Monthly Archives: September 2012

Update on Staffing and Enrollment

September 13,


Hi Folks,

I thought I would try and bring everyone up to date on the staffing / enrollment situation in the district.

As you may have heard the school district enrollment has declined from the projections of last spring.  The decline was initially thought to be over 100 FTE., however at the School Board meeting on Monday evening the decline was reported to be 76 FTE.

The decline was not necessarily spread evenly throughout the district.  In fact two schools (NISS and FRES) have seen a growth in their projected enrollments.

School District funding is based on enrollment.  As the enrollment goes down so does the funding.  The per capita amount is about $9000.    District administration believed they would need to make some cuts by the end of the first week.

The changes are as follows: two teachers have been transferred according to a transfer clause in our Collective Agreement about schools with declining enrollment.  There will be a partial lay off at the end of December in one school, a leave is not being replaced and a small posting has been reduced.  The result will be a reduction of 1.55 FTE for the year.

As a result of the cuts EVES, Sunset, and A.J. Elliott each dropped a class and class size has increased in each school – particularly in primary.

This cut is happening at a time when the district has been quite vocal about wanting to have all students reading at grade level by grade 5.  It is a very clear priority of the district.  (Although, to be honest, I am not familiar with a time when having students reading at grade level has not been a priority of teachers)   So, the first response by the district , to an admittedly difficult situation,  is to cut teaching staff and effectively increase primary class size.

It is understandable the district has concerns about their budget.  However a budget is not just about money.  It is about priorities and how to spend that money.  These cuts are very much counterintuitive to the stated goals of the district.

We have become a very small district.  There are just over 1300 students and about 97 FTE teachers.  When addressing budgetary concerns the district would do well to look at all structures within SD 85.

Fred Robertson
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association

Some Out-of-District Pro-D

Here are a few links to some of the Out-Of-District Workshops that have come in so far:

BC Primary Teachers’ Conference Booklet

Why Try Flyer and Registration – Port Alberni

Social Media Workshop – Campbell River

Welcome to the New School Year

Hey folks,

Happy New Year!!  I do hope everyone was able to pass a peaceful summer.

This will also be the first time in quite some time when we have not been involved in or contemplating job action.

Last year might best be described as the year of the vote.  Between the Employment Equity Agreement, local bargaining, provincial bargaining and job action and escalations of job action, we spent much of our time casting a ballot.  The expression ‘painfully democratic’ comes to mind.

Last year was clearly not easy, however at the end of the year and after much upheaval, we did have an agreement. It was not a great agreement but it did result in a few improvements – particularly to benefits.  (more on this in a bit).  Had we not settled we would have seen legislation early in the summer.    It was not the best of situations.

Most importantly, there were no concessions and there was no legislation gutting our collective agreements.   At the end of the day the government finally believed that if they were to strip clauses from our collective agreement, there would be a significant response from teachers.  While this may not appear to be a great victory we should not forget the context in which we forced the government to back away from its ‘contract stripping agenda’.  Many, many jurisdictions in Canada and the States have been ripping up public sector contracts and specifically they have been ripping up teacher contracts.  One needs only look at recent events in Wisconsin, Illinois and now Ontario to see the evidence.

Through our actions last year we were able to stop this from happening to teachers in B.C. The same cannot be said in most other jurisdictions.  So, while we may not have been able accomplish a great victory, we should not under estimate what we actually were able to do!  We prevented a very right wing government from carrying out their agenda. In many ways, that is a victory!


We did achieve some improvements in the area of benefits.  The benefits package that was agreed to does seem better than our (SD #85) existing package, most notably in the provision of a pharmacy card.  There are improvements in other areas as well.  However, we also stand to lose a bit with the eye care provisions.  The Federation has asked each local to vote on whether or not they will accept the new benefit package or continue with the old package.  I am putting together a comparison chart to bring around to present to school staffs in the next week or two.  The executive will decide when and how the vote will take place.  This should be the last vote for a while.

School Reps

As we saw all last year, this government worked feverishly to erode hard won collective agreement provisions and protections.  It is important for us to act on this knowledge.  It is always asking much of an individual to volunteer their time over and above their teaching responsibilities to act as a Staff Rep., Pro-D Rep or Health and Safety Rep.  However, there are very real risks if we do nothing.

School Lists  

We are in the process of updating all of our e-mail lists.  We are waiting for the district to finalize school staffs.  So that is the long way of saying this e-mail may not have you listed on the correct staff.  We should have everything updated by the end of the week.  Please forward it to anyone who may not have received it.

Court Challenges

We have a number of court challenges going forward – most notably our challenge to Bill 22.  This will undoubtedly be a long process.

Also outstanding is the disposition of Judge Griffin’s decision with respect to our original challenge to Bills 27 and 28. If you recall, Judge Griffin found in our favour and gave the government one year to address her court ruling.   Bill 22 was a part of the government’s attempt address the court ruling.  From our perspective it fell well short of what was required.  And, we are challenging this in the courts as well.  There should be more on this later this fall.

Learning Improvement Fund  (LIF)

This fund came about last year in part to address the court’s decision that found they had violated our charter rights.  In SD #85 it resulted in two FTE over and above the existing staffing levels.  Most of these LIF positions are now in place and all of it should be finalized by the end of the week.

 New Website

Mark Walther, our Admin. Assistant, has worked hard over the summer to update the VINTA website.  It is a work in progress so please feel free to pass along any suggestions you may have.  The Pro-D form will be available by the end of the week.  The address is:


This is a topic near and dear to many of our hearts.  We began to meet district folks in June to discuss assessment in our district.  There are mixed reviews of  some of the discussions, however it is better to be having the discussion than not.  We will be meeting again as September wears on.  Please let us know if you would like take part in these discussions.


The BCGEU will be out on a one-day strike tomorrow.  They are facing the same intransigent wall we saw last year.  It is not entirely clear which sites will have picket lines tomorrow.  They will not be picketing schools.

Any support you are able to supply tomorrow would be greatly appreciated.

I will try and set up a schedule for school/staff visits to review the benefit package as soon as possible.

And, as you elect Pro-D and Staff reps could let us know in the office.


See you soon,


Fred Robertson
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association