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Teachers’ boycotts hit GTA

September 14, 2012 - All News

Teachers at Toronto’s Winona Drive Senior Public School refused Thursday to take part in family “curriculum night” to protest Ontario’s controversial new wage-freeze law.
The move startled families already worried about a boycott of after-school programs but who never thought it would include the traditional fall “meet the teacher” nights.
“It’s disappointing because the reason you come is to meet the teacher and see the classroom,” said parent Rick Suvanto. “Instead, the teachers aren’t here, the classrooms are closed and we are given handouts that the kids could have just as easily brought home.”
After days of province-wide angst about how teachers might fight back, local after-school boycotts began Thursday with what some called a Wild West lack of order.
Two York Region high schools — Stephen Lewis Secondary School and Woodbridge College — have scrapped after-school sports. Toronto’s Maurice Cody Public School has stopped its popular cross-country program.
Schools across Toronto sent home letters announcing the cancellation of choirs and band, while some trustees fear more boycotts of curriculum night. Teachers at one Waterloo school warn they will meet parents on their curriculum night outside the school — on a picket line.
At Winona Drive, most of the roughly 250 parents who showed up to meet their children’s teachers and find out more about the coming school year, were surprised to find only the principal, vice-principal and guidance counsellor on hand to greet them.
Principal David Ehrlich said the situation was “unfortunate,” but assured parents that teachers had prepared curriculum handouts and that it was “valuable for you to come tonight to see us.”
That didn’t wash with many parents who felt the meeting was a waste of time.
Parent Ali Aber was underwhelmed by the curriculum handouts.
“I support the teachers, but it’s really disappointing,” she said. “The curriculum documents are just ministry speak. I wanted to know more about what books (my son) will be reading this year. Those kinds of things.”
Sharon Brodovsky wasn’t surprised the school is cancelling sports and other extracurricular activities. But she didn’t understand why teachers boycotted curriculum night.
“I go to curriculum night to be an active partner in my child’s education and to get an understanding of the teacher’s plan and strategy for the year so I can support my child at home,” she said. “For the teachers not to show up for curriculum is very disappointing.”
During lunch Thursday at Vaughan’s Stephen Lewis Secondary School, hundreds of upset teens circled the school after hearing that sports had been cancelled: boys’ volleyball, boys’ soccer, girls’ basketball, cricket, cross-country, tennis, golf and swim team.
The notice went up Thursday morning on the bulletin board. At 7:45 a.m., student Jordana Moss took a photo of the note and posted it on Twitter, which soon went viral. By 11:30 a.m. half the school’s 1,400 students gathered in front of the school and started chanting, “We want our sports and extracurricular activities back!”
“We are put in the middle of this,” said Moss, who plays volleyball, badminton and football. “We don’t blame our teachers. It’s the government. We are definitely not on the government’s side.”
Similarly, the president of the school athletic association said he sympathized with teachers’ anger. “We don’t want our teachers to stop volunteering,” noted Xavier Tu, “but they have no choice and we are caught in the middle.”
Student Karen Daich said she’s planning a petition Friday at the school to urge the province to resolve the dispute with the teachers’ unions, so they can have their school life back. Daich, who participates in track and wrestling among other sports, hopes students in other schools will follow suit and make their voices heard.
Martin Long, president of the Toronto branch of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said reports that he has told grade school teachers to refrain from all after-school programs “would not be completely true.” But he added he is passing on the provincial union’s call for teachers to “take a pause” from extracurriculars.
At Queen’s Park, Education Minister Laurel Broten said the government is monitoring what teachers are not doing to determine if they’re stepping over the line into work-to-rule.
She urged teachers to keep their fight with the government separate and not penalize students by holding back on extracurricular activities.
“Please keep our kids out of this conversation. It should be between adults.”
— Torstar News Service

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