Alberta School Boards Association president, vice-president resign over membership conflict

The president and vice-president of the Alberta School Boards Association announced their resignations from the board on Friday, citing conflict within its membership.

'I am no longer in a position to make a positive difference,' former president writes in resignation letter

All school boards in Alberta are members of the Alberta School Boards Association.

The president and vice-president of the Alberta School Boards Association resigned from the board Friday, citing conflict within its membership.

All school boards in the province are part of the organization, which is run by elected directors and is supported by membership fees.

President Mary Martin and vice-president Darcy Eddleston announced their resignations in separate letters addressed to the ASBA board of directors and "all trustees."

"Allegations have been made which are patently untrue and with which I vehemently disagree," Martin wrote in her resignation message. She didn't say what those allegations were.

"The commentary has defamed not only me, but also those individuals on the board who are dedicated to the best interest of the Association, its members and ultimately the public."

Eddleston's letter referred to disagreements with a "vocal group of members" that includes people on the ASBA board.

"It is apparent that the membership has to determine what direction that they want this association to take," Eddleston wrote. "My hope is that the silent majority stands up and takes control of this organization."

Both Martin and Eddleston declined to comment when contacted by CBC News on Saturday.

'Politics, power, and derision'

Their resignations tailed an announcement by Education Minister David Eggen on Friday about a new pay-band system for Alberta's 74 publicly funded school superintendents.

Most superintendents will get a pay cut under the new system.

The framework is based on a provincial review launched one month after a report commissioned by the ASBA became public, which found Alberta's superintendents are paid "significantly higher" than those in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

At least four Alberta school divisions have penned letters of concern to the ASBA about the report since February, including the Sturgeon Public School Division.

In a letter addressed to the ASBA board from May 29, division chair Terry Jewell questioned how and why the report was commissioned.

"Over the past several weeks, the President has been afforded several opportunities, to share with members, how the fiasco of the 'Comparative Analysis of Superintendent Salaries' was allowed to occur," he wrote in the letter.

"The questions remain unanswered and in our opinion this is not acceptable ... A review of our Association's Values leads us to the conclusion that a change in the senior leadership is needed."

In the letter, Jewell also warned that the Sturgeon Public School Division board of trustees would put forward a motion of censure of the ASBA president and board of directors at the organization's spring general meeting on June 4.

Martin and Eddleston, who were elected for one-year terms in November 2017, resigned days before the annual gathering.

Valuable and productive work takes a back-seat to a discourse that is focused instead on politics, power and derision.- Mary Martin, former ASBA president

In his resignation message, Eddleston referred to a letter which said there might be a motion of non-confidence at the meeting, though he didn't specify who wrote the letter.

"I strongly refute the claims made in that letter," Eddleston wrote. "Those questions have been answered."

Both Eddleston and Martin said the reasons for their respective resignations had nothing to do with "recent discourse" between ASBA members.

"Valuable and productive work takes a back-seat to a discourse that is focused instead on politics, power, and derision. As such, I have decided that my ability to productively lead this organization has come to a close," Martin wrote.

"To be clear, I am stepping away not because I wish to give that discourse any credence, but because I am no longer in a position to make a positive difference."

Similarly, Eddleston wrote "while I am sure that some will say that I am stepping back due to the recent discourse — that is not the case."

Interim ASBA spokesperson Cathie Williams said the association was "sorry to see them go."

"I do believe that this was not an easy decision for either one of them," Williams told CBC News.

"But as said in their letters, they believed that this was the course they needed to do to allow the association to go forward."

Williams said she expects the ASBA will elect a new president and vice president at the spring general meeting in Red Deer on Monday.