Union prez says media missing the whole story

Teachers upset at way colleague has been treated

The president of the New Westminster Teachers' Union has come out and staunchly defended the math teacher at the centre of a brewing storm.

Grant Osborne made his comments to The Record on Wednesday afternoon after local parents concerned with their children's low grades in a math class at New Westminster Secondary School went public earlier this month.

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The district has been looking into the issue since a Jan. 10 committee meeting where more than 15 parents raised concerns about a math class where they claim the teacher is failing as many as 70 per cent of the students in the class.

Osborne stated: "Normally, the NWTU would not be commenting on a personnel matter in the media, but given how much coverage this topic has been given, the union feels the need to respond.

"First of all, I have been contacted by many teachers who have expressed how angry and upset they are at the treatment their colleague has received. They are also wondering what is their employer's response to the ongoing criticism being expressed in the media of one of their teachers.

"Secondly, the union has been aware of the situation for some time. When these concerns were first expressed by parents, administration did look into it, and they have made it clear to us that they did not see issues around competency or conduct. I cannot comment on what the parents have been told, but that is the clear message we have received from administration."

Earlier this week, parents were told by Bob Tamblyn, the district's director of human resources, that district administrators will, in the next two weeks, "be arranging meetings for those parents that have further information to share."

"Parents have asked the district to look into (the math class) - the district is examining the course and the assessment and will have the results prior to semester end (at the end of January). Once the examination of the course and the assessment is complete, the district will be in a better position to answer your specific concerns regarding the course and your child's assessment."

Osborne said there are several other issues also in play.

"We have also learned from teachers provincewide that there are problems with the course in question. It is a new course and does not align with many of the outcomes of the previous math course. This will have to be looked into and addressed by reviewing the curriculum.

"It has also been said that nothing has been done to address the matter locally. I am unsure as to why administration has not put forward the fact that it has added another course next semester and has also hired a math teacher to tutor after school three days a week to support students in this new course.

"Again, we are very concerned about the way that this issue is being handled in the press. Given the accusations made, how can there be resolution or discussion? It leaves people in entrenched positions, and that cannot be helpful. We are awaiting the school district's response to one of their employees being criticized in the media in this manner, and we support the teacher."

Superintendent John Woudzia confirmed with The Record on Thursday morning that the district has hired a qualified math teacher to tutor students and has added another block of the math class to the second semester.

But on all other matters that Osborne referred to, Woudzia said he could not comment because it was a personnel issue.

"All I can say is we'll try to work within the framework that we have to try and resolve this for all parties involved," said Woudzia.

When The Record contacted school board vice-chair Michael Ewen for comment, Ewen referred the matter to chair James Janzen.

"We do not discuss personnel items in the media," said Janzen. "I'm not going to respond to what Grant has said. . All I can say is we hope to resolve this matter in a way that is in the best interests for all parties involved."

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alau@royalcityrecord.com

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