Howe Sound Secondary School students are fighting to keep their academic year-end awards, an annual event cancelled as a result of the teachers’ job action.
Students and parents have banded together, willing to organize the event, but the teachers at Howe Sound refuse to hand over names of recipients — an action they say is voluntary and therefore subject to withdrawal as part of the teachers’ protest against the B.C. government’s enactment of Bill 22.
Howe Sound is the only high school in the Sea to Sky Corridor that will go without the subject awards. Whistler and Don Ross secondary school’s teachers provided recipient names.
Pemberton Secondary School teachers didn’t submit names, but the school’s students and administrators used marks entered into the British Columbia enterprise Student Information System. The awards will be mailed to students, said Beth Miller, SSTA president.
“If individual teachers want to provide names for subject awards, they can,” she said. “There has never been anything preventing them from doing that.”
Whatever the high school’s teachers decide, Miller said she will support that decision. The ultimate goal of the teachers’ withdrawal of voluntary services is advocate for a high-quality, fully funded public education system, she noted.
“We are not going to buck up and prop up a system that we see being undervalued and funded by this government,” Miller said.
But the decision goes beyond the teachers’ strike, Grade 11 student Teal Imbeau said. The school held its scholarship, Governors General’s, honour roll, athletics, music and Grade 12 service awards, so Imbeau said she doesn’t understand why teachers won’t provide names for the subject awards.
The decision will affect students’ efforts to secure scholarships, as the awards boost one’s portfolio, Imbeau added, noting that Howe Sound students will be up against pupils from elsewhere who did receive them.
Imbeau and group of five students — Nanomi Lu, Megan Brant, Sarah Lepine, Alana Acorn and Paige Mader — have spearheaded a letter writing campaign to persuade the teachers to change their minds. So far, they’ve received a slew of support from community members. But their request to meet with the teachers has been refused.
“People are ready to go,” Imbeau said. “It is just the names holding us back.”
The ceremony could be held after exam week, Acorn said. With the backing they have received from Squamish residents, it wouldn’t take long to pull the event together, the Grade 12 student said.
“We have been told ‘no’ multiple times, but we are not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” Acorn said.
More goes into the subject awards than simply selecting the student with the highest mark, Howe Sound Secondary School Principal Christine Perkins said. It is a holistic approach that takes attitude and classroom achievements into account.
“That is why we need teachers’ involvement,” she said.
Perkins said she’s in a tough spot because she understands both parties’ arguments.
The Howe Sound teachers held a meeting last week, said Carl Walker, the SSTA representative for the school.
“I can’t speak to why [the teachers] wouldn’t go ahead with that,” Walker said. “It was an individual decision. The union didn’t stand in the way.”