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Face-to-face meetings still number one for Richmond parents

Parents should still use face-to-face meetings with teachers as the primary tool in tracking their childs progress.

Parents should still use face-to-face meetings with teachers as the primary tool in tracking their childs progress.

Thats 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 weve been trying to do is tell parents to keep communicating with their childs teacher, she said.

Theres still job action happening and were still trying to communicate that to the parents.

We realize its 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 childs teacher regularly and keep in contact with the school.

A mom of two boys in Grade 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 shes been very patient since the teachers strike took effect after Labour Day.

The blank report cards, however, were the last straw for her, saying shes 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.

This is the benchmark we need to know where our kids are at.

As suggested by the school district, Menezes has spoken to her childrens teachers.

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

Byron Stevens, the Richmond District Parents Association (RDPA), said his organization hadnt 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 effected and that they need to settle this as soon as possible, Stevens added.

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

Al Klassen, Richmond Teachers Association president, lamented that this weeks bargaining session between the parties was number 60.

The government has stated that heres the mandate, you cant exceed it, said Klassen.

What that means is there cant be any improvements and were going to have to find savings elsewhere if we want improvements.

Klassen said the teachers still have basics that need looked after; class size/composition and a fair salary.

As for the report cards, Klassen said teachers unions have always been suspicious about the provincial governments motive for forcing school districts to send out a basically blank document to parents.

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

Its been a waste of money, problematic and upsetting for the parents.

We have said that our members will communicate with parents about their childrens progress. It doesnt compare to a report card, but its enough to keep in contact.

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