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Calling all trustees: Your students needs you

An open letter to the newly elected Richmond school trustees as they enter the New Year.

An open letter to the newly elected Richmond school trustees as they enter the New Year.

Richmond school trustees,

Congratulations on your election victory and welcome or welcome back, for those incumbents, to the crazy world of education in the province of British Columbia.

I am writing to express my sincere hope that you will work to improve the learning conditions of students in Richmond and the working conditions of your employees: the teachers, educational assistants, custodial and maintenance staff, secretaries, administrators and all support staff.

I think that to be strong advocates for your constituents you will find it necessary to stand up against the demands of BCPSEA and the provincial Liberals. Here is why:

I began my teaching career in Richmond in 1990 after five years of teaching in northern B.C. I specifically targeted Richmond as the district I wanted to work in because it was known to be at the forefront in teaching literacy education with innovative language arts programs and a strong teacher librarian program.

Over the years, I have been part of the district as it rose to the challenge of meeting the needs of a growing number of English as a second language students and as it championed the inclusion of all special needs students into regular classrooms to the point that it has become a destination district for many families with special needs students. Initially, support for these programs was strong.

Students were provided with a quality education and teachers were fully supported in the delivery of these programs.

Sadly, I have had to watch and be part of the dismantling of a once strong and vibrant school district. Over the years, funding cuts by the B.C. government have strongly undercut the district's ability to deliver the kind of education it once did. What mystifies me is why we do not hear about this from the school district superintendent, school administrators or Richmond school trustees.

It has been left to teachers, through advocacy and through contract negotiations to seek improvements in support for ESL and special needs students and to seek limits on class sizes and the number of special needs students in each class for the benefit of all students.

Since 2002, when the government illegally stripped teachers' contracts of class size and composition limits, more than one billion dollars has been removed from the education system that should have been designated to meet the needs of ESL and special needs students and to limit class sizes. .

Yes, education costs money. That is a painful fact for taxpayers. The value that our society has placed on educating all students in an inclusive setting does not come cheaply.

At this point, our schools are running on bare-bones budgets.

The fat has long ago been cut away and over the years a substantial quantity of the meat has been lost as well in the form of specialist teachers, educational assistants and custodial staff.

If you believe that children will be the job-holders, taxpayers, problem-solvers and community members of the future, then you should be concerned about the current provincial government's attitude towards education, towards teachers and towards its responsibility to fully meet the needs of B.C.'s children. Children, schools and teachers in Richmond and in B.C. need your support. I am looking forward to seeing what you will do.

G Smith Richmond

For the full letter, look online at