Question: Why is the Association hiring yet another Member Services staff officer?
Answer: The budget passed by delegates of the 2019 Annual Representative Assembly includes funding to hire an additional executive staff officer as well as an additional professional staff officer in the Member Services program area. The request for these new positions was driven by substantially increased demand for Member Services support generally and, in particular, a significant increase in the number and complexity of discipline cases.
This increase in demand is not a temporary spike. The number of calls to Member Services for assistance has consistently grown by 10 per cent, year over year, for at least the last three years. In the last school year alone, the number of investigations ordered in response to complaints has more than doubled, and the number of ongoing investigations has increased five-fold, an indication of their increased complexity.
In accordance with the Teaching Profession Act, every misconduct complaint must be investigated, and hearings, when ordered, as well as appeals must take place within strict timelines. So there is little flexibility around managing case loads.
Furthermore, the policing of teacher professional conduct is a legislated responsibility of the Association that cannot be put aside because it is inconvenient or expensive, or because we do not have sufficient staff resources in place. While the Association’s professional conduct processes are intended primarily to protect the public interest, the ability to complete an investigation and undertake, if necessary, a hearing or an invitation in a timely manner is also a service to teachers. Being the subject of a complaint is highly stressful and the best the Association can do for members who find themselves in this position is to bring the process to a conclusion as swiftly and fairly as possible.
There seem to be a number of factors that are driving growth in demand, including
- threats to teachers’ employment status and declining classroom conditions relating to financial pressures facing school boards;
- increases in the size of the student and teacher populations, resulting in more complaints in total;
- tensions arising out of the inclusion of students with special learning and behavioural needs in the classroom;
- growing public awareness of the Association’s professional conduct processes;
- escalating parental demands together with diminished deference to teachers’ professional judgment;
- a growing tendency for complainants to name multiple teachers in the same or related complaints; and
- the use of professional discipline processes by employers to augment employment-related sanctions.
Delegates at the 2019 ARA appreciated this emerging reality and provided the Association with the resources we need to respond. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).