Question: I’ll soon be moving from my current position as a school principal to a position in my district’s central office. I gather I will be able to decide whether or not to remain a member of the Association — what should I be considering when making this choice?
Answer: Congratulations on your move to central office! One of the strengths of public education in Alberta is that most district administrators have had previous experience in the classroom that they can bring to bear in their new roles. I hope that, given the choice, you will continue to support your profession by remaining a full, contributing member of the Association.
While superintendents and their chief deputies are precluded from active membership in the Association (they may take associate membership), persons employed in central office roles who do not engage in instruction (the job of teachers) or directly supervise teachers (the job of principals) are typically eligible to elect to be active, associate or non-members of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. The process is governed by the Teacher Membership Status Election Regulation (TMSER) under the Teaching Profession Act. Of those able to make a choice, seven out of 10 elect full, active membership in the Association and one out of 10 elect associate membership.
In accordance with the regulation, if your board believes you to be eligible to make an election, it will notify you and the Association of this within 60 days of your appointment by filing a Form 1. The board’s assessment will be reviewed by the Association to ensure that the position does not involve duties reserved for active members.
Assuming you are, in fact, eligible to make an election, you must then decide how you want to proceed. This decision is yours to make independently and without being influenced by the board. It is communicated to the Association and your employer by filing a Form 2 within 60 days of receiving the Form 1.
A teacher who does not file a Form 2 is deemed to retain their current membership status (active membership) by default. Making an election should be regarded as a one-time decision. According to section 5.1(2)(b) of the Teaching Profession Act, a teacher’s election is not tied to the specific central office position; it is tied to all central office work, and the election remains in force even if you move to a different central office position. The regulatory process can be a bit daunting — if you require assistance navigating it, please contact the Association for advice.
If you remain an active member, and I do hope you do, you will continue to receive benefits including Association representation, legal services and assistance with contractual matters. In addition, you will continue to receive all applicable union and professional services on the same basis as any other teacher. You will remain a member of the local and be able to participate in all aspects of Association life, including providing service on provincial committees.
Associate members are eligible to hold elected office in the Association and to vote; however, those who are eligible for active membership but who opt for associate membership will not receive legal representation and defence, and the rights of membership and associated services will be severely restricted. Registration for Association events may be closed to, or only available at an additional charge for, individuals who have not elected the highest level of membership available.
Those who elect not to be members receive no services from the Association.
Electing other than the highest level of membership available will severely prejudice a teacher’s ability to obtain subsequent employment with the Association.
Individuals who are not active members are not subject to the Code of Professional Conduct, but they are subject to the Practice Review of Teaching Regulation, which has substantially similar requirements. Central office teachers with responsibilities in the area of human resources have sometimes expressed concern that their active membership could bring them into conflict with the Code of Professional Conduct, particularly sections 13, 14 and 20, which relate to teachers’ interactions with their colleagues.
In fact, having active membership status should not cause difficulty; section 23(3) of the Teaching Profession Act indicates that Association discipline processes are not intended to apply to labour relations matters.
In addition to existing programs focused on leadership and on legal issues, the Association is in the process of developing new programming specifically designed for our colleagues serving in central office roles. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of membership, or about opportunities for administrators, please contact my colleague Brian Andrais, associate executive secretary, who has special responsibility for assisting central office members. Brian can be reached at 780-447-9439 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at Barnett House (email@example.com).