For a third day, teachers and their supporters from the Horizon School Division will be on the streets of Humboldt in a continuing effort to raise awareness about issues in their schools. The Horizon Teachers Association is among five in the province to man the lines in rotating walkouts, starting February 1.
Samantha Becotte, STF president, continued her message that teachers have no choice but to take job action in the face of a government that refuses to bargain at all, let alone in good faith, in their view. She also noted that the rotating nature of today’s strike should not be considered a “scaling back.”
“We take many different factors into consideration when making these decisions.” Becotte responded to questions about a one-day rotating walk-out. “This is just where we are at in our plan. I would not say that it’s a scale back. While it’s not affecting everyone across the province, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be days in the future that do impact others. These are simply the actions we are announcing for Thursday.”
“The strategy is about sustainability for our actions as we wait for the government to bring a new mandate and get back to the bargaining table.” said Ian Krips, associate executive director, Educational Leadership Unit for the STF. Krips joined striking teachers in Humboldt. “We haven’t heard any signs of a potential return. We’ve asked if they’ve had a new mandate, and they’ve told us they don’t.”
Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill was contacted by Discover Humboldt to respond to questions. A response from Blair Mitchell, senior media consultant with the Education Ministry, reiterated that the 7 percent raise offered over three years represented “a fair initial offer” that would see teachers “remain paid above the Western Canadian Average.”.
When the Ministry was asked what was preventing negotiations from proceeding, in their view, Blair’s response from the government stated, “The GTBC remains at the table, ready to discuss competitive salary and benefits but cannot negotiate without the STF at the table as well.”
Krips said that teachers will continue to engage in sanctions until the two sides are back to the table.
Out on the streets in Humboldt, the mood of teachers continues to be one of resolve and a stoic will to see the message shared, particularly around issues of class size and complexity.
“I’d say we’re determined but disappointed that the government is not taking the needs of the children of Saskatchewan seriously,” said Colleen Whitford, a teacher in Rose Valley and a councillor for the STF. “The government knows we’re right because they are coming out with these pilot projects, but the pilot projects don’t help my school; they don’t help my kids. They don’t help the majority of the kids in the province.”
Whitford referred to the recent government initiative of a pilot project targeting eight urban school divisions in North Battleford, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon with $3.6 million in funding.
The government’s rationale, provided in Blair’s response was, “School divisions in urban areas were selected as they are of a sufficient size to provide comparability and consistency to conduct the pilot. The Ministry of Education will work closely with the eight school divisions to evaluate the Specialized Support Classroom pilot’s success and if the pilot can be expanded to other divisions.”
There was no assurance if programming would go beyond a pilot stage to incorporate other regions.
What we want is to acknowledge and fund improvements for all kids in the province,” said Whitford, adding it’s part of the reason teachers are insisting that their concerns land on the bargaining table. She fears that initiatives like the pilot project might simply vanish down the road.
Through the trio of days that teachers marched in downtown Humboldt, they were met with a cacophony of car and truck horns, waves from well-wishers and all manners of refreshments, especially in January’s frigid days. That generosity did not go unnoticed.
“On behalf of the Horizon Teachers Association, I’d like to thank the community of Humboldt, all the parents; the businesses; the labour groups that have supplied coffee, donuts, muffins. It’s just been wonderful, the support.”