New Brunswick

N.B. college of teachers proposal welcomed by expert

An education consultant is welcoming a recommendation that New Brunswick set up a professional college or society for teachers.

Education commission recommended ‘a self-regulating professional governance structure’ for teachers

Education consultant Paul Bennett recommends more public disclosure when it comes to teacher discipline investigations. (CBC)

An education consultant is welcoming a recommendation that New Brunswick set up a professional college or society for teachers.

Paul Bennett, an ccademic and founder of Halifax-based Schoolhouse Consulting, said it would standardise how teachers are disciplined in the province.

On June 17, a two-person committee issued a series of recommendations on what New Brunswick should strive to achieve in public education over the next 10 years.

It will form the basis for an education plan being developed by the Liberal government.

The recommendations included the creation of "a self-regulating professional governance structure" to oversee "certification, licensing, discipline and professional learning opportunities" for teachers.

In an email to CBC News on Tuesday, the Department of Education confirmed that the report refers to "a professional 'college or society' similar to the medical profession."

Discipline investigations are currently overseen by the province's seven school districts.

They all must follow the provincial Policy 701, which sets the standards of acceptable behaviour for teachers. The results are not made public.

Professional body

"Teaching is purportedly, and aspirationally, a profession," said Bennett.

"But it lacks some of the fundamental characteristics of having a professional body that is very thorough and rigorous in enforcing standards."

In 2014, Bennett co-authored a report called Maintaining 'Spotless Records.' It analysed different teacher discipline systems across Canada.

Bennett recommends more public disclosure, but is not necessarily calling for the publication of detailed findings of all disciplinary investigations.
Gino LeBlanc and Karen Power announced their recommendations for the province's 10-year education plan. (CBC)

In provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario, members of the public can search a database of teachers names to see disciplinary records.

He said certain aspects of different provincial systems are worth considering.

"How can we be assured teachers are meeting the standards set by the province – if they [even] have standards?" said Bennett.

"Should there be a teaching standard of excellence? Or as it in the case of Alberta – an Alberta quality teaching standard."

Diverse oversight

Bennett recommends that any college be set up with a board consisting of more than just teachers.

He believes that having parents and other professionals, like doctors and lawyers on the board would give it more independence.

However, Bennett warned that certain teachers' college models can lead to drawn-out investigations, with students graduating before the process is finished.

"The biggest criticism of a college of teachers is that when you get caught up in that process," said Bennett.

"There's just so many different hearings and appeals, that if you're wrongly accused – which is the case in some instances – it drags out. It carries on forever."

Guilty finding

Last month, a CBC News investigation uncovered details of a previously-secret case of teacher discipline.

Officials cited privacy concerns when they told Sheryl Finnigan of Lincoln that she isn't allowed to know what investigators discovered about a teacher's inappropriate conduct with her then-17-year-old son, according to Finnigan.
Sheryl Finnigan wants the province to start making details of teacher discipline public, after being told she couldn't know full details about the findings of an investigation into her son's teacher. (CBC)

Amanda Pottle, a former Oromocto High School teacher, was found guilty of misconduct at the end of that investigation, a result that was also not made public.

The New Brunswick Teachers' Association is the body that represents anglophone teachers in the province.

On Friday, its president Guy Arseneault was not available for comment on the report recommendation to introduce a teachers' college.

With files from Karissa Donkin