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Teachers’ union proposing to school district trustees two more professional development days annually
The South Okanagan Similkameen Teachers’ Union is proposing that two more professional development days be added to the school calendar.
At a recent committee meeting, Jim Insley, assistant superintendent of schools, introduced the proposal on behalf of the union.
Insley said the union wants to add two more professional development days to the calendar while maintaining the two-week spring break.
“To do this, four minutes would be added to every instructional day, allowing us to maintain the total instructional time for the school year,” Insley said.
He noted this is only a proposal that the board may decide to put forward for consultation.
The issue will be discussed and eventually voted on at an upcoming meeting.
Insley said the school calendar currently includes seven early closure days for inquiry time and four early closure days for parent/teacher interviews.
There are currently five professional development days and one school-planning day.
Four professional days and the one planning day occur in the summer during the last week of August. In lieu of this time, teachers get a second week at spring break.
One professional development day is always within the school calendar bookends (September to June).
Teachers’ union president Sylvia Slater said many professional organizations that provide learning opportunities for educators do so more throughout the school year than in the last week of August.
“Our proposal aligns these days with those opportunities which allow teachers time for professional dialogue, collaboration, and learning,” said Slater.
Slater said teaching and the public education system continue to evolve and each year the challenges for teachers increase, requiring strategies and techniques to be learned and utilized to assist all students in challenging environments.
Slater said there are many upcoming changes to curriculum, administrative software, technology, and the continuing implementation of the ideals of the government’s BC Education Plan.
“The plan itself highlights the need for greater flexibility for learning for both students and teachers. Ongoing, regular opportunities for learning will help maintain the quality teaching this district is known for,” Slater said.
Local educator Alison Podmorow said they want to put “flexibility and fun” back into the calendar. It is also a way to rejuvenate teachers and students, she pointed out.
Podmorow said adding the four minutes to every instructional day seems like a “good tradeoff.”
Tracy Harrington, vice-principal of Southern Okanagan Secondary School, voiced her support for the proposal.
But board member Marieze Tarr said feedback from parents suggest that they don’t like early release days.
“They say when are the kids learning? They are more at home than they are at school,” she said.
Osoyoos trustee June Harrington mirrored this concern, saying she isn’t comfortable with students being out of class for two more days.
“I don’t see four minutes a day making up for that,” she said.
But trustee Sam Hancheroff said professional development days are very important in rejuvenating teaching staff.
Fellow trustee Myrna Coates said the union’s proposal would give the district a “shot in the arm” and “keep us stimulated.”
What all of the trustees that were interviewed agree on is that this issue is sure to generate a great deal of lively debate when the subject is discussed before all board members in the coming weeks.
Professional development days have always been part of the teaching profession, but how to implement them and not adversely affect students and classroom learning has become a touchy subject for teachers, administration and students, said Slater.
Trustees are going to have differing opinions on this issue and will no doubt voice those opinions when this matter comes to the board, said Coates.
The next school district board meeting is set for Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Special to the Times