Why I am worried (one BIG reason)

As I try to prepare for the coming union vote in British Columbia involving a contract negotiation failure, an imposed mediation process, and a potentially imposed contract within the next few months, I am reading over the documents submitted by the employer in order to anticipate what it is that contract may (will?) look like by the time we return to school in September of 2012, if not before.

This blog focusses on one item up for ‘mediation’/imposition; Posting and Filling, Employee Assignment and Transfer. This is the document submitted by BCPSEA on February 1, 2012 Revised Package and the link can be found on their website under the heading, BCPSEA Proposals.

The sections in this blog are captured from that document.

My first concern is the issue of seniority.


My first concern is that this contract will not be arrived at through collective bargaining. That is another blog post.

Back to Post and Fill. Here is a capture from the pdf;

Part One:

Notice that seniority is not on the list unless the both candidates are equal in experience, qualifications, performance and …suitability. What does suitability determined by the principal mean? Is it quantifiable, like a degree, or years of experience, or a performance evaluation?

Actually, a lot of this is already subjective; does my 20 year experience as a humanities teacher count if I am up against a newly qualified math teacher if we are going for the same junior math job? Here’s a blog post on that, Gasp, A History teacher teaching Math!

Suitability, though, is particularly problematic. Here is a massive back door through which the administrator, or a more distant designate, can dodge in order to bypass teachers because….why? Here is where more extreme bias comes in to play. This worries me.

The point of a mutually agreed-upon process is that all parties feel protected and that the process is fair.

Here is the language from the current contract that exists for the District in which I teach:

Part Two: Let’s say that I go for that math job, but get passed over for not being suitable or experienced. What if I am not willing to roll over and take a different job (or no job).

There is the first capture of the procedure for resolution.

Notice that this is not a grievance. It has its own procedure. Notice that an adjudicator will be appointed and that the decision is binding, and shall never be discussed again. Notice that two possible adjudicators are named; some cursory research illustrates they are highly qualified individuals, which is something of a relief. Expensive, perhaps; this comes up later. Notice that the adjudicators don’t need to justify the decision in writing.

Part three:

Notice that legal counsel is not allowed.

And finally;

Notice that the parties shall share equally the costs of fees and expenses of the adjudicator. First of all, what kind of daily fee would that be? Would I have to pay for my flight to Vancouver, or pay for the flight of the adjudicator, the car rental, the mileage, the hotel?

How much would it cost me to try to get that math job, even if I ended up with the position in the end? Would I just lick my wounds and try to move on rather than take on the unknown expense?

Staring out the window at this gloriously beautiful spring day, I have a queasy feeling in my stomach. I guess I shouldn’t worry. I have 20 years of seniority, after all. Well, I have 20 years experience. Maybe my Master’s Degree would protect me.

Maybe, I should not press, Publish. Maybe I should put my head down and shut up. Or maybe not.

8 thoughts on “Why I am worried (one BIG reason)

  1. Concerning, I agree.

    At the same time, we (teachers) keep demanding to be respected and to be trusted as professionals. Part of me thinks it’s okay to trust administrators to do the same. Just as some teachers aren’t so worthy of that trust, some administrators won’t be either.

    Sometimes I want my principal to have a little more power to make a good decision that’s best for the kids and the school overall, without having to worry that someone will file a grievance. Senior teachers (and I am well on my way to being one) aren’t always best for the job. Sometimes other factors should be considered… but in the current system, they cannot be, even if it might be better for the school and the student population to do so.

    But at the same time, I worry about those administrators that won’t be worthy of our trust. I worry about what can happen without that protection. There is great potential for mismanagement.

    It’s a tough time to be a teacher. I appreciate your thoughts here.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think we all have examples of abuse or inappropriate postings. No specific policy is going to stop it everytime. I am afraid that this procedure is far too far in one direction.

  2. A very insightful assessment of the process to come. A scary time for those of us who believed that Canada was a democratic country with laws to protect us.

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes, I have much bigger worries about the process taking place, but this is one that is clear and I am able to point to specifics. This is a very stressful time, and it is hard to imagine a resolution.

  3. I have to disagree 🙂

    Principals need the ability to create the school they want – they were chosen to lead. Arguments could be made against the type of people, or the process that they go through, to be chosen, but once there they need the ability to choose their staff.

    For example – if a principal wants to investigate a specific type of instruction, such as project based learning or technology infused instruction or simply a different program, they need the ability to choose the type of staff member who fits those roles. Perhaps it’s the brand new teacher out of teachers college. Perhaps it’s the teacher who has spent months learning about the type of school the principal wants. Regardless, the administrator needs the ability to choose their teachers.

    Furthermore, in regards to experience, yes, a teacher CAN teach most subjects – I’m a computer systems engineer turned teacher, but I could probably teach Grade 10 English. Would I do as good of a job if I was trying to read the books just ahead of the class? Or since I haven’t taken more than two English courses, do I have the same level of experience? No, I most certainly do not, and therefore regardless of how much experience I have, I need to be denied the English position.

    If an administrator messes this up, gives jobs to the wrong people, etc, we need to create a system for THEM to be held accountable.

    • I would think that in some special circumstances, for example, when a new school is set up, and the District wants to pilot some kind of special programming, a special dispensation could be given for principals to choose (hopefully in concert with other teacher-leaders) the kind of staffing appropriate to the situation. However, except in these circumstances, I can’t imagine what it would look like to give principals wholesale ability to choose new teachers over experienced teachers.

      What also comes to mind is how, once again, the rural and urban areas have little in common. If you pass over a teacher who has a good performance review, years of experience and the qualifications because you want a new teacher that specializes in PBL, that experienced and qualified teacher that you just didn’t hire has to uproot her family and move to a new town or start commutes to other towns along icy winter roads. I can’t say that I would favour that.

      Far better is for a leader to sit down with her or his staff, come up with a long term plan for the school, set targets and professional development goals, leverage the talent in the building, and work together as a team to improve outcomes and the quality of education for the students. This of course, needs to be based on the needs of the actual students in the building, not just an educational trend that holds promise.

      Also, I think it is important to recognize that it takes a career to get excellent at this job. The English teacher I am now is not the English teacher I was 10 years ago. I have learned an extraordinary amount. I continue to add skills as I struggle to deal with the myriad of challenges that come my way in a semester. All other things being equal, my experience over yours should definitely win out in a race for an English job. However, it still holds true that if I were to apply for the junior math job, my classroom management skills, my curriculum development skills, my knowledge of effective instructional routines and the relationships I have with students would not be gone. Yes, my learning curve would be steep, but I would argue that is not any different than the curve I am always on, because I am always pushing my skills to greater heights, whether that is technology integration, the use of oral langauge, the types of assessments I do and so on.

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