Substitute Shortage Harming Students says Teachers Rep
Prince George, B.C. – The president of the Prince George District Teachers’ Association is calling on the provincial government to provide some incentives to resolve what he’s calling a “serious shortage of teachers teaching on call (TTOC’s) and educational assistants (EA’s) in northern school districts.”
Richard Giroday says the shortage of TTOC’s (known previously as substitutes) and EA’s, is hurting students.
“For this entire year, almost daily, I receive emails from non enrolling teachers in who have been redeployed from their normal responsibilities of providing support to vulnerable students.”
He says those ‘non enrolling’ teachers sometimes include counselors.
“The impact on vulnerable children is disastrous,” says Giroday, adding it has a major impact on vulnerable learners. “Those elementary learners who need extra help, small study groups, additional learning time, who may have moved forward without the skills necessary.”
Giroday estimates there are approximately 80 TTOC’s in the district but says their availability is an issue.
“TTOC’S can choose their availability. They’re not confined to be at school for a specific amount of time.
“There’s a lot of variables that come into this whole scheme of things. For instance we had 22 maternity leaves and that just decimated the TTOC’s because they are your first line to fill positions.”
He says one incentive he’d like to see tried is extending the rural incentive provided to teachers ($2,300) to TTOC’s.
“One of the problems with being a TTOC is you don’t have benefits. So maybe one of the incentives might be they (the ministry of education) could provide benefits to TTOC’s that are in these districts having serious problems.”
Giroday says school districts should also co-ordinate and share strategies with health authorities considering there’s been shortages of health workers in rural communities too.
“I think there were difficulties in the health authorities when they were trying to get doctors to come. It’s the same kind of thing and I think there might be some experiences that could be used in education.”
Giroday says that doesn’t even take into account the shortage of EA’s.
“And that has a serious impact, the students are being sent home. I mean we have students at all levels of need and you have an educational assistant who is specifically trained on how to feed a student and of course of if that person isn’t there, there’s no one who has that training.”
But is extra money for supports even realistic considering the financial crunch school districts around the province are currently facing?
“If you get right down to the bottom line, what is causing all of this, it is underfunding. What we’re talking about here is support for students and that’s what was stripped out of our contract back in 2003,” says Giroday. “That’s what our Supreme Court case is all about, to have those supports put back.”
He expressed the above concerns at last week’s public school board meeting in McBride. Giroday asked the trustees to write a letter of support to the Ministry of Education.