Claremont Grade 12 students Daniel Downie and Leah Flatman graduate next month after having spent the year juggling grad planning and heavy course loads – both responsibilities affected by this year’s teacher job action.

Grad season caps year of strife at public schools

Students, parents keep graduation ceremonies on track

They’ve dropped cash on dresses and tuxes, they’ve studied for their provincial exams and Grade 12s are in their final days before their graduation ceremonies.

The monumental event for teens was put into question after a year of job action culminating in the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s withdrawal from voluntary extracurricular activities last month.

“I think we were caught in the crossfire,” said Daniel Downie a Grade 12 student at Claremont secondary school. “Around strike time (March 5 to 7) there was confusion. We felt divided … now we can focus on the last month of school.”

Downie and his friend Leah Flatman, both members of the school’s grad organizing committee, said rumours of how the job action might affect their graduation were more damaging than any actual changes seen at the school.

Prior to the loss of voluntary extracurricular activities on April 20, their teacher sponsors made clear what jobs students needed to have done to ensure their ceremony a success, they agreed.

The three-day strike, however, did put real pressure on Flatman and Downie, students of advanced placement Grade 12 biology.

“Being in Grade 12 and you miss some days, it affects you,” Flatman said. “It’s hard to get back in the loop and catch up.”

Parental involvement to ease the pressure didn’t change much, Downie said. Parents continued with their annual commitment of organizing the non-school sanctioned all-night dry grad event.

“Teachers, parents and kids, we’ve all been confused by the situation,” said Markus Clayton, valedictorian and grad committee member at Spectrum Community school.

“It’s just taken more work with the core group of kids who were organizing. We had to take on more stuff because teachers can’t. The kids got more involved which was cool.”

While organizing school dances was a challenge without teacher sponsors, Clayton, like his Claremont counterparts, said he saw the uncertainty around the main graduation event as the job action’s most damaging outcome.

Thomas Fleming, education historian and professor emeritus at the University of Victoria, said many parents were worried about their child’s university application status throughout the spring.

“What I see in the media, is that parents are losing patience with the executive of the BCTF,” he said.

Fleming suggests a number of ways in which the province could diminish the federation’s power, including allowing all B.C. colleges to offer Grade 11 and Grade 12 courses.

“I think many teachers out there in the system might like to work in a different system,” said Fleming, who has taught at nearly all grade levels over the course of his career.

“The system we have built is so captured by it’s own bureaucracy.”

It’s a system that has Downie and Flatman feeling trepidation over speaking openly about their final year of school – nerves felt in addition to the standard pre-grad jitters.

Saanich grad ceremonies

-Mount Doug – Recognition ceremony, 6 p.m., May 23, Farquhar Auditorium

-Spectrum – Recognition ceremony, 5 p.m., May 24, Farquhar Auditorium

-Reynolds – Recognition ceremony, 6 p.m. May 25, Farquhar Auditorium

-Lambrick Park – Recognition ceremony, 7 p.m., June 8, Farquhar Auditorium

-St. Michaels – 9 to 11 a.m., June 16, Farquhar Auditorium

-St. Margaret’s – noon to 2 p.m., June 23, Farquhar Auditorium

Pacific Christian School – Graduation recognition ceremony, 3 p.m., June 27, Glad Tidings Church

-Claremont – 5:30 p.m., June 28, Farquhar Auditorium

-St. Andrew’s – Graduation Commissioning Mass, 6 to 9 p.m., June 28, St. Andrew’s Cathedral






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