As the only candidate, no vote was needed to determine Jim Iker as the new president of the B.C. Teachers' Association.
But if a vote had been needed, Matt Pearce, president of the Prince George District Teachers' Association, would have jumped on board Iker's campaign train.
"I think we're in very good hands with Jim as our president," said Pearce. "I think it would be very difficult for anyone to stand up to his experience and his credentials, he has quite the resume. He's been on the BCTF executive in a number of roles for the better part of a decade and he is our chief negotiator at the provincial bargaining table. He was a local president in Burns Lake for a long time and a teacher there as well in a small rural school and he really does understand education in the north."
Pearce says he has no doubts he will have Iker's backing with the BCTF executive to continue to push for changes in how the province addresses the difficulties in program delivery faced by secondary schools in sparsely-populated communities. He said some of those schools, which have only about 200 students, do not generate enough provincial funding when classes have only a dozen students.
"One of the things we face in Prince George, which he has seen from his home district is how much the cuts have hurt rural education, especially at the secondary level," said Pearce. "We've got three small secondary schools [Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount] and they really struggle to offer even the basic courses needed for graduation.
"We've learned that distance learning [providing courses electronically] does not fill the gap. It doesn't work for the majority of kids in rural schools, they're not successful without the support a classroom teacher brings us. I think that's something Jim knows really well from his district.
"The realities of giving an equitable education to families in rural settings has not been recognized by the government in the past decade," he said. "They've been hit harder than anyone has been hit and we think those rural kids are just as important. It's going to cost more to deliver a proper education to them but by not educating them we pay more in the long run. It certainly leads to depopulation of rural areas and you only have to look to Valemount to see that."
Pearce, who was at the BCTF's annual general meeting which wrapped up Tuesday in Vancouver, was encouraged that for the first time in BCTF history, a teacher from Quesnel has been elected to the executive. Teri Mooring, president of the Quesnel Teacher's Association, defeated Denise Moffatt of Surrey in the election for second vice-president Monday.
A motion put forward from Prince George to end the BCTF's grant program for eight small union locals whose member dues are insufficient to fund the salaries of a full-time union president was defeated Tuesday. Pearce said there are some districts in the province which have two or three full-time local presidents and the motion called for that to be reduced to one for each district, but it was defeated by a 55 per cent majority.
"It would have saved the BCTF about $1 million in members dues each year," said Pearce. "It was not successful, but it's gaining momentum and we intend to keep bringing it back until the presidential grant structure is reformed."