New bill would allow Alberta school superintendents to police themselves

Alberta superintendents will be able to police their own profession, should a new bill be passed in the legislature.

College of Alberta School Superintendents would become a regulator by September 2022

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says school superintendents play an important role in making sure every student receives a high-quality education. (Scott Neufeld/CBC )

Alberta superintendents will be able to police their own profession if a new bill is passed in the legislature.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange introduced a bill on Tuesday that would see senior school division leaders required to belong to a college, which would investigate any complaints against the professionals.

By September 2022, should the bill pass, the existing College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) would have the legal power to investigate its members. It would also be responsible for ensuring superintendents' skills and knowledge are up to date.

"Alberta's government believes that superintendents play an important role in making sure that every student receives a high-quality education, and this legislation makes that crystal clear," LaGrange said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

If approved, Bill 55, The College of Alberta School Superintendents Act, would make the province the second in Canada to allow superintendents to self-regulate.The Saskatchewan League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (LEADS) has had regulatory powers since 1984.

It's a power Alberta superintendents have wanted for at least 15 years, CASS president Bevan Daverne said. The changes, if approved, would benefit the profession and the public, he said.

"We are thrilled to see this government recognize the unique role superintendents play in Alberta's education system," he said.

The bill would require Alberta superintendents, deputy superintendents and some "teacher leaders" at school board central offices to be regulated members of CASS. They would have to give up their membership with the Alberta Teachers' Association to join.

The government estimates about 1,300 managers in public, Catholic and francophone school divisions and charter schools would become regulated members. Currently, CASS has about 400 voluntary members.

Other education leaders, such as those working for private schools or First Nation education authorities, or academics, could also join CASS as non-regulated members. Some of these professionals are already voluntary CASS members.

Minister will no longer approve superintendent contracts

If the bill is approved as drafted, CASS would not have the ability to certify or decertify superintendents — that power would remain with the education minister.

If a CASS disciplinary committee were to decide that a superintendent was guilty of serious misconduct, they could only recommend the minister suspend or revoke their professional certificate.

As with teachers, the names of superintendents with suspended or revoked certificates would remain a government secret.

The bill would also eliminate the need for Alberta's education minister to approve superintendents' contracts with school boards.

Alberta School Boards' Association president Lorrie Jess said that was a request of her association, to give elected boards more autonomy and reduce bureaucracy.

Boards would still have to pay superintendents according to a grid set by the former NDP government.

ATA says teachers are one profession

Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA), said he hopes central office staff who have to choose between the ATA and CASS would remain part of the teachers' association.

"I don't want to see us get set up in an us-versus-them. We've seen enough of that happen within our province and across Canada in certain situations, and nobody benefits," he said.

Otherwise, he can't see the proposed legislation prompting much change in the public education system.

Opposition NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said she doesn't understand why the bill is a UCP government priority.

The issues she hears about most often are growing class sizes, a shortage of educational assistants to work with students and the government's planned curriculum changes, she said.

"I have been talking with a lot of students, staff, families about their concerns and hopes for the education system and this has definitely not made the top 10 list," Hoffman said.

CASS executive director David Keohane said he's not sure why the government is moving forward with the changes now, but believes it will improve the quality of Alberta's education system.

With the adoption of new provincial superintendent and leadership quality standards in 2019, Keohane said the timing is good.

Although superintendents are certified teachers, he said superintendents have far different responsibilities, more akin to a CEO. It makes sense that they would be regulated differently than classroom teachers, he said.

Unlike the ATA, CASS would not have a union-like function or bargain on behalf of members.

If passed, the legislation would take effect this September, and CASS would take another year to prepare for its new roles.