Education Ministers visit to High River high school cancelled
Education: Johnson holds brief meeting with trustees in Calary
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 06:00 am
Foothills School Division superintendents and trustees met with Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson last week, but still have no answers on if they will be getting money to renovate their Okotoks high school or if they will be forced to make cuts to next year’s budget.
Amidst pitching a new deal to teachers, Education Minister Jeff Johnson met with Foothills School Division officials and trustees last week in Calgary.
Originally, Johnson was to fly into the High River airport Feb. 26, but due to low cloud cover had to change plans and land in Calgary.
Foothills School Division (FSD) superintendent Denise Rose said Johnson was supposed to meet with the trustees, herself and three other superintendents at Highwood High School to discuss their successes, challenges and priorities.
“It was unfortunate,” Rose said of the change of plans. “He was disappointed.”
The delegation from Foothills instead drove to Calgary and met with Johnson for 40 minutes, where he was also meeting with other school divisions.
Rose said they reiterated their top priority in the division is modernizing the Foothills Composite High School. However, Johnson didn’t make any commitments for infrastructure funding.
“He didn’t respond one way or the other,” Rose said. “Foothills School Division realizes there are budgetary issues. If there is money for infrastructure in the future we are hopeful Foothills Composite is one that will go through.”
Foothills Composite High School is 30-years-old and the school board is asking for $25 million to replace mechanical systems and update the school, which includes a fine arts component and trades classes.
She said they also talked to the minister about their high Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) and diploma exam results and gave support for AISI funding, which they use for teacher’s professional development.
Rose said the issue of teacher contracts wasn’t raised during the meeting with Johnson, who pitched a four-year deal to teachers last week. The deal included three years of wage freezes with two lump sum payments of one per cent wage increases in years three and four, plus a permanent pay increase of two per cent in the final year.
Later that day the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) rejected the offer. In December the ATA made an offer to the Province for a four-year deal, with two years of wage freezes, but it was rejected by the ProvinceTalk to Carol Henderson and get ATA’s perspective. .
Johnson responded to the ATA’s dismissal of his proposal in a press release.
“I want to express my personal disappointment that we could not reach a negotiated agreement with the leadership of the ATA that would have benefitted Alberta’s students, our hard-working teachers and local school boards,” Johnson said.
He said he believes the deal was rejected because teachers wanted more in the contract to deal with workload.
“Over the past several months, it has become clear workload is the biggest issue for our teachers,” he said.
Rose said Johnson was attentive during their meeting, but must have been thinking about the contract negotiations as well.
“I’m sure his head was in a number of spaces,” she said. “There is a lot going on.”
With no provincial deal for teachers, Rose said they will continue with plans to bargain a local deal and are awaiting the Provincial budget on March 7.
She said she hopes the Province sticks to its four-year education funding commitment made during last year’s budget, but said it would not be surprising if they don’t receive the two per cent increase promised for this year in the 2012 budget.
“Given what we are hearing and reading I would say it would be difficult for the Province to fund their commitment,” Rose said. “But in the end it was their commitment so who knows. They may uphold their commitment.”