School district administration has posted notices stating that due to a shortage of certified teachers, the district is looking to hire individuals without a teaching certificate to replace absent teachers. -File photo

School district considers hiring non-teachers to teach

North Okanagan-Shuswap School District ponders way to counter provincial teacher shortage

Yes, the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is considering hiring non-teachers for on-call work but, no, it’s not a done deal.

The school district has posted notices stating that due to a shortage of certified teachers, the district is looking to hire individuals without a teaching certificate to replace absent teachers.

Superintendent Peter Jory confirms it is being explored as an option but the advertisements are just a first step.

“We’re seeing what kinds of people come in the door and if they’re able to do the job. If we have some suitable candidates we will look at board approval at that time,” he says.

Another critical piece, he emphasizes, is “teacher replacements will be called only after all certified teachers have been deployed and for short-term jobs – typically one day at a time.”

Requirements include: a university degree; experience working with children or youth in a formal position or as a volunteer; the ability to connect with students; strong interpersonal, communication and collaboration skills; demonstrated ability to organize and safely manage groups of children; and completion of a criminal record check.

Jory says the practice isn’t new to B.C.

“It’s been happening in more remote districts consistently over the last 20 or 30 years,” he says, explaining that northern districts do it.

He says it’s even occurred intermittently in School District 83.

“One of our principals got his start as a non-certified math teacher.”

Related link: Enrolment, staffing increases for School District 83

After the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2016 restored contract clauses on class size and composition that were stripped from the teachers’ contract in 2002, teachers have been at a premium as districts throughout the province have been hiring.

“We did a very nice job getting out in front of that after the Supreme Court ruling. We hired a contractor to come in and work specifically on recruitment… Our TTOC (teachers teaching on call) list at that time was very robust,” Jory says.

Since then, however, those teachers have been hired by other school districts and within the district. Also, with it being the middle of winter, about 35 of the TTOCs are retired teachers, some of whom head south. And in January and February, some are on vacation.

At the end of last year, the TTOC roster was 130, he says. At the start of the school year, it was just over 100. It recently dropped down to about 70, half of whom are retired.

He says that would be enough, but some TTOCs don’t necessarily want to work every day. They also have different specialties and some want to work in specific communities.

Proactive recruitment of teachers is ongoing, he emphasizes, and any next steps will be taken cautiously and thoughtfully. He adds that the North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association is supportive of the plan and understands the system is under some stress.

Related link: BC schools brace for more students, teachers

Brenda O’Dell, president of the teachers association, agrees.

“Our preference that we share with the district and, I know, with parents, is to have certified teachers in the classroom. But the shortage is affecting my members in real ways in the classroom,” O’Dell says. “On almost a daily basis there are unfilled absences. So teachers are having their leaves cancelled and being called back to work when they’re on different types of leaves because someone ’s not available to take their class.”

She says there are some rooms with no teachers in them, which the rest of the staff have had to cover.

“It’s important to understand that this teacher shortage is being felt in every region in the province, so it’s not just a local problem, it’s a provincial problem… I know the district is moving cautiously with this. Again, it’s just a stop-gap measure, hopefully for the short term.”

O’Dell started noticing that absences weren’t being filled just before Christmas, she says. “It’s kind of been consistent since that time.”

She notes that flu season has added to the pressure and the district has been hiring proactively.

“We’re just beginning to feel the kind of pressure other districts have been feeling since September.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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