Nanaimo students got an extra day of summer vacation before making their return to school today..
While students in other Island districts returned to school on Tuesday, Nanaimo-Ladysmith district staff members spent their first day attending Success for All sessions.
It was the first of two in-service days created to encourage staff to work toward common goals. The days are not considered the same as professional development days.
Teachers earned the right to pro-D days through contract negotiations in the 1980s. The school district was able to introduce Success for All sessions due to a change to the School Act.
Last year, to accommodate new instructional modes, such as learn-at-home, the province re-defined the school calendar as a minimum number of hours of instruction: 853 in Kindergarten, 878 in Grades 1 to 7 and 952 hours for Grades 8 to 12.
"When we looked at that we had more than the required number of hours, so it allowed us to provide the Success for All days," said Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman.
Besides the in-service days, students will spend another six days home for pro-D days throughout the school year. They are on Sept. 30, Oct. 25, Nov. 12, Feb. 24 and May 5. A second Success for All in-service day is on May 6. The teachers association organizes the October and February events. The rest are school-based.
Last year, the first ever Success for All day was held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, at a cost of $63,000.
Professional development also comes with a cost: $359,000 is allocated in the budget. The district was unable to provide the cost of other contractual arrangements with employee groups for funds they administer on behalf of their members.
That compares to an overall district budget of $133.7 million, of which $119.6 million is for operating costs; $7.9 million is for special-purpose funds and $6.2 million for capital expenses.
Teachers do hear from parents complaining about school days lost to professional development. But there are benefits.
"It allows teachers to change their practices, to grow, to learn a new way of delivering the curriculum, helping them personally grow," said Mike Ball, Nanaimo District Teachers' Association president.
Teachers are required to attend pro-D days, but attendance is not recorded.
"You're dealing with professionals," Ball said.
Occasionally, parents ask teachers why pro-D days aren't scheduled outside the school year. "I work for 10 months of the year and I get paid for 10 months of the year, and we do our own development outside the school year as individuals," Ball said.
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