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