School District, Union to Start Hiring Talks Next Week
Prince George, B.C. – The Prince George School District and its teacher’s union – the Prince George and District Teachers’ Association – will meet next week to discuss how they plan to spend their share of the $50 million the provincial government has allocated to hire additional teachers and improve student supports across the province.
The cash infusion was announced yesterday (see previous story here) and was prompted by the BCTF’s Supreme Court victory in November. The court ruled the Liberal provincial government had unconstitutionally stripped collective agreement language back in 2002.
Both the district and the union are pleased with yesterday’s announcement though they note it’s impossible to say how many new hires it will mean until they know exactly how much money the district is receiving.
“I don’t have the dollar figure and I don’t have the priorities from the union so until I have those things in place, it’s not fair to begin guessing,” says superintendent of schools Marilyn Marquis-Forster.
She says the priorities will be hashed out when the district and the union meet to discuss the issue next week.
“We are scheduled to meet with our union leadership Jan.11 at 10:30 to start discussions as to where they see the priorities and how they would like to have resources allocated as we move forward.”
PGDTA president Richard Giroday agrees it remains to be seen how the money will be spent but notes the need is great.
“We have been doing some work with our schools and our staff members and we have information data back on 20 schools and we’re down 24 teachers according to the return language and that’s just on 20 schools,” he says.
“So, we have a long way to go to full restoration. This will be a small step towards it and there’s an awful lot more work to be done.”
And considering the $50 million is for this current school year, which is nearly half over, are both parties confident they can hire the extra staff quickly enough?
“Well, that’s a really good question. Until we’ve met with our union leadership and had a mutual decision around just how we’re going to step forward, we don’t exactly know the timelines,” says Marquis-Forster.
“The question of recruitment for Prince George is a legitimate one, particularly when it pertains to specialist teachers. We do sometimes have to spend more time and energy in recruiting those folks to our community.”
Giroday on the other hand is a little more optimistic.
“I don’t think people realize that we do draw on other jurisdictions. For instance, we have teachers from Ontario, we have teachers from further east than that even,” he says.
“I’m not even going to consider that as a problem because the government may have to make some incentive programs to be able to do that. There’s quite a bit that will be taking place on that.”
“It’s a good problem,” adds Marquis-Forster. “We have problems all the time we might as well be facing a good one.”