Editorial - On leadership and change

September 27, 2011
Gordon Thomas

As I write this editorial, Gary Mar, Doug Horner and Alison Redford are in the final days of a long campaign seeking the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party.

I encourage all members to consider being active in this leadership campaign—and, for that matter, any leadership campaign. Get involved in choosing the next premier of Alberta. Assess the candidates for their education platforms. In my role with the Alberta Teachers’ Association, I have met with all of these candidates to discuss their views on education. I look forward to working with the new ­premier, no matter which candidate wins, as the teaching profession and the government work together to improve public education in Alberta. While the Association is decidedly unpartisan, we do encourage our members to get involved in public affairs—and this leadership competition will have a real impact on the ­province and our future.

The year ahead will have additional challenges. I am encouraged by the prospect of tripartite discussions that could be constructive as we move into local bargaining in 2012. Teachers have many concerns they want resolved—starting with the replacement of the 1,000 or more teachers lost at the end of June. On this point, all three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates say that the lost teaching positions will be restored, although the timeline for doing so varies from candidate to candidate. We will also need to address the government’s agenda of educational transformation, which holds some real prospects for Alberta’s teaching profession. The government is looking at possible directions that will strengthen Alberta’s already world-class education system and ensure that we maintain that status into the future. We are studying changes to how curriculum is made, including a greater role for teachers and school jurisdictions in establishing curriculum. By moving to a provincial core curriculum and creating more space for teachers in their communities to write curriculum, we increase engagement among teachers—and ultimately with students in the classroom. We need to see more action taken to support inclusion, including wraparound services to support teachers’ work. With the government interested in learning opportunities characterized as “any time, any pace, any place,” we need to clarify limits respecting instructional and assignable time. Educational transformation will take leadership, and we are committed to ensuring that the teaching profession plays its role to maintain Alberta’s education system. Leadership will also mean change—a larger role in curriculum, changes to teacher education and the growing need for professional development to meet teacher-identified learning needs. There is much to consider.

There has also been a transition in ATA leadership this summer, as Dennis Theobald commenced his new role as the Association’s associate executive secretary. I’ve been minding this page while Provincial Executive Council chooses a new associate coordinator, communications. I am pleased that Jonathan Teghtmeyer has been selected for this position, and he will assume the role of editor-in-chief of the ATA News with the next issue. I wish him all the best in his new role—and I’ll continue watching from my column (just to the right and down a bit) …

I welcome your comments—contact me at gordon.thomas@ata.ab.ca.