New regulatory body for superintendents seen as a step in de-professionalization of teaching
If the new College of Alberta School Superintendents Act successfully moves through the legislature, it has the potential to fracture Alberta’s strong and unified teaching profession, says ATA president Jason Schilling.
“In my mind, there’s one teaching profession and we have different roles within that profession,” said Schilling. “Splitting off CASS into their own group undermines the collegial ideal of us being one cohesive profession working together towards a common goal.”
On March 9, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange introduced Bill 55 in the Alberta legislature.
“Having an education system full of tremendously professional leaders will foster better outcomes for all students across our great province, which is something Alberta parents and students deserve,” said LaGrange in a public statement.
Currently, the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) is a voluntary education stakeholder organization and membership is voluntary. Bill 55 proposes to transform that entity into the regulatory body for all school board superintendents, deputy superintendents and central office education leaders within public, separate and francophone divisions. Membership will become mandatory.
Schilling was relieved to see the framework for the new regulatory body will maintain some of the positive components existing in the current CASS model. For example, the proposed legislation upholds the requirement for regulated members to possess a teaching certificate.
“There was some worry that that might change,” Schilling said. “The decisions they (superintendents) make will be ones that affect the learning of students and how things are taught. You want someone in that position who has a strong understanding of pedagogy.”
Schilling acknowledged that the creation of a separate regulatory body for superintendents could also have some negative repercussions down the road.
“If they were somehow to change the regulations so a superintendent doesn’t have to possess a teaching certificate, that would be a sure way to de-professionalize the profession,” he said.
Another concern of Schilling mirrors what is currently happening in Manitoba’s education system — the creation of a distinct regulatory body for school division administrators may eventually open the door for the removal of school principals and vice-principals from the Association.
“It would set up an ‘us versus them’ dynamic,” Schilling said. “That culture of collegiality that we enjoy now would be ruined and that would be a huge detriment to education in Alberta.”
Schilling noted that the new legislation introduces some elements that should strengthen the superintendent role. For example, it will provide a common code of conduct and disciplinary process that will apply to all regulated members. It will also greatly speed up the hiring process. Currently, a school board must seek ministry approval to hire a new superintendent. Under Bill 55, the division would have the final say.
Though both Schilling and LaGrange agree that Alberta has one of the strongest public education systems in the world, Schilling is concerned that the passing of Bill 55 could alter that.
“Collegiality and collaboration are important to a unified profession in Alberta. That this bill seems to divide the system up is troubling.” ❚