Most of Alberta's school boards were represented at an emergency meeting in Edmonton Monday to discuss the proposed deal between the province and its teachers.
"I think we have enough information now for school boards to say yes or no," said Sandra Dufresne, chairwoman of the Holy Spirit Catholic school board. "There are some good things about it. What trustees were saying yesterday is it's a four-year deal so that will bring us some peace for four years and the other piece is cost certainty on teacher salaries."
But school boards also have concerns with certain aspects of the deal, especially with the exceptions committee that will be formed as part of the deal.
"That really takes away management rights from our division, our superintendent, from our board, in terms of teacher assignments and other personnel matters," Dufresne said. "Really, it puts the ATA at every table and this committee would have the authority to second-guess every principal or superintendent decision about a teacher assignment. It would all go to Edmonton for a committee to decide and how is a committee in Edmonton going to know the local issues of a school in Taber?"
Each school board will have an exceptions committee but any local decision regarding work assignments can be referred to the central committee where the ATA, the ASBA and the government would be represented.
"The ATA and the ASBA we can be pretty confident who they're going to support so that really leaves the decision up to a government official," Dufresne said.
School boards are also unhappy about the proposed agreement's move to a 907-hour per year limit on instructional time.
"That would certainly have a big impact on our smaller schools in our smaller communities," she said.
The previous deal offered to teachers in February offered an exemption to smaller schools with less than 150 students and communities with a population of less than 5,000 people. That has been removed in the current deal.
"If we are moving to a 907-hour limit we're going to have to hire more teachers and double-graded classrooms - are they going to become triple-graded?" she said. "For small schools that are barely staying alive is this going to be the sentence that closes that school? We don't want that to happen."
On top of that, Dufresne said instructional time has not been defined so school boards don't know if that includes prep and marking time or if it refers only to time spent in front of students.
The comfort letter Johnson has promised the ATA will serve to freeze legislation that defines the role of the teacher.
"The government has told us to implement Inspiring Education and all the new things that have come from that and this would just bring it to a grinding halt. We know that we need to change our schools and the way that we deliver education and recognize that teachers are at the centre of that," Dufresne said.
Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson said he would fund the proposed agreement.
"Last year we were promised (increases of one per cent, two per cent and two per cent) and that promise is gone so it's hard to believe anything beyond this year," she said.
Holy Spirit trustees were scheduled to meet Tuesday evening and the Alberta School Boards Association on Thursday, by which point they hope to have received feedback on the deal from boards. The ASBA will develop a formal position but local school boards and Alberta Teachers' Association locals still have to ratify the deal.
Meanwhile teachers in the Palliser Regional Schools division voted to accept the proposed framework agreement, although Katherine Pritchard, president of ATA Local #19, said the vote wasn't unanimous.
"Palliser teachers voted in favour of four years of labour peace. This will allow Palliser teachers to focus on the career they love, without worrying about labour action. The framework also allows for local bargaining to continue on local issues whilst establishing a workload study," she said in an email.
Mich Forster, chairman of the Lethbridge public school board, could not be reached for comment by press time.