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BC administrators want a negotiated teacher deal, too

Since B.C. teachers walked out of classes and onto the sidewalk with picket signs in hand two weeks ago, the public has heard from the B.C. School Trustees Association, individual school boards, district superintendents, and even the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils regarding the slow pace of teacher contract negotiations.

But one voice has seemed conspicuously absent: the B.C. Principals and Vice-Principals Association.

The Tyee Solutions Society interviewed outgoing president Shelley Green when teachers moved into phase one of their three-phase strike on April 23, and Green said she's done other interviews since. A quick Google News search of her name turns up nothing; although a May 27 tweet from CBC's the Early Edition mentions an interview with Green. The association's Twitter account, however, avoids discussing the strike at all, much to the chagrin of some educators.

Others noted principals and vice-principals themselves have remained silent on the issue, although some have supported their teachers on the picket lines.

In an interview this morning, Green said she doesn't see the reason for a big statement from the organization.

"Ultimately it's the people at that table, they need to negotiate a contract," she said.

One rumour flying around the social media sphere is that school administrators are being paid for their silence.

But that, Green said with a laugh, is just a rumour.

Trustees and superintendents speak for the school district, she added, which includes principals and vice-principals. When those bodies speak out about the strike, they represent administrators, too.

Neither the principals and vice-principals association, the employers' association, nor the Ministry of Education has told school administrators to be quiet. The only communication has been an acknowledgement of their extra workload from Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

"We got a call from Minster Fassebender a couple of weeks ago basically being very appreciative of the amount of work that principals and vice principals are doing to try and get the job done so that students could have as many experiences at the end of the year as possible," she said, adding they were still expected to do their own jobs on top of the extra work.

Teacher job action took them away from many duties administrators have had to make up for, including organizing graduation ceremonies, ensure provincial exams run smoothly, and getting exams to the teachers to mark. CUPE school support workers, who have refused to cross teacher picket lines, have also left behind duties principals and vice-principals have had to take on.

If the employers' association and the union had reached a negotiated settlement by now, today would have been the last day teachers and principals would be on the job.

But Green said if the strike continues past June 30, in some districts principals and vice-principals will be the ones submitting exam marks this summer, and they may have to take on extra duties for distance learning courses, too.

Maintaining a positive relationship between school administrators and their staff is important, she added, because they're a team.

"Principals and vice-principals will be those people that, when this all comes to an end -- because it will -- will put that world back together and recreate those teams in their schools, and it's a difficult place to be," said Green, adding administrators also support their teachers now, recognizing the stress they are under.

"Then when it's all over, there's going to be some stress, some strain, people feeling upset, and [principals and vice-principals will need] to deal with all those scenarios to put that world back together, and we've certainly been there before."

Katie Hyslop reports on education and youth issues for the Tyee Solutions Society. Follow her on Twitter.

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