Close to $7 million in the VSB bank accounts while students' needs unmet

    VANCOUVER, Oct. 17 /CNW/ - In Vancouver public schools, 451 secondary
classes enroll more than 30 students, and 1193 secondary classes include more
than three students with ministry designations requiring an Individual
Education Plan (IEP).
    At the elementary level, there are 80 classes with more than three
students with an IEP. These numbers do not take into account the hundreds of
English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students spread over these classes as well.
    Teachers are understandably upset by these numbers, which were contained
in the Superintendent's report presented at this week's VSB board meeting - a
report which the majority of the NPA trustees on the board.
    "This is a very sad situation. The NPA trustees need to do more than
simply comply with the bare bones of the School Act," contends Anne
Guthrie-Warman, President of the Vancouver Secondary School Teachers'
Association (VSTA). "At the moment, it looks like Vancouver has the highest
number of class size and class composition overloads in the province - even on
a per capita basis."
    This situation is even more outrageous, teachers feel, given that the VSB
has close to $7 million in its Local Capital Reserve, a so-called "rainy day
fund" which teachers feel should be used to address the 1200+ overages in our
elementary and secondary schools.
    "We have no doubt that at the individual school level, principals and
teachers tried their best to organize their schools given the limited amount
of staffing provided to them," says Glen Hansman, President of the Vancouver
Elementary School Teachers' Association.
    "But the documentation provided by teachers indicate that they have asked
for more classroom teachers, more ESL teachers, more resource support for
students with special needs, and more teaching assistants," continues Glen
Hansman. "Sadly, the VSB cut dozens of these positions in its budget last
spring to compensate for the funding shortfall from the Ministry of Education.
In the consultations at schools, the alternatives identified by teachers are
often met with their principal's resigned declaration of 'There's nothing we
can do' or 'We have no other choice given the amount of staff provided by
Human Resources.'"
    "We don't fault the principals," says Glen Hansman. "We think they're
trying to make the best of too little as well. But what about the money the
VSB has in its bank accounts?
    "We understand that the VSB needs to retain a modest amount of money in
its Local Capital Reserve for emergencies," concedes Glen Hansman. "But given
the scandalous number of classes in this district with students not having
their needs met, certainly the lion's share of that money should be directed
at the classroom as soon as possible."
    What teachers are not asking for is what is being referred to as
"hokey-pokey" staffing - additional teachers put in mid-year, only for them to
be taken away. "Support needs to be continuous for it to be meaningful," says
Anne Guthrie-Warman. "How this is being handled by the VSB simply isn't good
    "A minority of the secondary classes that have more than 30 students are
band and PE classes, where sometimes a teacher will agree to somewhat larger
classes," says Anne Guthrie-Warman. "But it is important to remember that
these are the minority. Most of the overages in class size and class
composition have nothing to do with 'acceptable learning environments,' and
are more likely due to two things: lack of proper funding by the provincial
government, and misplaced priorities within the VSB for the funding that is
    "This simply isn't good enough for Vancouver students," Glen Hansman
argues. "On Tuesday, VSB Chairperson Ken Denike (NPA) characterized the
overloads as primarily being the result of teachers 'asking' for larger
classes. That simply isn't true at the elementary level, and as Anne indicates
above, only true at the secondary level in a handful of band and PE classes.
The vast majority of overages in secondary are in the academic areas like
English and Math. At elementary it is across the grade levels."
    "To characterize it otherwise only indicates that the NPA trustees are
willing to accept a report without looking at the details," he says.
"Meanwhile, children linger in unacceptable learning situations. Students need
more ESL support, smaller classes, and the supports for their special needs.
Students do not need $7 million in the bank."

For further information:

For further information: Vancouver Secondary Teachers' Association: Anne
Guthrie-Warman, President, at (604) 873-5570, (604) 786-2651,;
Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Association: Glen Hansman, President, at
(604) 873-8378, (604) 813-5318 (cell),

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