Central Okanagan Public Schools has not yet had to resort to hiring non-certified teachers for on-call work, says the school district superintendent/CEO.
Kevin Kaardal said the shortfall of teachers being experienced across the province has not yet had the impact in the Central Okanagan that it has had on some, such as the neighbouring North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.
That school district has posted notices stating the district is looking to hire individuals without a teaching certificate to replace absent teachers, a first step in exploring that option.
Kaardal said the Central Okanagan is continuing its ongoing efforts to recruit new teachers, but doesn’t find itself in the same predicament as North Okanagan-Shuswap.
Susan Bauhart, president of the Central Okanagan Teachers Association, said teachers don’t support that idea in principle, calling it “a last resort of desperation to haul people into the classroom in that way. It is disrespectful to the specific training we all get to do our jobs.”
The North Okanagan-Shuswap non-teacher notice 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.
Bauhart said the teacher shortage in North Okanagan-Shuswap is being felt across the province, in particular the Lower Mainland.
“You wouldn’t think it would be an issue in the Vancouver area but what’s happening is teachers who lived in Surrey, Coquitlam, Vancouver, Burnaby and such and were working in there neighbouring school districts have had the opportunity to get jobs working closer to home,” she said.
“And those who were on substitute teacher-on-call lists are being mined by other school districts to fill vacant full-time jobs.”
Bauhart said the sudden rise in teaching job vacancies is directly related to the Canada Supreme Court decision, a legal battle that the province and BC Teachers Federation fought for years through over the elimination of class composition language in their contract.
The ultimate ruling in favour of the BCTF forced all school districts to face immediately hiring new teachers.
She said that was coupled with the reality of B.C. teachers being the second lowest paid in Canada, making it not an attractive option for teacher recruiting.
“Why would someone want to work in our province when they can make $15,000 to $20,000 more in Alberta?” she asked.
“We gave up on wages in order to focus on the language stripped from the collective agreement. That language has been restored but we’re behind now on wages.”
Bauhart said special needs teaching assistants have been called upon to fill in for absent teachers in Central Okanagan schools at times, an option she says is unfair for those students who require the attention of those teaching assistants.
“That’s not ideal either because that extra support for vulnerable students is being taken away,” she’s said.
Bauhart said the situation won’t get better because of the further arbitration hearing fallout from the Supreme Court decision.
“The problem is the court decision referred to class composition language back in 2002 and the meaning behind that has changed since then. That has brought up all kinds of challenges in terms of what things mean now as opposed to what they meant then,” she said.
“We have our interpretation and the school district has theirs so we go to arbitration to get a ruling.
We have three arbitration hearings pending and so far only one has been scheduled. Other school districts are in the same boat.
“What might help alleviate some of these contract interpretation issues is bargaining for a new contract and that process starts in 2019.”
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