FALL RIVER: A teacher in Fall River believes the third time won’t be the charm when he and his colleagues vote on a tentative agreement their union reached with the provincial government on Feb. 8.
Ron Nugent, a guidance counsellor at Georges P. Vanier Junior High in Fall River, said he already knows how he is voting—and that’s against the tentative deal that members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) are recommending its members accept.
“I do firmly believe this contract is getting voted down,” he told The Laker on Feb. 2. “I know personally I am voting no because it does not address anything to do with mental health, and as a Guidance Counsellor I see first-hand the conditions of our kids coming through the school system, and it’s on the rise.
“It doesn’t address any of that. There’s just $20 million to put towards a committee to address class stuff.”
Nugent said parents need to continue their support for teachers because they’re at a crucial point in the “negotiation mess” that the NSTU and government are in.
“If we’re not standing together with the parents and they’re not standing with us, this Stephen McNeil government will steamroll right over us like they’ve been doing all along,” he said.
Whatever the parents and teachers feel about the extras teachers did before work-to-rule, the focus needs to zone in on the real reason for work-to-rule and the disagreement between NSTU and government.
“For the future of our kids, we really need to set aside the extra-curriculars and focus on what this is really all about—it’s all about classroom conditions,” said Nugent. “It’s all about the numbers, around the differential learning that’s in the classroom and the class climate.
“When you’re getting an oversized classroom, the class climate isn’t going to be very good or effective in teaching the kids. As a parent, I really worry about that. I worry about that for all the kids, my own, my colleagues’ children and the others coming up through.”
He said he wants the community to know that as a teacher he too is frustrated with how the negotiations have gone with McNeil and his government.
“This isn’t an easy road for me or my colleagues,” said Nugent. “We come to school and we’re doing what we love to do without the responsibilities or stressors of the extras.”
He said a lot of NSTU members questioned the executive on why work-to-rule was lifted.
“We’re led, with leaks of pieces of information, nothing has ever been confirmed, the bullying tactics of the government, and that potentially was why work-to-rule was lifted,” said Nugent. “It didn’t make any logical sense to any of us why work-to-rule was lifted prior to a vote.”
One of the main things teachers were looking for in the tentative agreement was immediacy for the implementation of classroom stuff, but that won’t happen, said Nugent.
Nugent hopes work-to-rule isn’t in place for the rest of the school year, but he’s not too optimistic.
“With the way this government is dictating,” he said, “I don’t see this turmoil coming to an end anytime soon.”
He said the last two months have showcased just how much extras the teachers do.
“I have a funny feeling the majority of teachers won’t be going back to all the above and beyond because we recognize a work-life balance now,” he said.
He has a warning to parents that if their support wanes then it will be just what the government wants.
“If we lose parental and student support right now, the government has won, there will be no changing classroom conditions or climates,” said Nugent.
Nugent said fresh faces on both sides could be beneficial in future negotiating and reaching a deal that is satisfactory to all.
“I think it would be great to see both teams come together with some new faces, new conversations, new attitudes, new opinions, and then maybe we will get something (an agreement),” he said.