School Board 27 trustees and staff conduct business at a recent board meeting in Williams Lake. Pictured from left to right are; trustees Willow MacDonald, Linda Martens, Sheila Boehm, Bruce Baptiste, Brice O’Neill and Christine Dyment, Superintendent Mark Wintjes, Board Chair Tanya Guenther and Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Futcher. Angie Mindus photo

Teachers pass vote of non-confidence against SD27 board and management

President Murray Helmer cites personnel practices, financial mismanagement and collective agreement issues as the top concerns

The union representing School District 27 teachers said its membership passed a vote of non-confidence in the district’s superintendent, secretary-treasurer and board of trustees this week.

Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers’ Association (CCTA) president Murray Helmer said concerns around personnel practices, financial mismanagement and failure to follow the collective agreement spurred on a special meeting and subsequent vote Monday night, Nov. 20.

“This is a grassroots movement,” Helmer said of the vote, which saw close to 50 teachers take part in following the fall break.

Last year the CCTA’s executive also passed a motion of non-confidence.

Helmer accused the district management of making “odd decisions” when it comes to spending, operating with a general lack of consistency, working in isolation from the CCTA and filling classrooms to capacity.

“This is a situation the teachers are finding it hard to work in.”

In response to the CCTA’s press release issued Wednesday morning, Superintendent Mark Wintjes said the union has several channels available to express their concerns and that he finds it “troubling” they chose instead to communicate through the media, not them, in an attempt to apply political pressure on Wintjes, secretary treasurer Kevin Futcher and the school board trustees.

“They actually haven’t communicated with us, they just sent the (press release),” Wintjes said.

In previous interviews with the Tribune, Wintjes has described his management style as one that backs the reduction of administrative costs to redirect more funds to support students. One case in point would be management’s decision at the start of the school year to take away one principal position between Lake City Secondary School’s busy middle and high school campuses.

“As management we are doing the best we can for our students as well as our staff, including teachers, but our students come first.”

Wintjes acknowledged staffing changes can add more stress to staff, and said he is fully supportive of the collective agreement. He encouraged the CCTA to take advantage of opportunities to have their voices heard within the process, adding he believes the conflict is with the union, not its teachers.

“To me there is a silent majority who would rather concentrate their efforts on supporting students.”

Helmer said he would be reaching out to the ministry for support, as he finds the new provincial government to be “more willing” to listen to teachers.

SD 27 has seen a teacher shortage in the district this year, like most others in the province. Currently there are approximately 300 teachers in the district. Wintjes said the district has filled many vacant positions, however, there are still more open.

“We are always looking for teachers.”

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