When the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the B.C. Teachers Federation last November it was known the ruling would require the province to hire thousands of new teachers to meet the class size and composition requirements set forward by the court.
And while, at the time, educators were generally jubilant with the decision, the logistical consequences of hiring a significant number of teachers may not have been fully anticipated, said Jim Cambridge, the superintendent of Sooke School District.
That belief was demonstrated on Sept. 28 when the scheduling software used by the school district showed that no teacher was available for a classroom at Dunsmuir Middle School, a situation that led to Cambridge stepping up to take over the classroom teaching duties for the first time in 10 years.
“I’m always happy to get into a classroom and teach. It was a really great experience,” he said.
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The situation is the natural consequence of having a number of on-call teachers move from on-call positions to full time teaching positions during the flurry of hiring that resulted from the court’s decision.
“We’ve hired about 130 new teachers locally and that’s gone a long way to diminishing the pool of on-call teachers available to fill in for teachers who are absent on any given day,” said Cambridge.
He added that the division always hires new teachers to replace teachers who have retired or left the profession, but the normal number would be between 20 and 30.
“We’re reacting to the situation by interviewing and hiring new on-call teachers and we’re hoping we’ll be able to resolve the problem very soon. We need to bring on about 30 to 40 new staff and to that end we’ve hired nine new teachers in just the past two days,” said Cambridge.
On the bright side, he said that the situation facing Sooke is not as dire as it may be in other jurisdictions.
“We have the benefit of living in a pretty desirable place and it’s not too tough to attract teachers to live here,” he said.
“I’m sure there are areas where they are having a much harder time.”
Even with the hiring blitz currently underway, qualified educators on the district’s administrative staff are prepared to step in and fill any shortfalls on the short term. Those staff members have been going out to classrooms at a rate of one or two a day and are rotating those duties as the need arises.
“It’s a short term situation, but I think it’s not a bad thing at all. Most of us are happy for the chance to get back into the classroom. It is, after all, why we became educators in the first place.”