Rural teacher shortage hits home

Sd27 invites applications for more teachers on call

The teacher shortage in some of British Columbia’s rural areas noted in recent media reports hasn’t spared the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

School District #27 (SD27) acting superintendent Mark Wintjes says the district still has a number of open positions.

“We are still looking for a few more teachers, so we are trying to recruit and we are trying to take out of province [applications] as well.”

Education Minister Mike Bernier’s announced commitment to hire 1,000 teachers, after an agreement was reached between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the province, has since been calculated into the full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers for SD27, he explains.

“Of the 11.158 FTE we received from the [Ministry of Education], that created 23 positions and we were successful in filling 18 of them … and we were able to do that just by getting two from our [part-time on call] list, so the rest were from people who were working part-time [hours regularly] and were topped up to get full time [or some more hours].”

While the teachers teaching on call (TTOC) SD27 employs now are all certified, it is considering opening these vacant positions to include some non-certified TTOC positions, as it has a current need for more on-call teachers, he explains.

“We are looking at credentials of people who may have a degree, but not in education. If someone has a science degree, a language arts degree, or whatever, who hasn’t gone through for an education degree – we’ve been opening that up, and looking at that possibility of bringing them into ‘sub’ on days when we are looking for a science teacher, [et cetera].

“In the money that came to the District, we were to look at enrolling and non-enrolling teachers, and then if we can’t actually spend the money, that money will return to the District Committee [to determine allocation].”

Wintjes notes that committee consists of himself as the acting SD27 superintendent, management from SD27 Human Resources and the Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers’ Assocation executives.

“At that point, we’d determine what else we can do across the district because we want to spend the money. We’ve been told we won’t lose it, that it will just roll over into next year.

“We’ve also pushed for the rural education regional meeting that was up here in Williams Lake, and looking at the piece that [Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Education] Linda Larsen is doing in showing that the District is in need in other ways, in how do we attract teachers to rural and remote schools….”

All the targeted money that was turned over to SD27 schools in previous budgets was applied on a priority basis to the list of identified priority issues with class sizes, compositions and so on, he explains.

“When we actually did an evaluation of across the District using the old [union contract] language to see where the concerns were, and in which classrooms, the process we undertook was to first look at class size, and then to look at composition issues, and then look at those non-enrolling ratios as well.”

When SD27 provides teachers with added supports, it is generally through a non-enrolling teacher, which by definition means those that do not have a regular classroom assigned to them, who provide extra support for teachers – not just for special needs but also as ssubstitutes– that sometimes show up listed as teacher shortages, he explains.

“Then if you were a kindergarten teacher, and your class size was one over, but you didn’t want any help, then the school could use it in another way, as long as it was spent on teachers.”

While all the open positions must fit within the agreement mandate of hiring teachers for improvements in class sizes, composition and non-enrolling teacher positions, Wintjes says if these weren’t identified as an issue at any given school, that school didn’t receive any funds for it.

“We only distributed to schools that had the concerns.”

However, February is a particularly bad month for shortages in the non-enrolling teachers needed in SD27, he explains.

“That’s the biggest part for us with the shortage; with the flu being so high, it really takes a toll on our teachers on call.”

He says that’s where SD27 may be looking at anyone with a degree that might be helpful, so it can hire sufficient non-enrolling staff to fill in as substitutes for teachers who are off on sick leave.

“If people are talking to anybody who has a teaching degree in particular – that is where we always look first – but even to those people that might want to try their hand at teaching and have a degree that would be applicable … have them apply.”

More information on where to send an application is online at www.SD27.bc.ca.

The acting superintendant notes they are also welcome to drop by to visit the HR department at the office at 350 North 2 Ave. in Williams Lake.

100 Mile House Free Press