Photos by Bromley Chamberlain
Annual Representative Assembly kicks off year of anniversary acknowledgements
Celebrating the past while looking ahead to the future was a common theme during the 2017 version of the Annual Representative Assembly (ARA).
The two-day event, which took place in Edmonton May 20 and 21, was the organization’s 100th annual general meeting and included numerous mentions of its 100th anniversary, which will officially take place in 2018.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his congratulations via a video message, noting that the 100th ARA was also Mark Ramsankar’s last as president, as he’ll be moving to Ottawa in July.
“Mark, congratulations on your new role as president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, where you’ll also happen to represent this former teacher,” Trudeau said, referring to himself, “and thank you for all you’ve done and will continue to do for teachers and students.”
Education Minister David Eggen shared his congratulations by announcing that, in recognition of the ATA’s 100th anniversary, a monument honouring the contribution of teachers and public education will be built on the legislature grounds in Edmonton. A prominent spot has been selected near the Federal Building, where it will be seen by school groups visiting the legislature. The Association will pay for the monument.
“This will be a piece that serves to remind Albertans of the valuable role that the ATA has played in the last hundred years and in the next hundred years of our province,” Eggen said.
The Association also unveiled a new television commercial that commemorates the 100th anniversary. The commercial, which will air throughout the next year as part of a multimedia campaign, is focused on the profession’s dedication.
“While the schoolrooms and the fashions have changed, some things have stayed the same — our students’ desire to learn and our teachers’ dedication to excellence,” the commercial states.
As they do every year, the 450 ARA delegates engaged in thoughtful and passionate debate about a number of issues. Some of the most debated issues concerned Catholic education, as Provincial Executive Council brought forward three resolutions on this topic.
One such resolution, which passed with overwhelming support, urges separate school boards, notwithstanding their denominational rights, to treat all teachers equitably relative to their employment rights. Another resolution urges Catholic boards to respect teachers’ right to exercise their professional judgment in lesson planning, evaluation, and the selection of resources and professional development.
The most extensively debated resolution (3-59/17) calls on the Association to affirm its support of Catholic education.
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Alberta Teachers’ Association affirm the importance of constitutionally established denominational education and support the legitimacy [and value] of denominational education provided by Roman Catholic separate school boards as a vital component of Alberta’s public education system, insofar as they operate in accordance with human rights legislation.
Some delegates were unwilling to support the resolution because they were concerned about church influence on the school system.
“It’s not about the teachers and it’s not about the kids. It’s about the control of the bishops on what is going on in these schools,” said one delegate. “That is why I can’t support that motion.”
Other delegates expressed support for Alberta’s public education model, which includes public, Catholic and francophone school systems, and were concerned that, if the resolution were to fail, it would create a divide between Catholic and non-Catholic teachers.
“Let’s send a clear message to the 40,000 members of our Association that we support all of them,” urged one delegate.
Edmonton McMurray district representative Markiana Cyncar-Hryschuk said it was important to pass the resolution so that Alberta’s teachers are seen to be in support of a system that has been subject to increasing criticism.
“Catholic education is under fire,” she said. “Catholic teachers are under fire.”
Resolution 3-59 passed by a comfortable margin, but it was far from unanimous.
Another Catholic-related resolution that was passed calls for the Alberta Teachers’ Association to advocate for the development, implementation and maintenance of gay–straight/queer–straight alliances for teachers in each local.
Delegates also passed many other resolutions aimed at influencing government actions and decisions. Among those were resolutions urging the government to
- require school boards to report on how inclusive education funding is being spent,
- fully fund and mandate school boards to offer full-day kindergarten for all children,
- immediately undertake a review of Alberta’s high school funding model,
- assess the workload burden and system costs of required participation in the 2018 version of the International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS),
- withdraw from participation in the OECD’s research project on indigenous students due to concerns that the project involves little engagement with Alberta’s indigenous community,
- involve the Association in developing representation to bodies responsible for national and international assessments,
- involve the Association in consultation related to the secondary use of data collected involving teachers or students,
- inform participants of any intentions regarding secondary use of data collected through tests or surveys,
- refrain from collecting paradata where participation by students or teachers is mandatory and
- inform survey or test participants of any intent to collect paradata and to seek informed consent. ❚