About 50 members of CUPE, each wearing a white sandwich board and walking in a picket line, greeted attendees of tonight’s school board meeting. It’s what CUPE Local 4643 president Paula Branscombe called an “information picket,” rather than a strike. Members of Local 4643 are in support staff positions in the education system, and have been in negotiations for a year now demanding the same increase in wages and benefits as those received recently by superintendents – 8.63 percent. “We think that we should receive the same percentage increase,” says Branscombe.
Those in support staff positions, including caretaking staff, secretarial positions, Education Assistants and those working in accounts, have been without contracts for 15 months. Branscombe says that CUPE is close to their target as they’re only about a percentage and a half away from meeting their goals. “What they have offered is not far apart from what we want,” she said right before the school board meeting began. But they don’t plan on standing down until the demand of the 8.63 percent increase is met.
ON TO THE MEETING
One of the highlights of the meeting was the board’s budget proposal. “Nothing here that we haven’t talked about before,” said one trustee as the Power Point went up.
In the proposal was a list of challenges facing Regina public schools, including the upkeep of school facilities, supporting English as a Second Language students, meeting the needs of First Nations and Metis students, and increasing parent and community involvement in schools.
Another slide of the Power Point showed that the number of Grade 1-8 students was estimated to go up by 203 students. But, it has been pointed out before, that due to elements such as the Immigration Nominee program, the exact numbers of new students entering the system is not really known. Still, because of this rise, an additional eight teachers will be hired.
Later in the meeting, Dale West, trustee from subdivision 3, cleared his throat, paused, and apologized for getting on his horse again. “Eight teachers,” he said. “We could have as many as 600 new students. We need to get the word out that this is a serious problem, and these kinds of numbers have a serious impact on our budget.”
“I’m riding right beside you,” one trustee responded.
Deputy Director Mike Walter chimed in. “If not for the Immigration Nominee Program, we would have low student numbers.” With the new students arriving, “how do we support them?”
Trustee Carla Beck added her thoughts; “We’re really excited to have these new students in our system. But the problem is they’re coming in at all times (of the semester) due to the program.” The funding model, she said, must change in order to meet these new needs.
Tomorrow, when the provincial budget is dropped, the board will find out exactly what kinds of numbers, and what kind of funding model, they’ll be working with.