News Local

Board official perplexed

Lance Holdforth

By Lance Holdforth, Special to QMI Agency

Simcoe County parents were sent scurrying when they learned elementary school teachers planned to participate in a one-day strike scheduled for Tuesday.

For close to 40 minutes, Friday afternoon, it appeared teachers were planning to withdraw their services in spite of Bill 115, according to a news release issued by the Simcoe County District School Board.

Janet Bigham, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s Simcoe County chapter (ETFO), said the board misinformed the public again.

“The ETFO did not announce that there’s was going to be any withdrawals on Tuesday,” she said. “Last weekend, as well, the board issued communication to the parents that was misleading and they’ve done it again. I have no control over the communication that the board does.”

An original news release was sent out at 2:33 p.m., stating the federation informed the board of the teachers’ intentions to strike.

At 3:05 p.m., another news release was sent out to correct the initial announcement.

School board spokeswoman Debbie Clarke said ETFO officials met with board officials on Friday where “it was verbally conveyed to the school board” a strike would happen.

“The ETFO advised the board’s human resources staff in a meeting earlier today (Friday), verbally, that the strike would occur Tuesday,” Clarke said.

“As a result, we needed to get the messaging out immediately, because we needed to ensure that parents had enough notice to make alternate arrangements,” she added.

Bigham told the Examiner she had no knowledge of the verbal confirmation and insisted the information was false.

“The (original) information that the board released is not information that was released by the ETFO. I didn’t want to throw them (school board officials) under the bus, but I guess they must have thrown me under the bus,” Bigham said. “It’s two weekends in a row that misleading communication has gone out to the public.”

In response to the original information posted on the board’s website, Kim, a mother of students at Terry Fox Elementary School in Barrie, who didn’t want her last name published, said if a strike did occur, it may have little or no impact at all.

“I think they’re trying to make a point. Whether I agree or not, I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not even sure if a one-day strike is going to make a difference.”

The board made efforts to inform parents of the strike, but Clarke said she was confused when the ETFO retracted its statement.

“We were shocked to find and hear that ETFO then stated there wouldn’t be a strike on Tuesday,” Clarke said. “I’m perplexed at the statements made by ETFO.”

The misinformation resulted in a county-wide bulletin which confused not only board members, but parents as well, Clarke said.

“The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario incorrectly informed the Simcoe County District School Board of a strike date,” Clarke said. “When that date was publicized, the union stated that they would not be calling for a strike that day. As a result, the board had to quickly provide updated information that all schools would be open.”

Bigham insists the information was not distributed by the ETFO, and the board was responsible for the misleading information.

“I did not tell the board that there would be a withdraw of services on Tuesday,” she said. “As I always tell parents, if they want the correct information and accurate information, they should go to  the website.”

Although teachers do plan a one-day strike, Bigham said an official date hasn’t been scheduled, but it is arranged the public will be the first to know.

“The ETFO will be making the announcement from the provincial office,” Bigham said. “The ETFO has released a plan that there will be a one-day withdrawal of services and the media and the public will be given 72 hours notice.”

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