Report cards without grades

Many North Island parents ... were treated to a jarring reminder of the teachers' job action when their children’s report cards arrived

PORT HARDY—Many North Island parents who previously noticed no impact from the limited job action of the B.C. Teachers Federation were treated to a jarring reminder when their children’s report cards arrived home last week.

For some students, the section for letter grades was left blank as the scaled-down reports acknowledged only general enrollment information.

“The responsibility for report cards falls on our administrators and on the superintendent,” School District 85 Superintendent Scott Benwell told the SD85 Board of Trustees at its regular meeting last week. “Our contract describes the minimum information required, including the student’s name, classes they’re taking and attendance information, if we have it.”

The job action, initiated by teachers at the beginning of the current school year, is designed to bring pressure to the union’s negotiations with the B.C. Public Schools Education Association on a new contract.

Under the job action, teachers continue instructing students but have refused to take part in most of the administrative tasks they’ve traditionally taken on, including filling out grade reports.

Letter grades were included for classes taught by administrators.

teachers could voluntarily add grades and/or comments.

Traditional parent-teacher conferences have also been impacted, with the first round of meetings postponed while collective bargaining negotiations remain stalled. If the conferences are scrapped, students will still get a couple of short school days.

“Our calendar includes two early dismissal days for parent-teacher conferences, and we intend to honour that agreement,” assistant superintendent Katherine McIntosh said. “Parents will be notified when the early dismissals will take place.”

Benwell also shared changes to playground supervision at Cheslakees Elementary School in Port McNeill, which now houses all kindergarten classes for the community.

“We’ve defined boundaries for the playground area with cones, and all supervisors are attired in high-visibility vests,” said Benwell, who drew a chuckle when he pointed out that he dons the high-vis vest each morning to help with supervision at the school. “And another noon-duty supervisor has been hired.”

Trustee Werner Manke of Port McNeill applauded the changes, but wondered why the district must bear the cost.

“I’ve talked to parents who thought the ministry should have provided some funding,” Manke said. “With full-day kindergarten, we’re now in a situation where one supervisor can be in charge of 100 kids.”

The exchange led to an inquiry by trustee Ann Hory about the playground supervision issue at Eagle View Elementary in Port Hardy, where parents had also raised concerns.

Benwell said he had spoken to the school’s principal and was assured there were as many as 12 staffers available at a time for duty.

Trustee Jeff Field said he Eagle View’s most recent Parent Advisory Council meeting and said several parents did have concerns.

“At any given time there are 12 adults,” Field said. “But at the same time, there are 307 or 308 students outside they’re trying to watch.”

District PAC representative Danita Schmidt noted in her report that the job action by teachers continues negatively impact fund-raising efforts.

“At the start of September we didn’t realize how much the job action was going to impact us,” Schmidt said. “(Teachers) hand out forms for us in class and they’ve always collected the money. With these fund-raisers we’ve been significantly impacted.”

In some cases, teachers voluntarily included grades and/or comments.

Traditional parent-teacher conferences have also been impacted, with the first round of meetings postponed while collective bargaining negotiations remain stalled. If the conferences are scrapped, students will still get a couple of short school days.

“Our calendar includes two early dismissal days for parent-teacher conferences, and we intend to honour that agreement,” assistant superintendent Katherine McIntosh said. “Parents will be notified when the early dismissals will take place.”

Benwell also addressed concerns from Parent Advisory Councils over playground duty coverage at Cheslakees Elementary School in Port McNeill and at Eagle View Elementary in Port Hardy.

District PAC representative Danita Schmidt said with teachers no longer handing out forms or collecting money, fund-raising has been negatively impacted.