A student from Howard S. Billings Regional High School in Chateauguay has launched a petition to support the cause of teachers currently involved in union negotiations with the government. In less than a week, her initiative has gathered more than 2,000 signatures.
When Autumn Whiteside returned to school last September, she learned through her teachers that in the form of pressure tactics during the union negotiations under way with the government, extra-curricular activities such as sports will not be held as well as tutoring after school and during lunch hour. « I saw that several pupils were directing their frustration against the teachers, so I wanted to do something to support the teachers and explain why they are doing this, » emphasizes the Secondary 5 student.
She then decided to launch a petition on the internet to denounce budget cuts in education. « The pupils with special needs (additional help in reading, writing, etc.) will not be able to receive the attention they need to pass their year. As a graduate myself, I believe that’s a bad thing. The students should not be penalized. And neither should the teachers, » she wrote in her petition.
For her, extra-curricular activities and supplementary help after school are an integral part of the high school experience. « I myself had tutoring last year to prepare myself for the exams from the Ministry of Education and it helped me a lot, » she confides.
The teenager has received 2,393 signatures up to now and envisions sending the petition to Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
Not a union tactic
Questioned about the pressure tactics in progress at the New Frontiers School Board, Nick Ross – president of the Chateauguay Valley Teachers Association – specifies that the union has not asked its members to stop giving students help after school or cease attending extra-curricular activities. « What we told the teachers was to work 32 hours a week for which they are paid, and no more than that, » he explains. « In their 32 hours, they must include the preparation of courses, and correcting papers. We don’t want them to spend their weekends correcting. » By sticking to the 32 hours, it is possible that the teachers could drop extra-curricular activities. « Or perhaps the (school) administration decided not to offer this type of activity knowing that the teachers wouldn’t be participating in them, » he added.
He salutes the initiative of Autumn Whiteside. « I think it is good that some students and parents are also having their frustration heard in regard to the situation, » Ross said.
(Translation Dan Rosenburg)