Nanaimo teachers to elect new leader

NANAIMO – A change in leadership is in the works for the local teachers' union.

A change in leadership is in the works for the local teachers’ union.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association for the past two years, is stepping down.

He said his decision is based on a desire to spend more time with his family – his work as president consumed a lot of time after school and evenings.

“It’s really a family decision for me,” said DeGear. “I’m missing a big chunk of my kids’ lives.”

Two people have put their names up for president – Justin Green, who is currently first vice-president of the NDTA, and Dan Companion, head of the social studies department at Dover Bay Secondary School.

Teachers will pick a new leader on Tuesday (May 22) at the union’s annual general meeting.

This is the first time since 2007 that local teachers will elect a leader – for the previous four years, presidents were acclaimed.

Green said if elected, he plans to continue building relationships on a local level and supporting members through the difficult bargaining and job action processes.

“One of my biggest challenges is to continue to build solidarity,” he said. “It’s not a happy time right now. I think another important piece of this job moving forward is building hope.”

Companion said the decision to withdraw from extra-curricular activities as part of the action plan to resist Bill 22 has caused animosity between teachers, principals and parents.

He wants to focus on healing relationships between colleagues divided on the issue and bringing everyone together as a team again.

“The ban on extra-curricular activity has been a very divisive issue in the field,” Companion said. “I’m trying to be a mediator. I fully support the action plan, but don’t support the union ostracizing and disparaging colleagues.”

The union needs to focus on the bigger issue of fighting for a quality public education system, said Companion.

Mike Ball, elected as a member-at-large to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation executive earlier this year, is running for first vice-president. He could have competition from either Companion or Green, as whoever is not elected president can run for first vice-president.

Two elementary school teachers, Marcy Boudreau and Virginia Burns, put their names forward for second vice-president, a position that Kip Wood, who was NDTA president for three years and on the BCTF executive for two years, is vacating in favour of returning to the classroom.

“Being local president eats up a lot of your evenings and being on the BCTF executive eats up a lot of your Fridays and Saturdays,” said Wood. “It’s been a big investment. The activism continues. I’ll probably still write letters to the editor.”

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