Wolf Creek Public Schools board chair Lorrie Jess has taken on the role of president of the Alberta School Boards Association as some trustees call for more transparency in the association and boards face challenges to their local autonomy.
Jess was elected by Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) members on Monday at the spring general meeting in Red Deer along with new vice-president Trina Boymook who is Elk Island Public Schools board chair.
On Friday ASBA president Mary Martin and vice-president Darcy Eddleston resigned, as well as the ASBA executive director and two long-time staff members. They resigned after an embargoed call from Alberta Education Minister David Eggen regarding the superintendent’s salary compensation review.
The provincial review was sparked by an ASBA review of superintendents salary that was leaked to the public.
Jess said she could not say if the call prompted the resignations, but the ASBA was not running well. Wolf Creek was among boards that saw the need for more transparency and Jess decided to put her name forward as someone who hasn’t elected to the ASBA before.
“This association, it needs to be member-driven. We need to work together as a unified organization and that just hasn’t been happening as of late,” said Jess who has been a trustee for 14 years.
“I just look forward to getting versed, learning and making a difference.”
She said new provincial regulations for superintendent salaries takes away the control of school boards to negotiate.
Future contracts under a new grid will pay a minimum of $60,000 to a maximum of $260,000 for the biggest school boards in Edmonton and Calgary. Boards can increase that top figure to $275,000 but only with the minister’s approval.
Bev Manning, Red Deer Public Schools board chair, said the autonomy of school boards have been under attack by the province first by taking away local bargaining, then reducing school fees, and now restricting superintendent salaries.
“We’ve seen over the last year and a half some really key components of trusteeship being stripped away from us. I feel like the government is slowly eroding our ability as trustees to do our job. We need to be responsible and accountable to the citizens of Red Deer who elected us to do our job,” Manning said.
She said the superintendent salary regulations are prohibitive and will impact the ability of boards to hire people with the necessary experience.
“Superintendents do incredible amount of work and it’s complicated work and it’s difficult work and it’s work that requires them to rely on the years of experience they have gained being in the education system.
“I think the minister could have taken an opportunity to uphold and value the work school boards have done hiring trained, well-experienced people who are in charge of one of the most important aspects of Alberta — that is the education system.”
Manning said superintendent salaries already required the minister’s approval.
— With files from CANADIAN PRESS