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Blank report card is the last straw for mom

RTA questions motive for sending home useless progress report

Parents should still use faceto-face meetings with teachers as the primary tool in tracking their child's progress.

That's the advice of Richmond School Board chair Donna Sargent in the wake of blank report cards being sent out last week, as per the directive from the B.C. government.

Thousands of parents across the school district opened report cards on their children, which contained just attendance records due to the teachers' ongoing job action.

Many are angry at the waste of time and money, while some, who contacted the News, vented about their children being the "victims" of the dispute.

But Sargent explained that all the reports were hand-delivered, as is the norm, incurring no cost to the district.

And she said she hopes teachers are still making themselves available to parents who request a progress report on their child.

"What we've been trying to do is tell parents to keep communicating with their child's teacher," she said.

"There's still job action happening and we're still trying to communicate that to the parents.

"We realize it's difficult (to open up a blank report card). But for that meaningful conversation, they should still speak to the teacher. Parents are entitled to know how their child is doing."

Sargent encouraged parents to continue to approach their child's teacher regularly and keep in contact with the school.

A mom of two boys - who're in Grades 1 and 7 - however, told the News that the blank reports were the last straw for her and is calling on all parents to rise up.

Penelope Menezes said she's been very patient since the teacher's strike took effect after Labour Day.

The blank report cards, however, were the last straw for her, saying she's fed up with her kids being the real "victims of the strike."

"We cannot let our children's future be compromised for a fight that has nothing to do with them," said Menezes.

"(The kids) are being held ransom for no fault of theirs. It is time for every parent to get up and make themselves heard. Report cards, parent teacher conferences, updates on progress etc. are essential to guiding our children."

Without the feedback, Menezes argued that the parents are as much in the dark as their children. "This is a sure way to set up our children for failure," she added.

"I remember in the news that (the teachers) had decided not to comply with report cards, but when I opened up the report card I was very angry.

The teachers' union has always been suspicious about the provincial government's motive for forcing school districts to send out a basically blank document to parents, said Al Klassen, Richmond Teachers Association president.

"We questioned (the decision) right away. This was an exercise in making the teachers look bad," he said.

"It's been a waste of money, problematic and upsetting for the parents.

"We have said that our members will communicate with parents about their children's progress. It doesn't compare to a report card, but it's enough to keep in contact."

As suggested, Menezes has spoken to her children's teachers.

"They said they would let me know if there are any concerns. By then, I think it's almost too late," she said.

Byron Stevens, the Richmond District Parents Association (RDPA), said his organization hadn't yet fielded any complaints from parents about the report cards.

But he said the RDPA does have concerns about the traditional channel for student performance indication being cut off.

"We are also concerned that parents may not realize that they have other means to find out how their children are doing," said Stevens.

"So far, I haven't heard many complaints but I expect more feedback after Christmas as this thing drags out."

Stevens said the RDPA has had discussions with both parties and received some assurances that;

- graduating students will get report cards and any other records they need;

- teachers are recording marks even though they aren't sending out formal reports at this time;

- parents can contact teachers via telephone or email during school hours;

- parents can arrange a conference with their child's teacher during school hours.

Following on from Sargent, Stevens also encouraged parents concerned about their children's performance to make sure they follow up with the teacher or the school administration.

"I hope that both parties to this dispute remember that it is parents and students that are the most affected - and that they need to settle this as soon as possible," Stevens added.

Any end to the dispute is unlikely to happen soon, however.

Klassen lamented that this week's bargaining session between the parties was number 60. "The government has stated, 'Here's the mandate, you can't exceed it,'" said Klassen. "What that means is there can't be any improvements and we're going to have to find savings elsewhere if we want improvements."

acampbell@richmond-news.com

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