Telling Tales out of School
with Nick Martin
03/6/2014 3:00 PM
I keep seeing these tweets about alleged nasty doings in the current U of M Students Union elections.
Someone should alert the Guinness Book, because if there’s one thing on Earth never seen before, it’s skullduggery in a university student council election.
Some of the allegations on Twitter involve claims that campaign posters are disappearing or getting damaged.
It happens. Sometimes it’s opponents’ supporters, possibly even henchpersons. Sometimes it’s the wind or rain, sometimes it’s because people are offended by signs all over public boulevards. Sometimes campaign organizers go cheap and they don’t hold up for five weeks.
I got sucked in on that issue early in my career. There was an election in a place I’ll hypothetically call LondonOnt, in which a candidate called me to complain about vandalism to campaign signs.
I did the interview, a photo of the infuriated candidate ran, people made certain conclusions about other candidates.
And not all that long after, the constabulary happened upon the candidate’s teenager vandalizing her signs in a misguided attempt to arouse sympathy for her and antipathy for the opponents. No evidence the candidate knew.
Inevitably, I’ll get calls and emails come next October, when the city elects school trustees — oh well, OK, and lesser offices too, such as mayor and council — and there are allegations of mischief and tomfoolery involving campaign signs. If you call me looking for coverage, alas...
02/27/2014 3:13 PM
As I’ve said before, school trustees planning their March 15 budgets have to set money aside for next academic year’s teachers contracts and retroactive raises in pay, new increments, and possibly new benefits payable as of this July 1.
Every teachers’ contract in the province expires June 30, unprecedented in recent memory.
School boards are reluctant to say what they’re setting aside, and the teachers’ union won’t say what it’s asking.
But here at least is a little insight on the teachers’ approach to bargaining from Tim Breen, vice-president of the River East Transcona Teachers Association, in the most recent RETTA Record newsletter.
Not to take it out of context, but Breen does make reference to the settlement at U of M, and the U of W bargaining that was concluding at his time of publication. The faculty associations at both universities settled for three-year deals that were slightly different, but both ended up with a raise of a compounded 7.1 per cent. That’s more than the 6.1 per cent compounded the teachers have made over the last three years.
Certainly, Breen refers to other provinces in which the teachers have not done as well, but his focus is clearly on what Manitoba public employees are getting.
And read that bit about teachers not being able to use the usual strategy, which is to reach deals one at a time, so the best parts of each settlement become the starting point for the next bargaining unit.
Here’s what Breen says in the newsletter, and, as always, school boards and union bargaining units, feel free to negotiate through the media:
"It has been a little while since I took the time to write to you about bargaining. As we have just presented and had council approve the opening package and are currently in the process of finalizing everything to open negotiations this year, I thought now would be a good time to do so. There have also been a lot of things happening around Canada in respect to bargaining that I think are important to highlight.
Let’s start off locally. Here in Manitoba we have 38 teacher associations that are all preparing their opening packages. For the first time in a long time we are all going to be bargaining at the same time. In the past we have been able to leap-frog one another and reference other association agreements as an argument for us obtaining similar settlements, if not better. Since we are all opening at the same time, this will not be possible. Instead we will need to look outside of teachers’ associations and look to other work groups in the province who work in similar fields.
This is not to say that bargaining will be any easier or harder than it has been in the past. Rather, it will be different with other considerations and arguments that will need to be brought forward. We are well prepared and well informed and looking forward to starting the conversation with the Division.
It is still a very tense bargaining climate in Canada as well as locally. In Manitoba, Professors at U of M took a strike vote and entered mediation before settling with the University. They still have some items at an arbitrator because they simply could not agree on those items. U of W professors have taken a strike vote with 92 per cent in favour of striking should their two days of mediation not result in a settlement. Luckily, they were able to reach an agreement in committee which was ratified this past week by the membership and thus avoided a strike.
In Ontario where teachers are still dealing with their imposed contracts, teachers took an unpaid day just before the holiday. This was their first of two that they are required to take as part of an agreement to allow younger teachers to move along the salary grid. They had originally been slated to freeze for the term of the imposed agreement. Finally, for the bad news. In New Brunswick, teachers have taken zero per cent increases and the Professors at the University of New Brunswick have been on strike for the past three weeks. There are numerous other things occurring around Canada but they are too numerous to include here.
There is something positive I would also like to highlight. I don’t want you to think that it is all doom and gloom out there. The BC Supreme Court has ruled that the stripping of class-size and composition from the BC teachers’ contracts was unconstitutional and have mandated that all the stripped clauses be retroactively reinstated. The court has further mandated that the government pay $2 million in damages to the BC Teachers Federation. The government has already announced its intent to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, but this is still a huge win in a court of law for the right to bargain collec-tively. It also sets legal precedence for the impending court case in Ontario for the imposed agreements they are dealing with and, I think, sends a clear message that this type of behav-iour will not be tolerated.
Overall this is an interesting time to be a bargainer and to be entering bargaining. We have a solid package to bring forward to the Division as well as a strong team behind us to work hard at negotiations. Our committee worked extremely hard in pre-paring the opening package and we are confident.
I am honoured to work on your behalf as your Vice-President and I look forward to continuing to work for you.
02/26/2014 3:38 PM
I’m in a snit.
This month makes two or three years now since even a single school has asked me to come to I Love to Read Month; prior to that, there were three or four invites some Februaries.
Maybe someone can let me know why – acknowledging, of course, that it’s bad manners to ask why no one asked me to a party.
Remember my story on UM’s dropping the Disaster Research Institute? Bob MacDonald of Quirks and Quarks fame tweeted about it, but he gave the credit to The Toronto Star.
So I looked it up on The Star, and the paper did indeed have a story, but gave the credit to the WFP for breaking it.
This is like the time when I broke the infamous story about kids being tricked into putting moose droppings in their mouths on a Grade 8 camping trip, and Huffington Post gave the credit to The New York Daily News, whose story ran three weeks after ours.
I emailed MacDonald, I’m a little disappointed that he never responded.
Speaking of a lack of responses...
My university newspaper Pro Tem has never responded to my response to its invitation to speak at a writers’ conference March 27... I still don’t know who else would potentially come to speak, who and how many the audience would be, and most importantly, if I’m expected to pay for a trip to Toronto mid-week out of my own pocket.
And now for something completely different...
It’s always appropriate to talk about soccer, so...
Greg and Stephen, that’s a really spiffy bilingual sign outside the soccer complex at UM, the one proclaiming that it’s the future site of an indoor soccer complex. Not to be impertinent, but don’t you maybe kind of think your governments have had their money’s worth out of that sign by now?
And seguing into schools and epochal sporting events...
After getting resoundingly chastised for my suggesting that it’s OK for students to watch Olympics while in school, I heard from another teacher, this time from a public high school. A teacher who was careful to note he was writing on his personal email and not on the school division’s email.
OK, full disclosure, he taught my kids, so regular readers will know he’s on the faculty of Manitoba’s best school.
And here’s what he said:
"I was reading your blog and wanted to comment on the value of watching the Olympics in a classroom setting. It allowed me to talk about the odd geography of having a winter games in a city/region with a Mediterranean climate. The history of that region of the world, why attached regions have violence and instances of terrorism and most importantly celebrate Canadian success! I thought it allowed many interesting academic conversations in my classroom. The community building aspect of teachers keeping classrooms open over lunch to finish watching hockey games. Getting together in library to crowd around a 32" tube TV to watch Jennifer Jones win a gold medal! My daughter attends (a highly-regarded school which our friends’ kids attended, a little outside our catchment area) and her class watched figure skating/curling and the class did research projects on Canadian athletes, eventually making a bulletin board display. I thought it was a great two weeks, it didn’t put me behind in any of my four classes."
And from another teacher, whom I don’t think I’ve met:
"I am a retired school teacher and I totally agree with your opinion that watching the hockey game at school was a worthwhile experience. I taught in the days of the (1972) hockey game between Canada and the Soviets and yes, we all sat in front of the tv to watch it at school. What it did was create an incredible feeling of solidarity as Canadians. Before and after the games we had the opportunity to discuss the big differences between Canada and Russia, the injustices in both countries, the money spent on the games instead of the needy. In short, everything the upset teacher says should be discussed instead of watching the hockey game. I suspect that we have a case of an individual who is not a sports fan. I hope it isn’t the case of a sour-faced, unhappy person who doesn’t realize that a lot of learning can come out of having fun while you are doing it.
And a warning note to schools, but surely it couldn’t be the reason I no longer get invited to I Love to Read Month: I came back from a school yesterday and realized I’d added to my massive collection of visitors’ badges.
02/24/2014 2:30 PM
Wow, did that escalate and spiral out of control at warp speed.
Friday, I saw on Twitter that a teacher I’ve met and interviewed was all upset with a story I’d helped write about businesses and schools and other places that were letting people watch the Canada-U.S. men’s hockey game Friday. Included was mention of public school divisions that were leaving it up to schools to decide; in some cases, the superintendent was encouraging that students be allowed to watch.
This teacher was appalled at the notion. The teacher said he’d be upset as a parent if a teacher was letting his kid watch hockey instead of teaching her to read.
I thought there’s room to let kids enjoy a special event. I made an allusion, somewhat sarcastically, to Sept. 28, 1972.
The teacher came back and said he’d prefer to spend the time helping his students develop critical thinking about what the Olympics are really all about. Good idea, I’d certainly go for that, would encourage all teachers to do it at an age-appropriate level, but the week has another 165 hours in which one of the biggest hockey games of the decade is not being played.
And back he came suggesting I care nothing about the oppressed in Syria, Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere.
I didn’t respond — I just let that last one sit there in cyberspace and be RTed and favourited.
Back in the day, people would have talked about taking time to stop and smell the roses. I think there’s room for us to stop and have a little fun and feel a little joy; indeed, I think we might do a better job of saving the world if we allowed ourselves a little enjoyment along the way.
One of the many, many reasons I never became a senior manager in newspapers was the heresy I uttered over the decades about my believing that people could do better work in 60 hours than in 90, and that people who had time for a personal and family life performed their work better than those who were told that work is everything. The principle here is the same, at least it is to my deluded way of thinking.
I don’t think that the kids in Manitoba who watched that terrific game Friday, or who watched the women’s even more incredible game Thursday, while they were in school, will turn out to be less-educated or less worthy as citizens.
And yes, I do care about the oppressed in Syria and Ukraine and Russia, and have cared about the oppressed a lot longer than that teacher has been alive.
About Nick Martin
Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.
He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.
Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.
Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.
Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.
Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.
Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.
A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.
Blogs that Nick Martin follows:
Ads by Google