The final budget estimates for School District 48 are not finalized yet, but teachers fear as many as 14 full-time jobs will disappear.
The president of the Howe Sound Teachers Association, Beth Miller, didn't mince words as she voiced the anxiety and frustration of the teachers she represents at the school board meeting in Squamish on Wednesday, June 9.
"People are scrambling for postings and it's really stressful for teachers right now. We just want the board to be aware of how unhappy teachers are right across the board." she said.
In her presentation, Miller said data revealed that there has been a three per cent drop in enrollment in students, while the full-time teachers will be reduced by almost six per cent.
"There is this disconnect between the oft-repeated goals of the board to keep services and classrooms in schools and what's really happening on ground. We haven't had an explanation from the school board on that." she said.
The board has received the same level of funding as last year and with declining enrollment it's looking for places to cut. Miller, however, says the teachers are taking an unfair cut and says there's at least one area that hasn't really felt the pinch: the school board office staff.
To prove her point, she compared the School District 48 with four other school boards. She said that in school districts that are double the size of SD48 - like Cowichan School District - there are only 24 service staff. In SD48 that number is 23. She said that staffing numbers need to be reduced accordingly.
"There are significant savings to be had by trimming school board office staff. The money saved by eliminating several of these jobs could then be spent on direct services to the students," she said.
Teachers who accompanied Miller said they were hoping that final budget estimates will reveal a positive outlook for teachers, but the preliminary numbers are gloomy.
"We are hoping that we'd be wrong, but as of now we will be losing 14 full-time positions," said Carl Walker, a teacher at Howe Sound Secondary.
Marie St. Pierre, a teacher at Don Ross Secondary, said the loss of teachers eventually leads to the corrosion of education.
"There are bigger class sizes, less individual attention to students, and it's just less service for students," she said.
The contract teachers are the ones who are likely to lose their jobs with the cuts. Two of them were at the meeting, and both got emotional as they explained the financial and social repercussions of not having a job.
They did not give their names, fearing that would jeopardize any chance they might have in getting their contract renewed. One of them said she had moved here from Alberta with the hope that she'd be able to secure a permanent position with the board. Now she fears that, along with her job, she will lose her home and her pets.
"I wouldn't have come out to B.C. if I knew this was going to happen. This has really put everything on line." she said.
The board will respond to the teachers' presentation in time, said board chair Rick Price.