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End of talks disappoints Red Deer Catholic board

The Red Deer Catholic School division board is disappointed that talks aimed at discussing a number of key educational issues have ended prematurely due to government timelines.

The Red Deer Catholic School division board is disappointed that talks aimed at discussing a number of key educational issues have ended prematurely due to government timelines.The talks were ongoing between the Alberta School Boards Association, the provincial government and the Alberta Teachers' Association. They ended Jan. 28 due to the government's need to wrap up discussions in preparation for the province's 2011-12 budget.ìOur board position has been that we support the discussions. We support that all the people are at the table together to discuss the different elements that affect Alberta education,î said Adriana La Grange, chair of the board.La Grange informed the board of the latest developments at its board meeting on Feb. 1.Some of the issues involved in the discussions included the ATA's contract with the provincial government that is due to expire in August 2012. La Grange said the government wanted to scrap the formula that would have seen a 4.3 per cent increase this year for teachers, in line with the Alberta Average Weekly Earnings Index. La Grange said the government was offering several concessions in lieu of pay increases, including less instruction time for students. Now that those discussions have ended, however, the current contract with teachers will continue until its expiry.La Grange said the board had some concerns over the government's proposal to give teachers less time in the classroom in lieu of pay increases.ìWe did have some concerns about certain things, especially how teachers spending less time in the classroom and how fewer hours for students were going to impact the school. When we looked at those (different) elements we were always asking ourselves, ëWell, is it good for students? Is it going to support student success?î she said.La Grange said the board is also concerned that there might not be enough funding to support all the initiatives talked about in the tripartite discussions. She said the board was also concerned about its ability to maintain its own decision-making power.Another reason the talks ended, La Grange speculated, was Premier Ed Stelmach's announcement that he won't be seeking another term.Other elements were also part of the discussion, such as a teacher development board that would be led by teachers and include public and other stakeholder input to give their ideas to Education Minister Dave Hancock.La Grange said the board viewed the creation of the teacher development board as a step in the right direction. However, the school board would want input.ìWhat we saw initially, there was good discussions and good elements Ö (but) the detail wasn't there. There wasn't enough detail fleshed out for us to make a really good decision about whether, overall, we could support it or not support it,î she said.It's not certain when tripartite discussions will resume.