The Vancouver Sun
January 2, 2012. 3:01 pm • Section: Report Card, STAFF
My picks for the top newsmakers in B.C. education 2011:
1. George Abbott. Re-appointed education minister in March, Abbott received a surprisingly warm reception from all stakeholder groups, including the BCTF. But relations with the union have cooled since then as a result of difficult contract talks and discussions at another table to settle thorny issues of class size and composition. His biggest accomplishment in 2011 was winning unanimous support in the legislature (and quiet acceptance everywhere else) for legislation creating a new B.C. Teachers’ Council to replace the dysfunctional B.C. College of Teachers. We should know later this year if he has found a winning formula. Eyes will also be on Abbott as he creates a plan for so-called 21st century learning in public schools. (Add your views: www.bcedplan.ca)
2. Susan Lambert. She was a force to be reckoned with in 2011 as BCTF president, but her real test will be this year as she continues efforts to win a wage increase for teachers despite the government’s firm commitment to its public-sector wage freeze. The union has been involved in a work-to-rule job action since September but that’s unlikely to be sufficient pressure to win the kind of deal her members are expecting. The question now is, when will the BCTF move to a Phase 2 job action? And will that be a full-scale walkout? Lambert is also facing a showdown with government over Bills 27 and 28, which ended the union’s ability to negotiate class size and composition. The court declared the bills unconstitutional and gave the Liberals until April to resolve the issue. Government and the union do not agree on what sort of action the court ruling requires.
3. Patti Bacchus. While she didn’t have the same profile in 2011 as she did in 2010 when she went head-to-head with former education minister Margaret MacDiarmid, Bacchus continues to be the most recognizable and outspoken trustee in B.C. Whether you like that or not, depends on your politics because she isn’t Liberal friendly. That said, Bacchus topped the polls in Vancouver during trustee elections in November, as she did in 2008, and was once again elected chairwoman. Her challenge this year will be the same as it was last year: leading the board as it cuts millions in spending without closing schools.
By Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun
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