The relationship between the Kamloops-Thompson School District and the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers' Association was strained during months of contract negotiation disputes.
But a new joint initiative will help heal that rift while bettering the education system for kids and teachers' careers, said district Supt. Terry Sullivan and union president Jason Karpuk.
Over the summer, the school board learned that the province selected Kamloops-Thompson as one of only three districts in B.C. to benefit from a $368,000 teacher-mentoring program.
The union and administration are now working together to determine the framework for the program. And that's helping to get both education branches back inline after contentious contract disputes.
"I think we really want to find ways to work together with the association on behalf of the children of the school district," said Sullivan.
Karpuk agreed working co-operatively helps bring parties together. He added that tensions were felt most acutely at the provincial level and that the local collaboration may send a message to ministry officials.
"This goes a long way to show that we can work together when we're given the tools to do so," said Karpuk.
The mentorship program, which pairs more experienced teachers with newer ones, was initiated at the University of British Columbia and involved the B.C. Teachers' Federation, the B.C. School Superintendents' Association and the Ministry of Education.
When Karpuk learned about the initiative in April, he approached Sullivan to gauge interest and discuss a joint application.
"I felt the district here was significantly diverse enough to capture a lot of the areas they were trying to target," said Karpuk. "We have a lot of rural schools. We have an urban centre. We have a fairly large First Nations population. We have a one-room school. We have middle schools, high schools. So we covered the whole gamut."
Sullivan agreed, adding that numerous new teachers have been hired over the past five years and mentorship has proven helpful in the past.
Karpuk's instincts about the region's suitability were right and the province announced its support of the local district along with the Kootenay-Columbia School District and the Haida Gwaii School District.
Since the announcement, Kamloops-Thompson administration and union representatives have gathered as a joint steering committee to determine program delivery.
It will require some relief time for more experienced teachers to accommodate the time they spend with newcomers.