A Message to Members from ATA President Mark Ramsankar
After Minister Jeff Johnson released the Task Force for Teaching Excellence report on Monday, I had the opportunity to speak to and hear from many teachers across the province. Your response has been overwhelming; your message clear and strong. Teachers are upset.
I understand your shock and disappointment, not only with the content of the report but also with the way it was rolled out by the Minister.
I am similarly shocked and deeply disappointed.
The content of the report, as well as the words and actions of the minister himself, make it clear that this report is not about supporting teacher excellence, as was suggested when the initiative was launched last September. Rather, this entire exercise is about attacking teachers and the teaching profession.
I have worked hard to develop a relationship with Minister Johnson because I know that the students of Alberta are best served when the teaching profession and the ministry work collaboratively on education issues. In fact, the minister and I recently traveled to New Zealand to attend an international conference on the teaching profession. At that conference, our international colleagues emphasized how important it is for effective teacher organizations and ministries to work together. Somehow, the minister heard a different message than I did.
Despite our best efforts to develop a strong working relationship, and the minister’s assurances that he is also interested in a positive connection with the profession, he has chosen to directly assault the core of our professional association.
On Sunday, before meeting with me for a report briefing, the minister was calling journalists and actively advancing the message that the Association was not capable of having both professional and union functions.
I was optimistic that we would be able to maintain our relationship after the task force report came out and that we would have the tough conversations about the important questions it raises. However, those conversations can only occur in an environment of trust and respect.
I have lost trust in Minister Johnson.
Colleagues, I hope that you will take the time to familiarize yourself with the report and with our concerns, your concerns. Then, I ask you to contact your MLAs and let them know how you feel about the recommendations and how they will impact your classrooms.
There is a way forward. The premier of Alberta, whom I know and trust, must take action to save his vision of Inspiring Education. He must make it clear that government does not plan to destroy the collegial relationship between principals and teachers, that it does not plan to deprofessionalize the Association by removing its professional functions and that it does not plan to change fundamental employment protections for teachers.
Only when those threats are removed can we begin to rebuild a trusting relationship and enter into respectful dialogue about the other issues raised in the report.
The Association has always been and will always be open to respectful dialogue regarding education issues.
H Mark Ramsankar, President
Alberta Teachers’ Association
A number of articles, which provide a more thorough analysis of task force recommendations, have now been posted to the Association website at www.teachers.ab.ca. A special edition of the ATA News will be distributed to schools starting on May 13, 2014.