Long weekend for public elementary students in Sarnia-Lambton

Educators with the Lambton-Kent District School Board picketing in Sarnia during a rotating one-day teacher strike. 10 February 2020. (BlackburnNews.com photo by Colin Gowdy)

Public elementary teachers across Sarnia-Lambton hit the picket lines again Monday morning as part of another rotating one-day strike.

The Lambton-Kent District School Board was one of nine boards across the province impacted by Monday’s job action.

Bright’s Grove Kindergarten Teacher Tammy McDermott was joined by hundreds of her colleagues as they marched around the local school board’s education centre on Wellington Street.

McDermott said they’re receiving plenty of public support.

“The days that we’ve been out here, we get lots of honks, we’ve got people dropping off food and drinks and everything else, we have parents coming out with their kids to the picket line to support us and making signs and telling us we’re out here for the right reasons and we’re doing everything that we can,” said McDermott. “It is an interruption to their lives and we realize that and recognize that, but sometimes you have to have a little bit of an interruption to get your point across.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce continues to stress that teacher wage increases is the biggest issue at the bargaining table.

McDermott said she disagrees.

“It’s not a wage increase, we’re asking for the cost of living. We’re already out our 2.5 per cent for the days that we’ve been out here already. It’s not about the money because we wouldn’t be doing this if that was the point because we’re never going to be making that money back, we’re just doing what we can for our students.”

Bright's Grove Kindergarten Teacher Tammy McDermott pickets outside Sarnia Arena during a rotating one-day teacher strike. 10 February 2020. (BlackburnNews.com photo by Colin Gowdy)

Bright’s Grove Kindergarten Teacher Tammy McDermott pickets outside Sarnia Arena during a rotating one-day teacher strike. 10 February 2020. 

McDermott said she doesn’t accept the government’s explanation that there simply isn’t enough money in the budget to continue down the same path with education.

“[Doug Ford] has money in the budget to give themselves their 14 per cent raise, he has money in the budget to talk about beer in stores, he’s not putting the money where he should be putting it and that is education. These kids are our future and we need to look out for them,” she said. “We’re out here for the right reasons, about the students, unlike what Ford says — he’s for the students? Not so much. You can’t teach in classes where you have high numbers and the behaviour needs that are in the classroom. The ECAs and the EAs, they help us to do our jobs.”

High Park Teacher Nicole Schultz said teachers will come together outside of the school board office on Wellington Street.

“Same pickets, we will be here,” said Schultz. “We have the support of the Sarnia Arena open for us which is fantastic. We’ll have all our schools represented. It will be cold but we’re here for the right reasons.”

On Tuesday, all 83,000 members of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario will take part in a province-wide walkout.

Contract talks between the union and provincial government broke down on January 31st.

Meanwhile, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) is stepping up its administrative job action this week.

Starting Tuesday, February 11 the union says its 45,000 members will only undertake their scheduled teaching and supervision duties. Teachers will not accept any additional tasks or assignments but will continue to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Ontario’s French school teachers, members with the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens, (AEFO) are planning a province-wide strike on Thursday.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation is holding rotating strikes again on Thursday, February 13. Sarnia-Lambton schools are not impacted by that job action.