WATERLOO REGION — Waterloo mom Tracy Morency says she’s fine with high school teachers suspending extracurricular activities for one day as a protest against the provincial government.
But if it stretches into days or weeks, like the public elementary teachers have said they may do, she goes from being a supporter to an opponent of teachers.
“If my son loses his football season, they won’t like me,” said Morency, who would be at the doorstep of the public school board and her local MPP complaining about the loss of extracurricular activities.
She said she would be “extremely” angry. “Every kid has something that makes them kick. It’s football for Josh.”
Morency’s son, Josh, is a Grade 11 student at Bluevale Collegiate Institute. He plays centre on the team and he was told that practice was cancelled because of “political reasons.”
Her 14-year-old daughter, Jessi, is a goalie on the field hockey team at Eastwood Collegiate Institute. Practices were cancelled on Wednesday.
Football practices at Bluevale were extended Monday and Tuesday night in lieu of lost field time because their first game against St. Mary’s High School is scheduled for Friday.
“I give the coaches credit for having the kids stay later to compensate for today,” said Morency. “It appears to me that OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation) is taking a higher road than ETFO (Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario).”
Secondary school teachers held a day of protest on Wednesday, wearing armbands or black clothing and suspending extracurricular activities.
They’re angry with the Dalton McGuinty Liberal government for passing legislation this week that freezes their pay for two years, except for those moving within the salary grid, in exchange for three unpaid days.
The legislation also reduces sick days to 10, and unused sick days can’t be cashed out at retirement. It prohibits strikes or any job action.
Rob Gascho, local district 24 president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said the armbands and black clothing is a sign of mourning for the loss of collective bargaining rights.
Gascho said the wearing black campaign will likely continue each Wednesday but dropping extracurriculars will not. For now, it was strictly a one-day protest, he said.
Their counterparts, the public elementary teachers, are being asked by their union to “take a pause” on extracurriculars which include work with school teams, clubs and collecting money for pizza and hotdog lunches.
The union is also calling for elementary teachers not to attend school or system-wide meetings on Monday as a form of protest. Mondays are being dubbed “McGuinty Mondays.”
Elaine Fitzgeorge, a parent at Stewart Avenue Public School in Cambridge and chair of the school council, said the reasons for the teachers’ protest are legitimate, but she’s concerned about how teachers are showing their disdain.
“I don’t know if this (suspending extracurriculars) is the right solution,” said the mother of two children at Stewart Avenue.
“Sacrificing the kids could be a mistake,” she said.
And while extracurriculars are in question at public schools, it’s business as usual at all local Catholic schools. The provincial union and the government signed an agreement earlier this summer and local union representatives say they will respect the deal.
Around the region, some public high schools held after-school practices with assistants and administrators, while other schools complied with their union’s request.
At Galt Collegiate Institute, football practice was cancelled, but practices were longer on Monday and Tuesday night so players didn’t lose field time.
At Waterloo Collegiate Institute, football practice was cancelled but it will be doubled on Thursday.
Some teachers don’t support their union position in taking sports and clubs away from students but reluctantly followed the federation’s directive.
Morency, who has friends who are teachers, said she understands teachers are trying to show their dissatisfaction with the government and she’s willing to cut them some slack.
“When I look at the big picture, they are trying to balance it out and putting the kids first,” she said.
“Teachers work bloody hard. I get all that,” Morency said, adding she works hard too and when her husband lost his job for 11 months and then got a new job, it came with a 20-per-cent pay cut.
“We sucked it up and moved on,” she said.
Morency blames McGuinty’s move to support full-day kindergarten as a main reason for the province’s $15-billion deficit.
After touring a Toronto college Wednesday, McGuinty said teacher-supervised activities outside the classroom are important to both students and families, and teachers know that “in their heart of hearts.”
“I know we’ve got some differences, we’re into a bit of a rough patch right now and I understand that and can even accept that,” McGuinty said. “But what I can’t accept would be any decision on the part of teachers to withdraw services that are in fact part and parcel of what kids have come to expect from Ontario’s great teachers.”