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Athletes, jazz musicians lose in dispute

Apr 27 2012

Middle school track athletes and young jazz musicians are the latest students hit by B.C. teachers' decision to withdraw from volunteer activities.

The Lower Island Middle School Sports Association has decided to cancel its annual track and field meets for hundreds of students in Grades 6, 7 and 8.

Heather Lederis, the association's athletic coordinator, said she hoped individual schools would continue to have track programs. But there will be no regionwide meets culminating in a championship in Centennial Stadium at the University of Victoria.

Lederis said badminton and field hockey leagues are also cancelled. Boys rugby will go ahead.

Meanwhile, Glanford Middle School music director Pam Gerrits confirmed Thursday that she has cancelled the Capital City Jazz Festival because of the vote by B.C. teachers to stop volunteering. Gerrits estimates that she puts in 200 hours a year of her own time to plan and organize the festival.

Jazz ensembles from 16 middle and senior secondary schools were to take part in the event on May 11. Students were to perform on four stages before combining in a mass performance at the end of the day.

Gerrits, who founded the festival five years ago, said in an e-mail to participating schools that it was a difficult decision.

"I have requested and received advice from a number of people at all levels, and have made my own decision based on my personal beliefs," she said.

"The preparation, organization, and time involved in setup, take-down and running the festival are my own personal time, and I have decided to honour the intent of this job action."

The B.C. Teachers' Federation voted last week to oppose the Education Improvement Act by pulling out of extracurricular activities. The union says the law, introduced as Bill 22, attacks teachers' rights and erodes classroom learning conditions.

Liz Forster, vice-president of the Glanford Music Parents' Association, said the students are "definitely disappointed" at losing the festival.

"It's really popular," she said. "It's always a big event and the kids like to come from the other schools."

Forster said the impact of the teachers' job action is frustrating, but she also realizes that many teachers are caught in the middle.

"I mean, I understand it and I'm not angry or anything, but I feel kind of sorry for the kids because things have had to be changed," she said.

lkines@timescolonist.com