ACTIVITIES ranging from soccer tournaments to graduation ceremonies may face cancellation this year after West Vancouver teachers voted to pull out of extracurricular programs in protest of the province's plan to legislate an end to their strike.
The local teachers' association announced the plan Friday, saying it had passed a resolution at a meeting last week advising members to work bell to bell, and to continue doing so through next school year, or until the proposed strike-ending legislation is repealed. During that time, teachers will refuse all unpaid work relating to out-ofschool activities.
"The idea is if there's going to continue to be net-zero bargaining, then it's going to be net-zero teaching," said Glenn Johnston, a representative for the West Vancouver Teachers' Association and Sentinel secondary's athletic director. "There's very little else that we have to fight the government with."
The resolution is non-binding, meaning teachers can't be penalized for ignoring the edict, but Johnston said it appeared at this point that participation will be widespread. As of Friday, at least 13 other locals, including Sea-to-Sky, Burnaby, New Westminster and others had passed similar resolutions, he said. North Vancouver, to his knowledge, had not. Calls to that local were not returned by deadline.
The move threatens to impact sports programs throughout West Vancouver, where Johnston estimates 75 per cent of coaching is done by school staff. The union will not stand in the way of parent coaches, he said, but it seems unlikely that enough community volunteers will come forward and get the required criminal record checks in time to keep things running at full bore.
If widely followed, the directive will also put the brakes on afterschool musical and theatre performances, overnight trips, field trips,
sports days, graduation celebrations and other popular events, all of which are organized primarily by staff in their own time.
The move was a hard one for teachers to make, said Johnston. "A lot of coaches developed these programs," he said. "It's super difficult for them to be making this decision, but they feel their profession is under attack."
Many teachers saw it as their only option after the province moved to end their six-month labour dispute through legislation, he said.
When passed, Bill 22 will impose a six-month suspension on all job action and appoint a mediator to negotiate a deal between the BCTF and the employer within certain strict guidelines. Those constraints prevent the mediator from considering any proposal that would involve an overall increase in cost to the employer or that would tie in caps on class sizes. The bill also imposes hefty fines on any individual teacher who takes part in a strike.
"I don't think the public understands," said Johnston. "I haven't seen a teaching assistant in my class in three years."
Rob Inman, a longtime volunteer coach at Sentinel, is one of the parents who will be picking up the slack in the teachers' absence. He said it will be difficult, but expressed sympathy for the coaching staff's position. "The volunteer work that teachers do from September to the end of May, as far sports go, is fantastic. . . . They have passion for their profession," said Inman. "I know it must have been a very difficult decision, but they've decided this is their stance."
At the same time, he acknowledged the move will put serious strain on community volunteers. "It's gonna be really tough," said Inman, who coaches four high school teams and runs a landscape supply business. "I'll probably lose a lot of money and piss a bunch of customers off, but I'm not going to let the kids down."
Inman said some parents will step in to fill the void, but that it's unlikely enough will come forward to fully make up the teachers' absence.
"For a lot of parents nowadays, both mom and dad work; a lot of people can't leave their businesses early to come and help," he said.
In the wake of the announcement, the school district is taking a wait-and-see approach, said superintendant Chris Kennedy. Once it's clear how things play out, its role will primarily be one of communication.
"We'll make sure we're explaining all the time to parents what's happening," he said.
As a parent, a coach and a former teacher himself, Kennedy said it was "gut-wrenching" to see things unfold this way.
"I don't think (teachers) ever come to those decisions lightly," he said. "I'm an optimist. I hope that at the provincial level, there can be some sort of resolution soon."
Bill 22 is still before the legislature. It is expected to pass this coming week.