Union prez, board chair optimistic

A new school year is underway in Mission Public Schools

Mission students are back in class and both the school board chair and teachers’ union president are cautiously optimistic about the coming year.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation and provincial government’s dispute near the end of last school year had left tensions high between the groups.

Mission Teachers’ Union President Mark Bradshaw said educators felt “coerced” into accepting the agreement presented in March, and that his members are “still not happy.”

However, he’s seeing more “positive” attitudes and said “we’re able to talk about things a little easier with management.”

Bradshaw spent the first two days of classes touring all the schools with board administrators Randy Huth and Bill Fletcher — who are filling in for superintendent Frank Dunham who is on personal leave until November — and local CUPE President George Forsythe.

“We were just checking things out, such as staff. It did look like schools were adequately staffed,” he said.

While there has been no formal edict from the BCTF or MTU about teachers not volunteering for extra-curricular activities, Bradshaw said members are being encouraged to closely examine what they do, and to look for a healthy work-life balance.

School trustees Chair Edie Heinrichs said the board “is encouraged with how well we’ve been able to work with both unions.”

While firm enrolment numbers are not available until the end of September, from her own observations, Heinrichs thinks a few more teachers might be required.

Nine administration employees were laid off or moved earlier this year, creating uncertainty throughout Mission Public Schools over who would take care of the extra work.

Heinrichs said after a recent principal’s meeting, upwards of 25 employees have put their names forward to take on additional responsibilities