Last week, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation announced 73 per cent of teachers who cast ballots during a province-wide vote endorsed its plan to protest Bill 22.
The plan includes teachers withdrawing from extracurricular activities. On Monday, I asked Maria Taddei, president of the Vancouver Principals and Vice-Principals Association, how she expects the vote will impact schools and students in coming months.
Taddei, a principal at Windermere secondary school, said administrators haven’t had the opportunity to fully assess the situation but she expects graduation functions will likely be scaled back.
“It’s our hope that administrators can find ways of continuing to support those activities by engaging our community—our parents and volunteers to help us with the functions,” she said. “Having said that, there are a lot of variables like the size of the school and the level of teacher involvement.”
Taddei noted graduation events are typically organized through collaboration between administrators, teachers and office staff. Each school operates differently, but some school ceremonies may not be as elaborate.
“Some schools rely on music and choirs and orchestras. I’m thinking at a place like Lord Byng where I worked last year, that might not happen. It’ll have an impact if there’s no orchestra, but there are things that we can do to have music—it could be taped,” she said.
The workload of principals and vice principals has increased this year due to the labour dispute between the BCTF and the government, Taddei added, so they’ll have to decide how many extra jobs they can take on.
“Well-being is important, so we have to decide what are the critical things, what are the most important things and what are our priorities,” she said.
Taddei noted the situation is tough on teachers, some of whom have dedicated hours of work over the school year to prepare for performances such as plays and musicals.
A musical is slated to open at Windermere April 25, but in order to comply with the BCTF action plan the teacher involved can’t take part.
“The union has told her that she can’t participate. It’s Annie Get Your Gun—it’s a big musical she’s been working on for eight months,” Taddei explained. “As administrators we’re prepared to open the doors for the kids and the kids at this point will self-direct themselves. I think the teacher may be in the audience, but she can’t really participate in terms of really giving direction.”
Aside from athletics, graduations and performances other activities that might be affected by the union plan include award ceremonies that are sometimes held in the evening and end-of-year concerts.
Kurt Heinrich, spokesperson for the Vancouver school district, said senior managers will work closely with administrators in the coming weeks to sort out the situation.
Given the time of year, he said the major impact will likely be on graduation events.
“All the administrators are going to try and do something,” he said. “At some [secondary] schools teachers are very, very involved with the planning and preparation. Some have very extensive and elaborate ceremonies. At other schools it’s more administrator driven. So it’s really going to be [different] on a school-by-school basis… At the end of the day it’s just a challenging situation. If there’s a program that’s been organized and run by teachers and the teachers decide they don’t want to do it, there’s not a ton we can do. Our administrators have been doing a lot to try and make sure things don’t fall through the cracks and they’re going to continue to do so.”