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A superintendent surprise, an education minister’s letter and a cherry treeFebruary 8, 2014

Author: Webmaster

John Gaiptman awoke one morning in January and decided it was time to retire as superintendent of the Greater Victoria school district, the Times Colonist reported last month.

Five days later, he handed in his resignation, with his last day slated for Feb. 14. He said he wasn’t being pushed out, didn’t have another job and didn’t have health issues that might explain his abrupt departure.

“I love what I do and I have always loved what I do, but you also have to know when it’s time to move on (and) that’s what I chose to do,” he was quoted as saying.

On Friday, the New Westminster board of education announced that Gaiptman, 57, has accepted the top job in that troubled district, replacing superintendent John Woudzia as of Feb. 17. Although not described as such, the appointment appears to be temporary as the district is still working with an executive search company to find a superintendent, the New Westminster Newsleader reports.

Could Gaiptman be a white knight for a district with an abundance of troubles and a decade of deficits?

Also in the news Friday was a letter that Education Minister Peter Fassbender sent directly to teachers to explain why his government is appealing a court ruling that backed the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) in a lengthy dispute over bargaining rights.

Some teachers were angry, as the Vancouver Sun reported, saying the letter contains inaccuracies. Some also did not like the way the minister was writing directly to teachers rather than dealing with their union. “I already have enough junk mail,” one told me on Twitter.

Direct letters to teachers from government is a new tactic in B.C. that began shortly after the B.C. College of Teachers was dismantled and replaced with the Teacher Regulation Branch within the ministry. That gave government access to a database with contact information for all 68,000 teaching certificate holders in the province.

The database was first used by Education Minister George Abbott in 2012 and after a fourth direct message, some 2,000 teachers unsubscribed.

Briefing notes prepared for Fassbender when he was appointed minister indicate that government is also trying to establish communication channels with teachers-in-training at B.C.’s nine education faculties.

“These channels provide a strong foundation for a comprehensive teacher communication strategy to support ministry priorities,” the briefing document says. “That broader teacher communication strategy will be essential to the success of a ministry-led teacher engagement initiative.”

Fassbender has promised teachers another email giving the government’s perspective on class size and composition, to be followed by other emails “to provide you with as much information as possible on other issues at hand, the future of learning, and the implications of different options and solutions,” his letter says.

Another item of interest Friday was a ruling from B.C. Supreme Court that found Surrey school district 75 per cent responsible for injuries sustained by a 12-year-old after he fell from the roof of Peace Arch elementary in 2008. The boy had gained access to the roof by climbing a nearby cherry tree.

The district had argued that it took reasonable care through regular monitoring of conditions at the school, could not have foreseen the injuries and therefore wasn’t liable.

But Justice Neena Sharma disagreed. “A reasonable person would foresee that the cherry tree (or any other tree in similar proximity to the school roof) might be used by kids to climb onto the roof. As such, the defendant is liable for not taking reasonable aactions to prevent children accessing the school roof via the cherry tree.”

The decision can be found here. A Vancouver Sun story says damages have yet to be determined and the decision will be appealed.

I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and the information presented here does not represent in any way the views of the organization.

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