Community steps up for MSS sports programs

MANITOULIN—Last fall, the 60,000 members of the Ontario High School Teachers’ Federation withdrew from extracurricular activities and sports in protest against Bill 115, which imposed a two-year wage freeze on Ontario teachers, as well as taking away their collective bargaining rights.

The decision prompted a student walk out at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) with students airing concerns about the possible loss of their sports and other extracurricular activites. Many schools throughout Ontario have had to cancel teacher-supervised activities unless community or parental volunteers step up to fill the role.

At MSS, sports have continued thanks to many generous Island adult volunteers such as Lianne Hovingh, who has taken over the role of coaching the senior girls’ volleyball team, with assistance from husband and wife team Joanna Rosenbaum and Derek Debassige, Kiera Lanktree, who has assumed the role of coach of the junior girls’ volleyball team, Sherry Toner, who has been coaching both basketball teams, and Brad Bond coach of the Mustangs senior boys’ hockey team.

“I am a EA (education assistant) and my union is not taking a stand and I don’t foresee a problem,” Mr. Bond previously told The Expositor. “The other teams in the hockey league are either part of the Catholic School Board, which have their contracts settled, or are members of the Rainbow District School Board, which has community coaches lined up. So I don’t really foresee any problems.”

The girls’ volleyball team has also been doing well, thanks to a coaching team of Ms. Hovingh, Ms. Rosenbaum and Mr. Debassige.

“I have a lot of good memories about my high school years, including being on sports teams, so I volunteered because I didn’t want the teachers’ union taking that away from these girls,” explained Ms. Hovingh. “My oldest daughter is in her last year of high school so for her and the other girls, not getting to play a sport that they love to do something that they had nothing to do with made me want to help with the coaching all the more.”

Ms. Hovingh added that the girls on the team had been very committed, attending two after school practices a week, one hosted by Ms. Hovingh and the other by Ms. Rosenbaum and Mr. Debassige, in addition to holding their own practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays during their lunch break.

“It might be better had the team had their real coach, but we’re doing the best we can, all things considered, and Joanna and Derek have been a great help at the Tuesday night practices,” continued Ms. Hovingh, adding that MSS Principal Laurie Zahnow had been very helpful as well.

“Lianne called and asked us if we would help because Derek had coached the boys’ volleyball team in the past,” explained Ms. Rosenbaum. “We’ve really enjoyed the experience so far. The girls have really been improving and getting better with every practice.”

The senior girls’ Mustang volleyball team will be heading to Blind River on February 6 for a tournament, with the winning team going on to compete at the Northern Ontario Secondary School Athletics (NOSSA) championships.

As for Ontario teachers, the McGuinty government imposed contract terms on teachers on January 3, making strike action illegal. As a backlash, both Ontario elementary and high school teachers’ unions have encouraged their members to continue their boycott from extracurricular activities and sports, but as some teachers wish to return to volunteer activities, a divide among teachers may occur in the future.

Robin Burridge