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No word from the union

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This just in......River East Transcona School Division has clarified its earlier budget information. In the portion of the division which has teacher-librarians, they will be replaced by library technicians only in the high schools. Those teacher-librarians will be transferred to the classroom in September. Meanwhile, middle years and elementary schools which have teacher-librarians now, will continue to do so.


I’ve been working on a follow-up school board budget story for a couple of weeks now, one of those many pieces of budgets you need to check out, which don’t always lead to a big story but still need to be followed.

Someone got in touch with us and told us that River East Transcona School Division had let all its teacher-librarians go in budget cuts.

The division initially told me that the teacher-librarians were being replaced, in one part of the division, by library technicians who already staff the school libraries in the rest of RETSD. It was approved by the trustees so as to have more harmonization, have the same type of service throughout the division.

The change starts in September when it will be just less than eight years since amalgamation. You might have thought they’d finished harmonizing a while back, but I digress.

So then I asked, what happens to the teacher-librarians? Do they go into the classroom, do they take the places of retiring teachers, or does any teacher face layoff over this?

Division again got back to me, finally confirmed that the teacher-librarians will be going into the classroom in September.

OK, still with me? Of course I didn’t just rely on the division’s telling me what had happened to these teachers’ jobs, I called the union. It’s nearly two weeks now that I called the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

And waited. And called again. And waited.

I know MTS won’t talk about bargaining and personnel, but surely the union would want input into something that affects teachers’ jobs.


Moving to another topic......

I had one of those difficult email requests a few days ago, a university student asking for my help with a major project.

I try to help students whenever I can, I’ll help point students to places they can obtain information, but I won’t conduct the research for the student, which is pretty much what this student was asking me to do. Gathering the raw data and then providing analysis showing the correlations between A and B, and between C and D, basically — you’ll have to collect and analyse those data yourself and come to your conclusions, or interview the people who gather data and do such analysis, as I would, but I won’t collect the raw data for you and do the analysis for you.


The final point on which you asked me to opine.....your entire project seems to be predicated on having prejudged the outcome, based on anecdotal evidence of your alleged experience in one private school, and a very cynical interpretation about why students (or their parents) pay big bucks to go to private schools — where is the research supporting your preconceived conclusion that attending private schools is a straightforward exchange of huge tuition for high marks?

No, I won’t fill in the details, I don’t want anyone to be able to identify this student.

That’s not enough detail for you? How do you think I feel at the end of every episode of Lost?

Moving right along.....

In a moment of madness, I allowed my picture to be taken with WSD school trustee Mike Babinsky at a certain event we both attended. For all I know, it’s all over Facebook by now.

On the other hand, the rest of the trustees and the senior bureaucrats may see that photo sometime and ask each other, were there ultra-top-secret school division documents hidden inside that soccer ball?

And after a seamless segue.......

I’m hanging by my email, waiting to break like a totally major story.

A mother told us that her high school daughter was denied a free coffee in a certain multinational chain restaurant. She says a restaurant employee we’ll assign a pseudonym of Ronald M. told the daughter that the school had asked the restaurant that students not be given free coffee because they were coming to school wired on caffeine.

So, you can see that a story like this could make my career.

I called the school division superintendent, who, recognizing that this was the highest priority in the public education system, called the high school which was allegedly not wanting a school of caffeine-crazed students, and the superintendent eventually reported back that there was nothing to the story.

Maybe Oliver Stone would buy that, but not I.

I called Ronald M.’s employer, and was bounced eventually to the company’s Canadian headquarters, where spokesperson H. Burglar has promised to look into it and get back to me.

That was a week ago Friday, and I’m still waiting.........

On to another topic.....

I was at the UM indoor soccer complex one morning last week, and was well aware that you have to pay for parking during the day. Most people who use it park out by the road and walk to the campus buildings, while people like me going into the complex park over by the doors.

So, being a healthy, fitness-fanatic, no-idling-zone campus, people at UM drive up to the ticket machine as though it’s a coffee chain drive-through. I on the other hand park and walk over to the machine, where a woman is standing, warning everyone that the machine is eating money but is out of tickets, and she was sending people to another machine several hundred meters away.

Of course, they all drive over and get in line at the drive-through window, clutching their coins as their engines run. I hike over with another person going into the soccer complex, we brave the exhaust fumes and all these potential road rage cases, and rather than stand in line behind the cars, walk straight up to the machine and pop in our money, get our tickets, walk to our cars and then into the building.

Thanks for not running over us.

New topic alert.....

I had walked over to Sev one night to get milk, carload of young guys in their late teens in line ahead of me, one guy points out to his friend that he’s just dropped a quarter on the floor, the kid replies disdainfully, "It’s only a quarter," leaves it and walks away. His friend scoops up the quarter.

I remember when a dime was a week’s allowance.


And taking this blog to new levels of selfservingness......

I’m sitting there at WSD board, and chair Jackie Sneesby starts the meeting by telling everyone to turn his or her cell phones off.

And a few minutes later, during enquiries and announcements when Babinsky is trying to create a kerfuffle over the trustees’ packages of newpaper clippings leaving out controversial stories, trustee Kristine Barr whips out her super-phone, which looks like something a time traveller from the 22nd Century left behind. Barr cranks it up and shows the board and assembled senior bureaucrats how easily she can follow the news throughout the day without involving masses of paper clippings, by checking The Winnipeg Free Press website.

Which she demonstrates, while blatantly violating the board chair’s directive.

But hey, Barr was up to date on all the news, controversial and otherwise, with no staff time or dead trees involved.

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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.

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