The Kootenay Lake school district’s call-out system for substitute teachers is causing anxiety, missed work and numerous other problems according to five people who spoke out against it at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
“The absolute inefficiency is calamitous,” art teacher Shannon Lanaway said. “Most teachers I’ve talked to feel like we should go back to the old system. Teachers on call are losing uncountable days of work, and they’re going to work not knowing what they’re teaching, or where, or when.”
Lanaway recently received a call while teaching at W.E. Graham in Slocan that requested she teach in Salmo 15 minutes later — though the commute is more like an hour and a half.
“This system doesn’t understand geography,” she said. “This situation is sucking the life and love out of the role of being a teacher, and I’m speaking as an employee of 12 years.”
Teacher Sara Simonet echoed Lanaway’s concerns, as did Nelson District Teachers’ Association president Paul Boscariol, teacher Kathy Couch and Creston Valley Teachers’ Association treasurer Doug Kunzelman.
Simonet noted she’s worked in places such as California and Minnesota with better systems.
“You’re already filled with anxiety when you’re at a new school and have a new job, and then it’s something else if you have no idea where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do,” she said.
Simonet reported that she’s received call-outs with almost no information in them, and inaccurate times and dates.
Kunzelman said the problem is affecting “our most vulnerable teachers.”
“They can’t live on cancellations. They can’t live on a [teacher on call] salary, so they have other jobs. This affects more than just their [teacher on call] work. I think it’s important for the trustees to hear this.”
Boscariol said the district is well aware of the problem.
“The financial impact has been significant for these individuals,” he said. “Something needs to be done to rectify some of the challenges. Some aspects are related to human input error, and there’s a certain degree of adjusting to the system, but there are other challenges that aren’t going away.”
According to Boscariol, the district is “disenfranchising a good portion of the teaching population.” They also haven’t been invited to participate in non-instructional days to learn about the new curriculum.
He encouraged the board to petition the education ministry for more funding.
“We’re urging the board to connect with other school boards and to press the ministry to loosen the purse strings to provide funding for all teachers to participate in the outlay of this K-9 curriculum.”
Board chair Lenora Trenaman told those who spoke that they’re “well aware” of the situation but little could be done.
“We can visit this again,” she said.
Superintendent Jeff Jones encouraged the teachers to meet and talk directly with support staff.