Wednesday July 23, 2014

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Keess re-elected as STF president

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Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation president Colin Keess (photo submitted)

Colin Keess will get a third term as the president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) – a rare occurrence for the union that represents the province's teachers.

Keess, who has been a long-time educator at the Estevan Comprehensive School, was re-elected at the STF's annual meeting on May 2 in Saskatoon. Two other provincial executive members, Randy Cline and Sonja Susut, were also vying for the president's job.

Cline will be the organization's vice-president in 2014-15.

Keess said he wanted a third term as president because there are several lingering issues facing the STF. Teachers are in the midst of bargaining with the provincial government on a new collective bargaining agreement.

A four-year agreement was tentatively reached last fall, but it was rejected by the STF's members.

"It's no secret that a defeated agreement creates certain tensions within an organization, and … although we appreciate the diversity of voice, we would certainly like to get a good agreement that addresses the value and the worth of teachers, and then we can go on and begin mending bridges," said Keess.

Keess couldn't comment on the current state of negotiations.

There are other issues facing teachers in the province, including a resolution for the school day and school year discrepancies in Saskatchewan.

"We would like to see a normalization of school year and school day brought back in, so that we're all teaching the same number of days every year, as we had every year until two years ago," said Keess.

Prior to school year deregulation, all schools had 300 minutes of instruction time per day and 1,500 minutes a week, and 197 teaching days each school year. Now it varies across the province.

"(South East) Cornerstone is spot on. They have 985 (instructional hours per year)," said Keess. "Some other school divisions have as many as 1,083."

It creates equity issues in the province, said Keess, because some teachers have to work up to 20 additional days per year, but for the same pay as teachers in other school divisions.

The school year and school day issue has parallel significance with the collective bargaining agreement, he said.

The Education Sector Strategic Plan, which was released by the provincial government last month, is another issue facing Saskatchewan's teachers.

"We're in mid-stride in a lot of those (issues), so to seek an extra year is based on the fact that I want to see a lot of those come to fruition, and then we can move on with something else," said Keess.

Keess said he hopes the STF will also be able to strengthen its ties with the provincial government, the Saskatchewan School Boards Association and within the STF during the upcoming year.


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