not fair to teachers, to their students, nor to their families.

Start making education the priority it needs to be if you want BC to have a prosperous and healthy future.

Nancy Carlson

Kaleden

 

Not just babysitters

The British Columbia education ministry has locked B.C. teachers out of the classrooms.

B.C. teachers are out on the picket lines,   sacrificing their salary and summer holidays,  trying to get the point across to B.C. education that changes must be made to improve the way that education is provided in the classrooms of B.C.

The ministry says the changes would cost taxpayers too much and if they give in to the teachers other unions will come forward and expect the same.

The fact is, the ministry has been saving millions of dollars since the teachers have been locked out of the classroom and unable to do their jobs.

The ministry, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to give the money that would have been salaries for the 40,000 teachers (who are taxpayers, parents, consumers, residents of beautiful B.C.) to the parents of designated students.

I can’t believe the gall/arrogance of this B.C. government that is giving those monies to parents as babysitting money. They have so little regard for teachers – babysitting money!

B.C. teachers are not just babysitters. B.C. parents who are offered this money should refuse this drop in the bucket amount as an insult.

These millions of dollars should be used to improve the education system in B.C. to avoid future government-teacher conflicts.  Who was the small minded instigator of this solution as to how to use these funds?

B.C. teachers are more than babysitters.  They spent years and money to attain the profession. Teachers attend summer school and attend classes to upgrade their profession – just like all other professions.

You know how things work in the corporate world, in order to get/keep the best you must pay them accordingly.

New teachers know in short order if they are indeed cut out to be a teacher. It takes a certain kind of individual with special attributes to interface with our students so that they willingly learn and earn a good education. Good teachers enable students to excel in their chosen classes, find their individual talents and passions and so go forward and thrive in the workplace and life in general.

Perhaps if the 40,000 B.C. teachers who freely give of their extra-curricular time, talent and in some cases money, ever submitted claims for expenses and overtime, the ministry of B.C. government would truly know what teachers are worth.

Eva Webb

Keremeos


Golf tournament a great success

The annual Peach City Tees Up For Cancer, a ladies-only event to benefit Penticton Regional Hospital and the Medical Foundation of the South Okanagan, has been branded a qualified success by tournament officials.

While the financial tally is not yet completed, Tees Up is expected to drive its 18-year total over the half-million dollar mark. This year’s proceeds will go to the purchase of Isoflex mattresses which prevent and treat skin ulcers for recuperating cancer patients at PRH.

The organizers wish to recognize the players, sponsors, prize contributors, volunteers, the media and the Penticton Golf Club, without whom this worthwhile endeavour would not be possible.

The winning team comprised Karen St. Martin, Wanda Marshall, Lisa MacDonald and Colette Berthelsen.

Thanks to all!

Tees Up Committee


Long-term vision needed

Penticton city council’s refusal to place a restrictive covenant on the property at the corner of Ellis Street and Nanaimo Avenue is very disappointing.

A previous council set this property aside for the development of a performing arts centre. This was a wise and visionary move because it acknowledged the positive effect that such a facility would have on the economic and cultural sectors in our community.

For several years I and other like-minded folks have been talking about a destination theatre festival in Penticton. This prompted the long-term vision to construct a purpose-built performing arts centre in Penticton. Such an addition to our tourism infrastructure  would add great value to our tourism industry. We have the weather, the beautiful surroundings, and the wineries. If we were able to add a theatre season of professional status we would be able to entice more visitors to our region, thus making a significant positive impact on the local economy and cultural tourism in the area.

I have been to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, several times. Going again in a few weeks. There they have four theatres  and a season that runs from March to November, attracting close to 300,000 drama lovers each year. Ashland is a small town in the middle of a desert; it is classy in the best sense of the word, welcoming anyone who enjoys great restaurants, art galleries, parks, and , of course, theatre (not only Shakespeare but modern stuff as well).

The potential for something like this in Penticton is huge. We just need people with vision to bring this about.

Thanks to Mayor Litke and Coun. Robinson for having the vision and courage to support the request for a restrictive covenant. I hope the other council members demonstrate their support for this exciting long-term vision for our city and reconsider their decisions.

Allan “Dr. Eclectic” Markin

Penticton


Thrift shop hunting with Diamond Jubilee Chapter

Recently, members of the Penticton Diamond Jubilee Chapter attended the Okanagan/Thompson Zone Social held at the Ramada Inn in Kelowna.

We came away seeing spots as we were encouraged to wear anything with polka dots. Boy we were surprised to notice how many items we could find with polka dots. Of course, many of them were purchased at our IODE Thrift Shop at 464 Main St.

If you haven’t been shopping with us, do come by between 1 to 4 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, and 10 a.m. on Saturdays.  The monies raised go back into the community in the form of scholarships, bursaries and money to the museum and library.

Ladies of the Diamond Jubilee Chapter IODE please take note that our fall meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 1:30 p.m. at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church at the corner of Duncan Avenue and Church Street.

We are all volunteers and do enjoy your visits.  See you soon!

Denise Kadatz

Communications IODE

Penticton


Assault on our health care system

Since there has been no media discussion of an upcoming assault on our Canadian heath care system I am alerting the reader with details supplied by the BC Health Coalition (info@bchealthcoalition.ca).

On Sept. 8, Dr. Brian Day, owner of a for-profit medical clinic in Vancouver, will appear in the B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the legislation that currently prevents a U.S.-type medical system.

Believe it or not, he suggests that our Canadian medicare system is unconstitutional because it is based on the premise that people’s health care needs are more important than their ability to pay.

Studies have shown no evidence that private, for-profit clinics like his provide better care. I urge you to check the above website for details on his clinic overcharging patients and double dipping for the same services,a distinct lack of credibility for Dr. Day.

Please express your concerns to your MLA and MP.

Laurie Rockwell

Summerland


Learned does not mean wise

Appears B.C. Ministry of Education negotiators and B.C. teachers union leaders both earned their PHD (Procrastinate, Hesitate, Dither) with honours in negotiations this summer in the holy land by studying the Israeli – Gaza Palestinian cease fire technique.

So successful were they that the opening of the B.C. 2014  school year “bombed,” resulting in a heavy student casualty list.

Moral of the tragedy: “To be learned does not mean to be wise.”

Joe Schwarz

Penticton