Monday, 14 November 2011

Be a "Stand By-er," not a Bystander

It is fitting that, as KPR begins “Bullying Prevention and Awareness” week, the civil liberties crackdown by which many of Peterborough’s most dedicated teachers (who are also in many cases community leaders) have been forcibly silenced - told in no uncertain terms that they will face consequences should they in any way be associated with any criticism of the Board - has finally reached the general public.

On November 3, the Examiner wrote in this article that Superintendent Peter Mangold had issued a memo to this effect. In the same article, MPP Jeff Leal said he knew of no provision in the Education Act to warrant such a measure. But, as we’ve seen in previous posts, KPR administration has often disregarded provincial policy.

The Examiner last week ran an editorial cartoon of teachers with tape over their mouths. Last Thursday,  Peterborough this Week published a photo of the students’ own “duct tape protest” in which they graphically demonstrated the current repressive atmosphere at PCVS. Indeed, the stifling atmosphere has permeated schools across the city, as union executives of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) have failed to come to the defence of their members, and local Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) reps have advised Peterborough’s elementary teachers to keep their mouths shut too.

In an audacious display of hypocrisy, the OSSTF Local 14 website is currently promoting “Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week,” adding insult to injury for their own members, whose legal rights they appear to care nothing about. Union executives, both local and provincial, have allowed themselves to become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

One thing that the OSSTF office and Fisher Drive have in common is that they’re both largely occupied by former teachers who decided that administrative jobs with big salaries and respectable titles are preferable to slogging it out in the classroom year after year. Both offices have become havens for career-climbers who like the idea of working in the educational field, but are tired of dealing with those pesky students. When confronted on the current civil-liberties crackdown by their own union members, who pay their salaries and whose interests they have been hired to defend, OSSTF officials have stood dumbly with no answers.

Careerism is a problem in any field, but it has reached outrageous proportions in the Ontario education system ever since the Harris government made the job of principal one that almost nobody wants. Harris took the principals out of the teachers’ union, leaving them no protection and putting them at the mercy of administrative whims of the Ministry and the Board office, while still having to deal with the litany of problems brought to them by parents and teachers. Vice-principals were cut back while paperwork increased, making the job is so unpalatable that most of the people willing to take on the positions are those looking to put the minimum five years in and then get that promotion to the Board office where they can make more money for less work. There aren’t enough good principals to go around, and rather than firing the incompetent ones, upper administration at KPR just keeps shuffling them around from school to school in hopes of minimizing the damage. Even the good ones eventually succumb to the lure of Fisher Drive.

The motto of such personages appears to be simply “don’t rock the boat,” putting them squarely in the “bystander” camp.

Surely Mangold, a TASSS parent who was himself a principal until very recently, must have an inkling that his own supervisors are way off base in trying to close PCVS. How does he show up to Trustee meetings with a straight face and argue that Kenner Intermediate should be closed?

"Don’t rock the boat" - one can imagine this refrain being hummed throughout the halls of Fisher Drive and the OSSTF offices, conveniently provided for the hummers at the expense of Peterborough citizens.

OSSTF, teachers, Fisher Drive 

This scenario is disturbing enough, but how much more so is the spectacle of a union executive which won’t speak up for their members when their jobs and their civil rights are put in jeopardy by questionable decisions made by their employer. Why even have a union? is a question that one must ask at this point.

The MyKawartha story on teacher-silencing also features a link to the petition for administrative review of the PCVS-closure decision made to the Ministry of Education. I encourage you to take some time and have a look through it. It’s a well-researched, thoughtfully-presented document.

One would hope that an institutional leader possessed of good sense, ethics, and civil responsibility, when presented with a serious challenge to one of his decisions by the very people who pay his salary and whose interests he is meant to serve, would strongly consider putting that decision on hold until the issues around it could be resolved.

Instead, Hick and Lloyd have reacted by attempting to silence their critics in the hopes that a misguided and self-serving decision will squeak through the province’s review, allowing them to win a battle at the expense of their professional and civic reputations - a pyrrhic victory if there ever was.

KPR employees, students, families, union reps, and Peterborough citizens at large, all have the choice to be “Stand By-ers” or bystanders, to use one of KPR’s own anti-bullying slogans.

Which one will you choose?

1 comment:

  1. I see the link to this blog has been removed from the website and has been replaced by a disclaimer. There didn't seem to be concerns with linking to this blog up until just recently. I wonder what caused the change.

    The media needs to fact check this work and report their version of the truth.