Parent volunteers step into school sports coaching roles

A contract dispute between teachers and the province has led to teachers opting out of extra-curricular activities such as coaching sports teams.

Parents recruited as teachers opt out of extra-curricular activities in protest

MacLeod Public School parent council has begun recruiting parents to fill in the gaps left behind by a contract dispute between teachers and the province. (CBC)

A parent council at MacLeod Public School in Sudbury is looking for volunteer sports coaches.

Teachers at the elementary school have decided to withdraw from those extracurriculars as part of the ongoing opposition to Bill 115.

 Bill 115 is the provincial piece of legislation that freezes teacher’s wages and limits their right to strike.

 The parent council met at the beginning of November to create a strategy that would allow some sports to continue for students at the school. It created posters looking for volunteer coaches in a number of sports, from basketball to volleyball.

 Bobbi Deisinger is a member of the parent council and has a daughter in grade seven at MacLeod.

 "As a parent I’m concerned about what the children will get to do during the school year," she said.

 The parent council said it will be focusing on restoring sports for students in grades seven and eight, in order to teach them the sporting skills they may need in high school.

 Although the recruitment of volunteer coaches is happening as a result of Bill 115, Deisinger said this offers a positive chance for more parents to get more involved in general.

 "This might be a good opportunity to tell parents it's a good time to come out and help us, as well, and get more involved with the school if you can," she said.

 The Rainbow District School Board said it’s not uncommon for schools to be seeking parent volunteers.

 "I would suggest that what they’re doing is trying to ensure that students still have that whole educational experience, and that experience involves extracurricular activities," said Norm Blaseg, director of education with the board.

 The MacLeod parent council said it’s particularly looking for volunteers to coach its school basketball teams since that will be the next sports season to begin.

 But Deisinger said it’s not just an issue of finding a basketball coach for MacLeod.

"Not all the schools will be able to find coaches," she said. "So there might not be a lot of teams within the school district for our kids to play against, as well."

 Though the decision to scale back coaching and other extracurricular activities remains the personal discretion of each teacher, Blaseg said there has been a reduced number of tournaments and competitions in the school board because of the lack of coaches.

Meanwhile, the local union representing secondary school teachers in Sudbury said it is set to begin job action on Monday.

According to James Clyke, the district president of the Rainbow local union, Blaseg and the school board were informed of the decision on Wednesday morning.

Clyke said job action will include cutting back on administrative duties. That includes tasks like supervising spare periods and preparing students for provincial math and literacy tests in grades nine and 10.

Secondary school teachers with the Rainbow board were eligible to begin job action November 15, following the start of job action earlier this week by teachers with 20 school boards in southern Ontario.