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New West summer school could go regional

New Westminster superintendent of schools/CEO John Gaiptman -
New Westminster superintendent of schools/CEO John Gaiptman
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A Labour Relations Board ruling could see New Westminster partner with neighbouring districts for summer school.

The LRB ruled Friday some summer school courses are an essential service while the teachers strike continues.

But it put some conditions that could cause a problem for New West.

Superintendent/CEO John Gaiptman said the LRB determined districts must first use administrators to teach the courses. Only if a district has proved it has used up all of its administrators can they call in teachers to run the classes.

In addition, the LRB ruled only students who failed the course during the regular school year can be considered essential service. But if the course can be included in the student’s timetable next year then it isn’t an essential service.

“We’ll have to see which students get caught up with this,” said Gaiptman on Monday.

To begin with only about 30 per cent of summer school students take a course because they failed during the regular year, said Gaiptman. The LRB ruling will reduce that even further. So New Westminster could end up participating in a regional summer school.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect that [ruling],” said Gaiptman. “It was a surprise to read the essential services order.”

Prior to the ruling, the district postponed starting summer school until July 7. The hope was everything would be sorted out, not just by the LRB ruling but by a settlement.

“That clearly is not happening now,” said Gaiptman. “At some point we have to get going on September.”

Gaiptman said public education can’t afford to have the dispute linger until September because parents might look elsewhere soon.

“I would hope that the pressure point is in needing [a settlement] and that we find a solution long before parents start looking for alternate placements for their sons and daughters,” he said. “We would like to see them stick with public education and not consider independent schools.”

Last week also brought about a local twist to the strike soap opera. A rift may have developed between the New Westminster Teachers Union (NWTU) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local that represents the district’s support service workers.

The NWTU decided not to picket the school district offices Thursday and Friday last week. That allowed two CUPE members to come into the office to work on staffing for the next school year. The work allowed for summer advance payments to begin. It also helped to determine which teachers would be working in the district and which ones wouldn’t.

NWTU president Grant Osborne said since those two days they were supposed to be locked out by the province they were willing to take the picket line down. Gaiptman said the two employees were the most knowledgable to do the work.

Osborne claimed it allowed their members to know if they need to start looking for new jobs. “Our sole intention was that people could receive pay and employment.”

Osborne added although CUPE has been “fantastic in their support” of teachers the union objected to lifting the picket line.

“It’s not a real good move of solidarity so we felt a little offended,” said CUPE local president Marcel Marsolais, who maintained the work could have been done by senior administration.

He added the move won’t divide the unions’ membership but it will divide their leadership.

Despite the strike, New Westminster secondary managed to hold its graduation ceremony at Queen’s Park Arena last Thursday.

“To the casual observer that didn’t know any better it was just as beautiful a ceremony as we’ve ever had,” said Janet Grant, a district director of instruction.

While senior staff had to do the set up and ceremony, many of the teachers showed up to see their students graduate.

“They care about their kids. It’s a celebration for both of them, particularly where there were connections. ‘I got this kid through school even though people didn’t think they would do it,’ ” said another director of instruction Sandra Pace.

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