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Great divide between BCTF and BCPSEA remains

Teachers will help supervise exams, provide Grade 12 marks, percentages

The ongoing maelstrom of labour unrest and school disruptions affecting education in the province has spiralled further downward with full strike action beginning June 17.

Meanwhile, the Labour Relations Board (LRB) has granted an Essential Services Order requested by the B.C. Public School Employer's Association (BCPSEA) to mandate teachers to invigilate (supervise) Grade 10-12 provincial examinations wherever administrators cannot easily do so.

School District #27 schools superintendent Mark Thiessen says the British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) notified all school districts last week that they would withdraw teaching services beginning the day before the strike, as a “study session” day on June 16.

Due to the full withdrawal of teaching services, schools considered June 13 as the last day for this school year, he explains. Thiessen adds students were encouraged to clean out their desks and lockers and take home all of their school supplies.

"While there is a possibility that a provincial agreement could be reached, and schools could be back in session before the end of June, schools are planning as though students will not be back at school this year."

Noting an exception to the absence of all teachers will be made for the provincial exams, which will be held on their regularly scheduled dates and times.

"Buses will be running for all students taking provincial exams over the next two weeks."

Thiessen explains students will be able to enter the main entrances of secondary schools during exam times without the need to cross any picket lines.

Provincial grades 10-12 exams will see management supervising the provincial exams when sufficient staff is available at the school, or a nearby school.

The LRB ruling states the local teachers' associations and school districts must work out the staff levels required for this, over and above what management staff can provide.

The issue of grades 10 and 11 exams is not yet resolved, but at this point, the LRB is not requiring teachers to compile or submit grades 10 and 11 marks. The ruling points out the employer did not pursue marks, comments, or report cards for grades K–9 in its application.

Thiessen says community user groups no longer have access to SD27 school fields and facilities as of June 17.

Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers' Association president Murray Helmer says for the South End, where fewer administration resources exist, the union is working with SD27 to determine the number of teachers that will be needed to supervise exams.

"For Grade 12 students, teachers provide administration with final grades and percentages only, including Grade 12 students taking lower grade courses."

The LRB also ruled teachers must submit final grades for Grade 12 students, who will receive their report cards by mail, Helmer adds.

He notes teachers are not required to do the data entry work for BCeSIS or provide report card comments.

"Grade 12 students will get a letter grade and a percentage, and that will be supplied by the teachers to the administration [for data entry]."

The order does not include supervision of other school or district exams, nor will teachers be required to mark the provincial grades 10-12 exams, Helmer says.

As it stands, students in other grades will not be receiving report cards for this term.

Certain other psychometric or other testing already scheduled as of the June 12 LRB ruling will be conducted to determine special needs designations, and teachers will provide all information necessary for 2014/15 category H (Intensive Behaviour/Serious Mental Illness) student designations.

Meanwhile, the BCTF and BCPSEA presented contradictory comments June 16 on the substance of the wage offers tabled by each side, pointing to each other as holding the cards for reaching an agreement.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says a response from the union is still outstanding to BCPSEA's latest offer.

"[BCPSEA] tabled a comprehensive settlement that includes an improved wage offer and commits to realistic and flexible solutions to address class composition."

However, BCTF president Jim Iker says the government "sat on its hands for two days ... they brought nothing to the table to bring the two sides closer together” during a marathon bargaining session last weekend.