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.

No.

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.

Yesterday, today looked promising

Yesterday, today looked so promising.

I told my husband I was looking forward to it, a day full of hour-on-hour of relaxed dealing with the to-do list. Marking, laundry, some online work, blogging, phone calls, maybe some baking while listening to my favourite CBC shows. No going in to school. Period. Pure pleasure.

But as always, life happened. Our son woke up in the night, sick.I got up later than planned. We had 17.5 cm of snow overnight, heavy and wet. Shoveling, shoveling and more shoveling. Great exercise, but it took a lot of time. No access to documents in cyberspace while I waited for the snow to melt off the satellite dish. Up and down the stairs with tea, miso soup, hugs because he was missing the Slush Cup event at the ski hill. A relative called who is suffering from a very brutal disease. A neglected friend, leaving for a week to go visit a very sick family member, and so I went to have a quick visit. Heart and mind heavy.

Oh, and a pile of English 10 tests the students wrote last week for the dystopian fiction unit. Excited and curious to see what they wrote, but I couldn’t get my head into it.

I folded laundry and listened to Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts. Tick. That felt good.

Shovelled more snow, but the usual mental relief from physical activity did not last long. My brain is like swiss cheese and I keep forgetting what I should be doing.

Ah, well. Redefined the list of what was going to get done this day, made dinner and watched a movie with my family. Let go.

Yesterday, today looked so promising.

Over the last few years, I felt like I was really flying high on my profession. I was engaged in integrating technology. I was reading about and practicing formative assessment. I was planning a research-in-action project with a colleague. I was working hard to get students engaged in their learning. I was immersed in curriculum development. I was surfing Twitter, the net, education sites and bloggers, immersed in finding new tools, new ideas and new colleagues. I began to blog as a way to clarify my thinking and share my learning.

It felt like I could finally fly high enough to see the big picture. Exhilarating.

Last June, I started to feel like I was looking over my shoulder at an advancing enemy.  However, I flew on, kept reading, writing, teaching, enjoying the rush of the flight.

Today….

I feel like I have been shot from the sky. I know. This sounds overly dramatic. Doesn’t make it less true. Somehow, some people have decided to put me and my colleagues into the middle of an ideological battle. I can’t see the future; heck, I can barely see the present. The stress is starting to manifest itself. I’m limping to Spring Break -one week.

I wonder when we’ll get back to flying high.

Spin, baby, Spin

I certainly seem to be spending more time writing about politcs and the job action in BC than I expected when I began this blog in January. I guess that goes to relevance – it happens to be what is on my mind.

Today, I am thinking a lot about democracy, and the impact of poltical games and spin.

First, the Government is spending plenty of money advertising to the public about the BC Ed Plan, and the current job action. I’ve already discussed my perceptions about that, but all other issues aside, advertisements are spin. They don’t facilitate a conversation, they don’t advance an understanding, they work on creating a perception in the public. Ads work, even as we realize we are being manipulated.

That message is, teachers don’t use professional development days properly, teachers only care about money, they don’t put students first, teachers suck. However, we care about students and education. We, as the government, are there for you. Thanks goodness! 

As you can imagine, the ads are also damaging to teacher morale. In trying to advance a political cause, they are bashing all teachers, and it’s personal. Are they motivating their staff to work harder and harder? Are they making us feel excited to be on their team? Are they our educational leaders?

Ads are very expensive. How much has been spent, and what could we have done differently with that money? How many computers, ipads, projectors and cameras could have been bought? How many change-making conferences could have been held, where they could have been leverageing the  the best work of their most accomplished educators, as well as educators around the world? How many resourses could have been put into schools for art, music, shop, life skills?  How many counsellors and youth workers could we have employed?

Here’s another bit of spin. The Government keeps talking about “net zero” salary increase. The idea of net zero comes up primarily, as far as my cursory research shows, when discussing energy-efficient homes, or energy emissions. For example, a net zero home would produce as much renewable energy on-site as it uses. In other words, there is a balance.

In my mind, net-zero in terms of my salary should mean that what I make keeps pace with inflation. Otherwise, it is a net loss. Let’s be real about that. The recent stats from the Consumer Price Index show that prices have risen quite dramatically, although overall less in BC than in other provinces:

This blog post isn’t really about the economics of the issue, but about how the Govvernment keeps speaking as if net zero does not mean a loss to a family’s income. It’s like they are saying, “Sheesh. What’s your problem?”. I wonder why they find it so hard to tell the truth (as they see it). I wonder why they can’t say, “Yes, in these tough times we are asking you to take a hit, for the team!” (On that note, here is a Policy Note blog on how there is no need for teachers to take hit for the team.)

One more bit of spin. The Government keeps talking about how they are putting more and more into public education. The Government asserts that they have increased funding by 32% in the last ten years. Even the Fraser Institute, as reported in the Globe and Mail, points out that that funding, when inflation is factored in, is actually only a 10.8% increase. I have to admit that I find the numbers all very confusing. If our salaries (teachers, admin, support staff) have increased more than 10% over that ten years, District funding for all other costs have fallen back. Regardless, at the very least, funding has not increased by 32%. (See note below.)

And it is going to get worse (from the same article):

If inflation stays fairly low, at 1.8%, for the next three years this is a cut, a cut, and a cut. Boards can expect an increase in expenses of at least  5.4%, and an increase of funding of only 1.8%. That is a net loss.

And yet, the BC Government is putting students first. Just because you say something over and over and over doesn’t make it true. Maybe the truth isn’t what they are shooting for, and that’s okay with them.

Ultimately, education, how it is funded, what impacts an individual school’s ability to function within a funding model, how education reform will happen, is complex. Sound bites and advertisements will never capture the reality or advance the understanding. Too bad the BC Government decided to reduce this complexity to simple-minded sound bites in the middle of contract negotiation.

On the other hand, you could also argue that they created this complex storm to hide behind.

(Note: The Globe and Mail article I referenced above points out that both the BCTF and the BC Government arrive at such different numbers so that it is very hard to see the reality – to the point that University of Victoria Professor Kim Speers believes an independent look would be a good idea. Let’s do it.)