Question: What was your assessment of this year’s Annual Representative Assembly?
Answer: My take was that it was a very good meeting. Delegates approved the budget, and that will provide the resources necessary to ensure effective operation of the Association in the year ahead. I was very pleased that delegates agreed to increase the complement of executive staff from 31 to 34, and we will proceed with the competitions necessary to fill the vacancies as quickly as we can. The last increase to the executive staff complement was effective in 2007, and the growth in the profession from the November 2006 member count to the projected member count for 2015/16 is more than 10 per cent.
There was a notable difference in the attitudes of members this year compared to last. Former Education Minister Jeff Johnson attended last year’s ARA, just a couple of weeks after the release of recommendations authored by his Task Force for Teaching Excellence, and the minister was not well received by delegates, who voted unanimously that they did not have confidence in him.
The appearance this year by Sarah Hoffman, MLA-elect for Edmonton-Glenora, on behalf of premier-designate Rachel Notley, was a highlight of the assembly. Her comments about working with teachers as partners and about having trust in government were welcomed by all delegates and suggest a very new tone between government and the teaching profession.
Two major issues surfaced at the meeting. It’s apparent that even though the incoming government has made it very clear that it intends to fund student growth, some school boards are not responding to those commitments and intend to reduce staff in line with the requirements of the former Prentice government budget. Teachers are concerned that the ultimate effect of such a decision will be to bankroll government funding into reserves, rather than spending the money on supporting student growth this fall.
In addition, teachers were perplexed by very recent and controversial decisions about the Student Learning Assessment (SLA) program, including the revised nature of assessments, scheduling and participation. Delegates responded by calling for a moratorium on SLAs while crucial details going forward are sorted out.
All in all, it was a very good ARA. The Association has the resources it requested to meet members’ needs, and delegates left the meeting united and upbeat.❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).