St. Marys Journal Argus editorial
The curse of inconsistency is rearing its ugly head again for Ontario’s elementary school teachers, as they struggle — from their position as pawns in the game being played out between the provincial government and their union — to maintain a level of respect among the public. Right now, it’s end-of-year class trips; on the horizon lie Grade 8 graduation ceremonies.
Much has already been said about extra-curricular sports and clubs. At the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, some elementary schools in some school boards were going ahead as normal with activities. But teachers in other schools refused to supervise. And when parents offered to take over supervision duties, some school boards intervened and shut the parents down.
Teachers were well-served when all boards and all union locals eventually settled on an identical approach: no extra-curricular sports or clubs. Sure, there was significant public sentiment opposed to this approach. But there were no longer questions of “why are teachers in one board supervising, while those in another are not?” Those questions breed mistrust.
Parents of Grade 8 students in St. Marys and area are now discovering, however, that the lack of consistency persists. Specifically, there is discrepancy in the level of teacher participation in the traditional graduating-year overnight class trip, which is seen as a right of passage by many Grade 8 students and their parents.
In two Avon Maitland District School Board facilities, parents have been informed by school administration about the dates for the annual Grade 8 trip. One South Perth parent told the Journal Argus that parents were assured by the school’s principal last fall that the trip would happen no matter what unfolds in the teacher dispute. If teachers are not available for supervision, school administrators will fill the role. A St. Marys DCVI Elementary parent, meanwhile, said parents were advised of the potential for a refusal by teachers to supervise, and that some parents may be called upon to assist.
In both cases, fundraising has been ongoing, and parents have already been asked to submit a preliminary deposit to the school to help pay for the trip.
The situation is, apparently, entirely different in the Thames Valley District School Board. At A.J. Baker school in Kintore, the principal sent a letter home last week informing families that a group of parents has taken it upon themselves to organize the traditional Grade 8 trip. The effort is being undertaken entirely outside the jurisdiction of the school, and the school is not handling any of the money either raised through fundraisers, or sent in as preliminary deposits.
Parents, it’s clear, are on their own — without help from either teachers or administrators.
Why are teachers willing to accept class trip deposit cheques from students in one school, but not in another school a few minutes away? Perhaps the union or the school boards can offer answers.
Regardless, those questions breed mistrust.
Next up? Grade 8 graduation ceremonies. If some schools maintain their tradition of evening events while others make do with daytime versions, the inconsistency-fuelled public mistrust will only grow.