A significant contribution to support classrooms

Shawn Wilson, Chair, Surrey School Board.
Shawn Wilson, Chair, Surrey School Board.

“Immediately the announcement would mean we would be able to hire a hundred enrolling, non-enrolling and specialist teachers,” said Shawn Wilson, Surrey School Board Chair, when reached by phone.

“In the conference call this morning they (the Ministry of Education) made it clear that this was step one in a larger picture still to be determined because the negotiations around what’s required to deal with the prior to 2002 contract language has still to be settled. I think it’s a gesture of good will on their part and it will be helpful in that it will allow us to hire teachers and specialists that we need in the school district. I think they realize there’s going to be a requirement to meet the terms that the Supreme Court dictated. I see it as one step of several along the way.”

Although Minister Bernier confirmed that the money was fully committed and on-going, Wilson was unsure how the funding would be delivered.

“At the moment, I don’t know whether that will be a separate fund like the LIFT fund that the school districts had for the last few years.  It could easily be integrated into the core funding but I’m not sure how they’re going to deal with that yet. We won’t know until the negotiations are finished,” said Wilson.

What it means for the Surrey School District

Wilson said that immediately the Surrey School District would be able to hire about one- hundred enrolling, non-enrolling and specialist teachers, and possibly even more.

“They didn’t give us exact numbers but the funding percentage will likely be around ten percent or more,” said Wilson. “We might see six million dollars of that. And that’s quite a significant contribution to support classrooms. It will be a help there’s no question about it.

“We could have in excess of a hundred actually,” said Wilson, “but we need to sit down and talk with the local union, the Surrey Teachers Association. They’ll play a big part in determining where the needs are, and on that basis we’ll do the hiring to fill those positions.”

Wilson said there is a “fairly large bank of teachers on call” that they can draw from, to put into permanent positions to fill the gaps that are there.  He said there may be some positions that will be hard to fill because there aren’t enough teachers to go around.

“Every district in the province is going to be in the same boat looking to these same types of people,” said Wilson. “Never-the-less, it’s going to be a good time for people with specialists skills in education because they’ll be able to walk into a job right off the bat. I think with our reputation we’ll be able to fill those positions reasonably well.”

Where will they put 100+ Teachers in over-crowded Surrey?

“There is one thing that will become a topic of note,” said Wilson, “I think of interest to those folks in Surrey who have kids in schools, and what people are going to want to know, from now until the end of this school year, where are we going to put all these additional teachers, we already have a space problem?”

Wilson said that they would be able to integrate a hundred-plus teachers right now and by and large they could be integrated into schools and classrooms the way they are.

“But starting in September I expect that the full requirement of the Supreme Court ruling would be negotiated and finalized in these next few months,” said Wilson, “so whatever that entails will be implemented in September and I suspect there will be some number changes with respect to the number of kids in classrooms such as K to 3 and middle schools. I think it’s then that the space problem will become more of an issue for Surrey.  Once we know what gets negotiated into the agreement, any alteration of the current status of classroom ratios will be a significant problem for Surrey to deal with because it isn’t a problem that can be resolved overnight.  Even if the government said they’d give us all the money we need to build new schools, we’d still have to deal with over-crowding for two more years before we could even open anything new. That part of it will become very interesting.”