Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teachers' union willing to pay to name class

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IS it worth $1.5 million to Manitoba teachers to put their name on one classroom?

Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson thinks so.

He's urging the union's 15,000 members to approve a plan at their annual general meeting in May to name the new classroom at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights after the MTS in perpetuity.

"Unions have always been involved in human rights work," Olson said Tuesday. "We're obviously hoping for a lot of support."

Olson said it works out to one takeout coffee a month for teachers -- $1.50 a month per teacher on their union dues for five years.

The MTS has already donated $62,000 to the museum, which has given the union rights of first refusal to buy naming rights to its classroom.

"That's basically a plaque in the hallway, a plaque in the room," Olson said. "It is a really big classroom with two dividers that can be pulled out to create two small ones."

The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have already sold naming rights to 15 areas of the museum, and have another 34 available, from $1 million for various facilities up to $7.5 million for naming the main exhibit gallery.

Selling all 34 could fetch the museum more than $70 million.

The CMHR, scheduled to open in 2014, has repeatedly emphasized how much education, and both student and teacher involvement, will be key components of its ongoing operations.

The naming rights are basically a contribution to the museum, Olson said.

He told teachers in a letter to all 15,000 members: "Every day, we welcome children and families into our schools from every corner of the province and of the world. They have known and lived poverty, war, disease, famine and exploitation in their most heinous forms.

"Despite great progress having been made, we still -- today -- have students who fear entering our schools because of the colour of their skin, their gender identity or orientation, their sex or their creed.

"We teach many subjects -- but first, we teach people. And any teacher who's been in the field for more than a few weeks has looked into the very old eyes of a very young child, and felt a shudder. For many people, human rights are an academic abstraction. For us, it's called 'going to work.' "

Olson said tens of thousands of students from Canada, the United States and overseas will visit the museum each year and take programs in that classroom, which can accommodate up to 90 people.

Kathi Neal, interim chief executive officer of the Friends of the CMHR, said naming rights "are a way to recognize and to thank our incredible donors for their passionate commitment to furthering human rights."

"As early supporters and also our early donors, Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights feels that the Manitoba Teachers' Society would be the right fit for this naming opportunity because they understood, right from the very beginning, that education is the heart and soul of the museum."

More information about naming rights is available at http://friendsofcmhr.com/support/, while Olson's appeal to teachers is at http://www.mbteach.org/extras/naming%20rights.html.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:29 AM CST: replaces photo

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