Expanded role eyed for superintendents’ college

October 6, 2020 Jonathan Teghtmeyer (he/him), ATA News Editor-in-Chief

Changes being considered are a threat to the teaching profession and public education, says ATA president

Creating a professional college for superintendents would divide the teaching profession and pose a threat to public education.

That’s the assessment of Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling in the wake of news that the provincial government is exploring new roles and responsibilities for the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS).

“Teachers, school leaders and system leaders have all been part of a unified teaching profession for over 100 years,” Schilling said. “Superintendents are teachers and it should remain that way. We don’t need to define a new profession for superintendents.”

The government initiated consultations on CASS’s role during the summer. A July 31 email invited school boards and education stakeholder organizations to arrange for “in-depth discussions of the opportunities and challenges associated with expanding the role of CASS,” to be held before the end of August. The email said the discussions were being held in preparation for the fall legislative session, which begins Oct. 20.

There are a number of changes being considered that represent a significant threat to public education, Schilling said, such as the removal of a requirement that superintendents have teaching certificates.

“We don’t have a professional college for chief medical officers of health,” Schilling said. “It would make no sense to have a chief medical officer of health who is not a doctor, and because they are doctors, they are members of the college of physicians and surgeons.”

A discussion guide used in consultations around CASS’s role states that if CASS were made a legislated professional organization, this would usually mean that membership would be made mandatory for some categories of individuals and that CASS would be responsible for investigating, adjudicating and resolving complaints of alleged unprofessional conduct or professional competence filed against its members.

Currently, the registrar at Alberta Education oversees complaints about unprofessional conduct and professional competence filed against superintendents and deputy superintendents.

Expanded membership for CASS

The discussion guide asks to whom mandatory membership should apply and who should be eligible for associate membership.

Schilling is concerned that principals could get swept up in the redefining of teachers and leaders within the education system.

“The premier stated in advance of the 2019 election that he viewed principals as managers, so I do worry the government could lump them in with system leaders instead of with teachers,” Schilling said.

For its part, CASS says changes to its role would advance the work done in creating the Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard (SLQS).

“We believe that regulatory status being granted to CASS would optimize the success of all students through common standards of leadership practice and conduct being made applicable to all out-of-scope system leaders across the province,” said CASS executive director David Keohane in a written statement.

“Further to the intent of the (SLQS), superintendents and system education leaders dedicated to supporting their work play an important role in establishing conditions under which effective governance, quality school leadership, excellence in teaching, and the provision of inclusive specialized services and supports can thrive.”

Schilling disagrees that the professionalization of superintendents would provide benefits for student success.

“Albertans should be concerned,” he said. “We have one of the world’s best performing public education systems, and elevating the role of superintendents would alter the culture of collegiality and collaboration that has led to much of our success.”

Schilling also expressed concern about the timing of the August consultations, which were announced a little over a week after CASS’s former executive director appeared with the premier and education minister at a government news conference supporting plans for the relaunch of schools.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense that the government and superintendents would be sneaking this through at a time when everyone in the education sector should have been focused on ensuring the safety of students and staff during a pandemic,” Schilling said.

The government has not yet committed to making the changes. In a statement sent to the ATA News, education ministry press secretary Colin Aitchison stated, “We are consulting broadly on this matter, and we will inform Albertans if we intend to make any changes. It should be noted that the Alberta School Boards Association has a resolution that supports the provincial government developing legislation to make CASS a professional regulatory body.” ❚

Also In This Issue