From left: Luca, Connor and Victor Villeneuve joined in front of Suwilaawks Community School on June 12 to protest administrative changes announced by the district. (File photo)

LETTER: Dear Minister Rob Flemming

Our pleas have fallen on your deaf ears

Open letter to Mr. Rob Fleming, Minister of Education

Dear Mr. Fleming,

The Board of Education of School District #82 recently hosted meetings in Terrace, Kitimat and Hazelton to inform the public of their concerns over the recruitment and the retention of qualified teaching personnel in this region.

The Board had pleaded with you about their concerns (letter dated Nov.26, 2019) and they were supported by letters (dated Nov.27, 2019 and Jan.6, 2020) sent by our group, the Kitimat Retired Teachers’ Association.

A subsequent letter representing the School Trustees’ Association of the Northern Interior Branch (dated Dec.19, 2019) was also sent to your Ministry appealing for urgent help in addressing this issue because in the next three months teachers throughout the province will be deciding their placement for September 2020.

“It costs more to educate students in the North, the funding formula needs to be changed!”

This mantra was the motto for a public rally for education called in this District in 2003 when the previous government forced the District to go to a 4-day week to cut costs. Then the NDP supported the teachers and spoke strongly against the educational cuts.

From the same brochure: “Coast Mountain School District needs more funding to ensure our children get the same quality of education as other districts.” – 17 years later and nothing has changed.

Today, the District has the highest number of unqualified individuals in the province – 23 to be exact, covering classes on Letters of Permission applications.

Strategies to provide teachers with more incentives for coming to this region of B.C., have been stated before, but we will repeat them for you.

1: Student loan forgiveness

2: Subsidized housing

3: A moving allowance

4: Local teacher education programs offered yearly through UNBC

5: government advocacy for a differential funding formula recognizing the unique needs of the Northern Districts.

Since we started writing and appealing to you for help (throughout this school year) we have noted a lack of response from your office. The situation is untenable.

The School Board of District #82 is doing its very best to recruit qualified teachers but without extra funding, support and encouragement from you and your department, the seriousness of this crisis will only accelerate. Our pleas have fallen on your deaf ears.

Our MLA, Mr. Ellis Ross has spoken to you and conveyed our desperate concerns and the fact that we need answers. We feel all our efforts have been to no avail so therefore we have no other choice but to appeal through public media.

Kitimat is in the news daily because of the ongoing LNG project, which is the largest in Canada. The whole country will benefit from the revenues of this development yet the public will soon learn that the children of this region are unable to get an equitable education as others in the southern regions of B.C. because of the lack of qualified teachers in local schools.

We eagerly await your response to this letter and trust your ministry will have an immediate dialogue with the Board Chair of School District #82 Ms. Shar McCrory to discuss some concrete suggestions that can be implemented before the end of this school year.

Please note that we have listed all the recipients who will receive copies of this letter so that the message reaches those who might help us in our struggle to publicize our concerns.

Sincerely,

Kitimat Retired Teachers’ Association

Education

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