Teachers’ union denied arbitration over class size report

The Nanaimo District Teachers' Association has been told for a second time it cannot take its case against the superintendent's report to an arbitrator.

The Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association has been told for a second time it cannot take its case against the superintendent’s report to an arbitrator.

Last fall, the NDTA and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court against the Nanaimo school board and the superintendent over the superintendent’s annual class-size report after an arbitrator ruled that the matter could not be dealt with through the arbitration process.

In July, a Supreme Court judge adjourned the case because lawyers for both sides agreed a recent Court of Appeal decision pertaining to another school district meant an arbitrator might have the authority to deal with the matter after all.

The matter went before arbitrator James Dorsey last week, who came to the same conclusion as the first arbitrator.

Derek DeGear, NDTA president, said he’s disappointed because the union was hoping the issue would be dealt with before trustees approve the latest class size report in the coming weeks. Trustees must either approve the report or instruct the superintendent to revise it by Oct. 15.

The union is alleging that the superintendent’s annual class size report for trustees fails to include a rationale for all classrooms in the district with more than 30 students – the report gives two general reasons for oversize classrooms – and that the superintendent is in violation of School Act requirements to do so.

The NDTA wants a separate and more detailed rationale for every classroom.

“We’ve always believed that if our teachers are saying it’s not appropriate … the superintendent really has the onus on him to provide a rationale why he’s overriding the opinion of the teacher,” said DeGear. “I’m confident that if trustees had all the information they needed, they wouldn’t be approving these class size reports.”

The union has not decided what it will do next, but taking the case back to the Supreme Court is one option, he said.

Another option is if the new superintendent simply agrees to provide more information, DeGear added.

In an e-mailed statement, school board chairwoman Sharon Welch said the district is waiting to hear if the union plans to appeal the latest arbitration ruling or take the issue back to Supreme Court.

She said the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association covers costs related to arbitrations, but the district is responsible for its own legal costs related to the court proceedings and to date the district has spent $52,613.