Trenton woman adds voice to concerns for teaching conditions


Published on February 16, 2017

Cindy-lee MacLean shows her support for students caught in the middle of a labour dispute between teachers and the province in this photo taken last month.

©FILE

A Trenton woman told the province’s law amendments committee that she has had to fight for her child’s education every step of the way to make sure he got the support he needed in the school system.

Cindy-lee MacLean wrote to the office of legislative counsel Wednesday saying she opposes a bill that will legislate a contract for teachers.

“My child has worked very hard to get to where he is now and without the help of many of his teachers he wouldn’t be where he is, about to graduate, and I am very proud of him, but I shouldn’t have had to fight the government and school board for him to get there. There are a lot of students who don't have supportive parents to fight for their education and are falling through the cracks and are going to hold grudges against the world because at a young age they are pushed through school because teachers didn’t have time or help to reach out to students that needed extra help,” she wrote

MacLean, who staged an all-day protest in January in support of students caught in the middle of the contract negotiations between the province and Nova Scotia Teachers Union said education should be everyone’s priority.

“Our teachers are working very, very hard at their jobs with no help from the government, etc.; class sizes, extra help (teachers aides) with students who are not able to keep up with other students, not everyone learns at the same level, either from slight or severe disabilities or from emotional or personal problems at home, with peers, etc.”

Many Nova Scotia teachers testified Thursday that classroom problems ranging from student violence to the neglect of students with learning disabilities will worsen if the Liberal government pushes through a bill that imposes a collective agreement.

Bill 75, currently making its way through the Nova Scotia Legislature, will force a contract on the province’s teachers. Law Amendments ended at 8 p.m. Thursday and the bill is expected to return to the legislature Tuesday for a vote.

The new contract contains a three per cent salary increase and incorporates many of the elements contained in the first two tentative agreements rejected by union members.

The salary package includes zero per cent for the first two years, followed by increases of one per cent in the third year and 1.5 per cent in the fourth, with a 0.5 per cent increase on the last day of the agreement.

Teachers plan a one-day strike today – the first time Nova Scotia educators have walked out since the union was formed 122 years ago. Protests are planned for outside the legislature as well as locally on East River Road, New Glasgow.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said his governing Liberals have tried to negotiate an agreement with the teachers over the past 16 months, and continuing negotiations simply permits ongoing disruption in the classroom.

The law will bring an end to the teachers’ work-to-rule campaign, which began Dec. 5.

The proposed bill would establish a commission on inclusive education that will be launched 30 days after the bill is passed, with recommendations to be implemented by the beginning of the next school year.

The local school board is waiting patiently for life to return to normal for students, even if it is a “new normal,” says the vice-chair of the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.

Marilyn Murray, who represents District 15, said Thursday the school board is caught in the middle of negotiations between the province and union because it is the group that administers the programming at the direction of the province, but doesn’t hold the purse strings.

“I would like to see everything settled and the students back in regular classes and teachers performing regular duties,” she said. “The province is our boss and the province is the teachers’ boss. We make sure things are carried out and we are caught in the middle and have a lot of say.”

Murray said there will be a lot of work ahead for the school board to get things back to normal for the teachers and students.

“We have excellent staff at the school board that do that kind of stuff and hopefully it will be a smooth transition to go back to normal, whatever that normal will be.”

 

– WITH CP FILES