Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let the healing begin….

Tuesday, September 16th…  I probably should have written this post awhile ago…

I sit in my office at the start of what is supposed to be our third week of classes in British Columbia.  The hallways are quiet and I am in front of the computer screen watching Twitter for updates on the negotiations between the government (BCPSEA) and the teachers union (BCTF).  This dispute has been raging for over 20 years and seems to have hit its roughest patch yet, as teachers have been in a full strike since June 17th of last school year. 

I am thrilled that an end appears to be in sight (BCTF members will vote on Thursday to ratify the tentative agreement and our hope is that students will be able to resume school on Monday, September 22nd).  I will admit to missing the energy that the people in a school bring.  Conversations with staff, the excitement of students, the great deeds of both have been greatly missed and while I feel like I have not been very efficient in my days behind the picket lines, I go home more tired than ever.  Much of that is due to the ambiguity we have been living with, but also because we draw upon the energy that a full school provides.  That energy has been sorely missed…

I am new to this school community, and this is not a great way to forge new relationships.  The staff I have spoken with while in conversations on the picket lines have been very pleasant and I am eager to get to work more closely with them. Likewise, I am keen to meet the parents and students and begin to understand what makes this community work and how I can best support the students and families that rely on what schools are to provide (a safe, stimulating place to connect, learn, experience and make meaning). 

Principals and Vice Principals around British Columbia have been quiet during much of this dispute.  It is not our role to choose a side to support, it is our job to ensure the system runs efficiently and effectively and to provide leadership in difficult times. Staying neutral and calm in this conflict has been a challenge (especially since we are all teachers), but we (like everyone else in education) have persevered.  Without getting political myself, in observing this dispute, what follows has become painfully obvious:
Classes are crowded and composition makes teaching more challenging than ever before.  And teaching has always been a difficult, exhausting, rewarding and incredibly important profession. Sadly, teachers are now feeling undervalued and unappreciated. These feelings can cause long-term damage to what is one of the finest public education systems in the world.  It will be our responsibility to begin the healing process and attempt to rebuild the trust and respect between all members of our school communities.  This will be a huge task, but having staff and students back in the building will help...

I am grateful that there is now a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is much to do before staff and students return to the building.  I ask for your patience as the first week or two will be quite bumpy with timetable adjustments.  I would also like to thank everyone for their support of our teachers who have undergone huge financial and emotional strain through this dispute.  I know they are excited about soon returning to the work they love with the students they care so much about.  I want you all to know I am excited to get to meet many of you and work closely together to ensure our system continues to be something we can be proud of and serves the best interests of all the students in our care.

Jason Leslie

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hello, McNair!!!

It is Labour Day Monday evening.  A day very much like Christmas Eve.  Children eagerly anticipate tomorrow morning and adults frantically try to prepare for a huge day… the first day of the school year.  

I sit here watching Milos Raonic at the US Open tennis tournament with a sense of sadness.  After two months of summer holidays and the hope that the BCTF and BCPSEA would put to an end the labour unrest that marred May and June, no deal was reached and thus we will not have a regular first day of school tomorrow morning.  This is extremely frustrating for parents and students, and equally disappointing for all of us who work in the education system.  I know your teachers are upset that they are not working, doing the important job of helping fantastically talented young people learn.

I have just come to Matthew McNair Secondary School after 9 years at J.N. Burnett Secondary School, and I am very much looking forward to working with all of the students, parents and staff.  I have heard great things about the school and am eager to meet the people that make up this community.  To provide a little background of who I am,  I have worked for 22 years in the Richmond School District, at R.C. Palmer, Steveston and Burnett as a Physical Education, English and Math teacher, then Vice Principal and most recently as Principal.  The delay to the start of the school year is not the way I wanted to introduce myself, but the year will start at some point, and I want you all to feel comfortable coming to speak with me and asking me questions.  I am excited to hear and learn all about McNair.

I would like to welcome all the students back to school after what I am sure was an enjoyable summer.  The weather was as good as any summer I can recall, and our province is among the most beautiful places in the world when the sun is shining.  I hope you were able to enjoy it!  I also encourage you to remain curious, get involved, meet new people, set some goals for yourself and help each other this year.  How about a pep talk?!
It remains an unsettling time for all involved in education as the negotiations for a new teacher contract continue.  I remain optimistic that a fair, negotiated deal can be reached, and am hopeful because I believe in the important work our teachers do.
We will keep you apprised of any new developments.  There will be a resolution to the dispute eventually, and we will get information to you as soon as we have it.  You will be advised when and how the school year will start.

Again, welcome back and I am very much looking forward to working with all of you!

Once we get started, I want each of you to have a great year!!!