On the street

One-day teach­ers strike the first in 122-year his­tory of NSTU

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAPE BRE­TON POST STAFF

A one-day strike by Nova Sco­tia teach­ers could change for­ever the course of how schools op­er­ate, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The gov­ern­ment is say­ing that it is putting things back to nor­mal. That won’t be the case,” said Kevin De­veaux, prin­ci­pal of Syd­ney Academy High School.

De­veaux said many of the teach­ers at his school have told him their vol­un­teer­ing days for ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties are now over or will be ex­tremely lim­ited. He said when schools re­open on Tues­day, after a prov- in­cial hol­i­day Mon­day, par­ents and stu­dents will be ex­pect­ing a re­turn of usual par­tic­i­pa­tion by teach­ers in ev­ery­thing from coach­ing sports teams to stu­dent coun­cil and plan­ning for prom.

“That won’t be hap­pen­ing,” said De­veaux, echo­ing a sen­ti­ment heard re­peat­edly from teach­ers dur­ing the pro­tracted labour ne­go­ti­a­tions with the provin­cial gov­ern­ment.

“They ( provin­cial gov­ern­ment) have shown us no re­spect when it comes to our vol­un­teer­ing,” said De­veaux, who has been a teacher for 31 years.

Syd­ney Academy has a stu­dent body of 880 stu­dents along with 155 teach­ers.

De­veaux said teach­ers are draw­ing a line be­tween their added re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and the bu­reau­cracy that comes with it and whether to par­tic­i­pate in ex­tra school ac­tiv­i­ties.

In fact, some schools in the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board, the sec­ond largest in the prov­ince, have al­ready an­nounced such changes as par­ents take over some roles pre­vi­ously as­sumed by teach­ers.

The one-day strike was the first in the 122- year his­tory of the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union and picket lines were set up across Cape Bre­ton and the main­land.

As mem­bers of the House of Assem­bly de­bated Bill 75 Fri­day, leg­is­la­tion im­pos­ing a col­lec­tive agree­ment on the teach­ers, teach­ers from across the prov­ince as­sem­bled out­side in what some de­scribed as the largest protest group to de­scend on the leg­is­la­ture.

“Im­pos­ing a con­tract in a democ­racy is wrong, morally, eth­i­cally and legally,” said De­veaux, not­ing the union will pur­sue the mat­ter fur­ther in court.

After 14 years as a teacher, Tanya Chislett said Fri­day there are some days she comes home and feels like a fail­ure in hav­ing not been able to de­liver her best per­for­mance in the class­room.

The Grades 6- 8 teacher at Whit­ney Pier Memo­rial said she is faced daily with so many ob­sta­cles, from class size to com­po­si­tion to re­port writ­ing, which takes time away from ac­tual in­struc­tion and of­fer­ing help.

“I am a mother of two as well so I know how im­por­tant the is­sues are. All stu­dents mat­ter,” she said.

Chislett said she hopes the one- day strike serves as a wakeup call to both the pub­lic and the pro­fes­sion that the fu­ture direc­tion of ed­u­ca­tion in Nova Sco­tia is at stake.

“The sys­tem didn’t break down overnight and it won’t be fixed by com­mit­tees or new ini­tia­tives,” said Chislett, adding she hopes teach­ers and the pub­lic be­come more vo­cal when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion is­sues.

In some re­spect, said Chislett, the trou­bled labour ne­go­ti­a­tions with the prov­ince may have in­deed awo­ken a sleep­ing gi­ant whose voice will only get louder.

“I sus­pect that voice will be loud­est dur­ing the next election. The peo­ple will speak about it,” she said.

There was cho­rus of dis­sent from across the school dis­trict Fri­day.

“We want our lo­cal MLAs to cross the floor and show sup­port for our 9,300 Nova Sco­tia teach­ers and the stu­dents,” said Char­lene Brad­bury, a re­source teacher at Ocean­view Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre in Glace Bay.

Brad­bury was among some 75 teach­ers who be­gan their picket duty at 8 a. m. in the bit­ter cold in front of the con­stituency of­fice of Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Ge­off MacLel­lan, MLA for Glace Bay.

Tammy Pen­ney- Wells, a Grade 3- 4 teacher at Donkin Gowrie Com­plex, said they are fight­ing for the stu­dents.

“Right now we want more sup­port for our schools. We are up­set the prov­ince is try­ing to force a con­tract on us in­stead of ne­go­ti­at­ing fairly,” she said.

SHARON MONT­GOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Tammy Pen­ney-Wells, right, a teacher at Donkin Gowrie Com­plex, holds up one of a sea of protest signs in front of the con­stituency of­fice of Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Ge­off MacLel­lan on Com­mer­cial Street in Glace Bay Fri­day morn­ing. It was one of many provin­cial gov­ern­ment of­fices and schools where Nova Sco­tia teach­ers gath­ered dur­ing their one-day strike to protest leg­is­la­tion by the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment im­pos­ing a four-year con­tract.

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

A small fire helped teach­ers at Syd­ney Academy stay warm Fri­day as they march a picket line to protest the provin­cial Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to leg­is­late them back to work after re­ject­ing a third ten­ta­tive con­tract of­fer. The one-day strike in the first in the union’s 122-year his­tory.

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