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Negotiations between ATA and Red Deer Catholic Schools go public


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It may be a simple misunderstanding, but it also may be a negotiating tactic.  Either way, the Alberta Teachers Association has issued a news release claiming Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools may be considering a lockout.  Less than a day after that release came out, Red Deer Catholic Schools issued its own release to clearly explain the situation to the public as they see it.

Here are the two releases:

From the Alberta Teachers Association

Teachers Worried about Red Deer Catholic Moving towards Lockout

Recent actions to sidestep the third-party independent mediator in Red Deer Catholic (RDCRS) teacher negotiations are a troubling sign of things to come. RDCRS board negotiators have taken the unusual step of asking the mediator to remove herself from bargaining even though two dates for mediation were already scheduled.

By asking the mediator to write out, the board has kicked off a two-week cooling off period that lapses on March 12, and opens the door to the board locking out teachers.

“Our desire has always been to reach an agreement without a disruption to schools. Fifty-eight of 61 school divisions have a deal, so we know an agreement is very much achievable if we just use those other settlements as a guide. We strongly believe the mediator will be helpful in getting the parties to a settlement.”

—Sara Lambert, president of Red Deer Catholic Local No 80

While teacher representatives have agreed to bargain on the scheduled mediation dates, they are worried that the board, absent the mediator, is planning to waste time and thwart a settlement. Bargaining will be held on March 7, but teachers have only agreed to continue meeting on March 8 if it is clear that the board is prepared to make meaningful progress on the first day.

“If the board intends to get down to the business of bargaining, we can get a deal done this week. That is what we want. However, if it looks like the board is wasting our time, playing games and ignoring the trend set across the rest of the province, there is no point continuing.”

—Sara Lambert, president of Red Deer Catholic Local No 80

Red Deer Catholic teachers are looking for a settlement that reflects the agreements reached in other jurisdictions, which includes improvements on issues related to substitute teachers and school administrators. The solutions being proposed are low cost and reasonable.

Collective bargaining for teachers in Alberta is a two-phase process where matters of significant cost and broad impact are negotiated at a central table, followed by local negotiations between individual school divisions and ATA bargaining units on other more locally specific matters.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is the professional association of teachers in Alberta and acts as the bargaining agent for all teachers employed in public, separate and francophone school divisions. The Red Deer Catholic School Division employs approximately 700 contracted and substitute teachers in Catholic schools in Red Deer, Blackfalds, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House, Innisfail and Olds.


Reply from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools 

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Reacts to Recent ATA Media Release

For immediate release – March 6, 2024

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) announced, in a surprise media release late yesterday, that Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) is sidestepping “the third-party independent mediator … in teacher negotiations”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

On February 26, 2024, in an email from the mediator to both the ATA and RDCRS, the mediator stated,

“Further to my phone calls with each of you on Friday, I understand that the Employer reviewed the “binary choice” in Sean’s email of February 15, 2024, and agreed the next step should be for the mediator to write out and let the cooling off period begin.  However, I understand the Employer is willing to meet with the ATA, without the mediator, on March 7 and 8, 2024 during the hours previously discussed (evening and day).”

The mediator further stated in that email correspondence,

 “I have decided to not issue recommended terms of settlement at this time as I feel the parties are too far apart in their current positions.  Attached is the letter confirming this decision”.

The email the mediator is referring to on February 15, 2024, came from the ATA chief negotiator, Sean Brown, in which he referred to a “binary choice” as follows,

“Given the results of the meeting and the sentiments shared by members, I believe the next step is a binary choice:

  1. The employer bargaining team returns to the table and listens to its teachers.  Furthermore, that the employer be prepared to move on the items that members need. (Our preferred option), or

  2. The mediator will need to write out and the two-week cooling off period will commence.

We hope to hear back that the employer will return to the table.  If not, then they will leave teachers with few options.”

Vice Chair Dorraine Lonsdale states, “RDCRS believes that factual reporting of events, activities, and matters pertinent to our local teacher negotiations with the ATA is now necessary for our communities to understand what is involved in these local teacher negotiations.  To this end, RDCRS has opened a section of our website to report to our communities on our local teacher negotiations.  Information will be shared on a regular basis as we continue to negotiate with the ATA.”

The bargaining team for RDCRS will attend the scheduled meetings on March 7 and 8, 2024 and bargain with the ATA to reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable to both parties.

“It is the intention of RDCRS to continue a principled and respectful approach while bargaining the local items tabled by both parties.  The school division highly values its teachers and in addition, we are responsible to students, parents, and our communities,” Vice Chair Lonsdale continues. “RDCRS has a duty to preserve our programs and services, to manage our complex education system and to be financially accountable for our decisions.  These three pillars extend also to our bargaining of collective agreements affecting our employees. RDCRS takes these responsibilities seriously, and these responsibilities always remain an important part of our considerations.”

The Division is committed to serving children and parents with a complete offering of learning opportunities delivered within the context of Catholic teachings and within the means of the Division.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools serves over 10,650 students in 21 schools in Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House, Innisfail, Blackfalds and Olds. It also supports the learning of over 850 students in a Home Education Program. The Division is committed to serving children and parents with a complete offering of learning opportunities delivered within the context of Catholic teachings and within the means of the Division.

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Schools shouldn’t sacrifice student performance to vague notions of ‘equity’

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From the Fraser Institute

By Derek J. Allison

According to a new study published by the Fraser Institute, if Canada wants to remain competitive with emerging economies around the world, we must increase our math, science and reading scores—and not simply pursue high levels of “equity and inclusion” as the primary goal for our schools.

Indeed, highly equitable and inclusive schools—with declining PISA scores, as is currently the case in Canada—do a disservice to students and society at large.

Why? Because higher test scores translate into greater “knowledge capital”—that is, the full body of knowledge available to an economy—and boost economic growth (and, incidentally, the tax revenues that fund our schools).

Indeed, the goal should be equitable access to a quality education. And the most realistic and meaningful way to measure student progress is through PISA tests, which every three years assess the performance of 15-year-olds worldwide in core subjects of math, science and reading rather than the limited curriculum objectives used in provincial testing, which can only show progress or decline within individual school systems. In today’s world, where competition is truly global, we must know how our students and schools perform compared to their peers in other countries, especially the “Asian Tigers” of Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Tiawan whose rapidly growing economies have been driven by rising PISA scores.

Obviously, countries with higher test scores can teach other countries how to improve—although there are limits and some traps here. Attempting to cut and paste Singapore’s or Korea’s much more meritocratic systems of highly competitive student assessment and selection would be impractical and impolitic in Canada. Even so, policymakers should consider reinstating more meaningful meritocratic norms in Canadian schools to encourage and recognize academic achievement. Nothing succeeds like success, except recognized and rewarded success.

Closer to home, other provinces could benefit from considering why Quebec is such a stellar performer in math and why Alberta has the highest overall PISA test score average of all provinces.

But fair warning, recent attempts at school improvement in Canada show that top-down one-size-fits-all changes—including extending compulsory attendance, reducing average class size and tinkering with course content—have had little positive effect on student performance, although they may please teacher unions. If policymakers want to achieve more equitable success for more students, they should introduce more flexibility, school autonomy and choice into our top-heavy centrally regulated school systems. In this respect it may be no accident that the three highest performing, mid-spending provincial K-12 education systems (Alberta, Quebec and Ontario) offer relatively high levels of school choice, although of quite different kinds.

Equity and inclusion are noble goals, but they shouldn’t interfere with student progress. There’s too much at stake, for students and the country.

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Expansion planned for Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing at Red Deer Polytechnic

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Investing in innovation at Red Deer Polytechnic

Alberta’s government is expanding student capacity and creating a modern learning environment at Red Deer Polytechnic that will help graduates succeed in the economy of tomorrow.

To support emerging opportunities for students, Alberta’s government will invest $12.9 million to expand the Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing Technology Access Centre (CIM-TAC) at Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP). CIM-TAC is an applied research and innovation centre that gives companies access to state-of-the-art prototyping and manufacturing equipment, along with a multi-disciplinary team with the expertise to turn brilliant ideas into market-ready products.

As Alberta’s economy grows and diversifies, job creators will increasingly seek employees with the skills required to work in advanced manufacturing.

Construction will begin in early 2025 and will increase the centre’s applied research, education and training capacity. The expanded CIM-TAC will grow to provide work-integrated learning opportunities for an estimated 450 post-secondary students and training through workshops and events to an additional 2,000 students annually by 2030. Additionally, more than 500 junior and senior high school students will take part in dual credit programs at the CIM-TAC.

“Investing in this expansion of CIM-TAC will give students at RDP access to cutting-edge technology and skills to succeed in the economy of tomorrow. The strategic investments we’re making in Budget 2024 are part of a forward-looking path to support the goals of our post-secondary institutions, grow Alberta’s economy and create jobs.”

Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Advanced Education

“The expansion will allow Alberta-based manufacturers across multiple sectors to have greater ability to develop, test and scale their ideas. Students will be engaged at the forefront of made-in-Alberta technologies and manufacturing solutions.This investment will help meet high demand from entrepreneurs and industry for applied research and will take the facility beyond its current capabilities to become an advanced technology training and hands-on learning centre.”

Nate Horner, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

“This expansion project will build on the CIM-TAC’s 15 years of success and leverage the centre’s industry partnerships and manufacturing expertise to provide even more capacity for applied research, as well as education, training and work-integrated learning opportunities for students. We thank the Government of Alberta for this investment that will benefit not only RDP students and researchers, but also the entire central Alberta region and its critical industries like health care, agriculture, energy and construction.”

Stuart Cullum, president, Red Deer Polytechnic

“Manufacturing and advanced manufacturing are driving job-creation, economic growth and made-in-Alberta solutions that improve the lives of people around the world and right here at home. The funding to expand RDP’s CIM-TAC is an investment that will allow Alberta companies greater access to the tools, technology and next generation of skilled talent that will allow our industry to solve real-world challenges, develop better products and ultimately increase productivity.”

Darryl Short, CEO, Karma Machining and Manufacturing, and president, Karma Medical Products  

Quick facts

  • The expansion of CIM-TAC at RDP will support a variety of sectors through advanced manufacturing capabilities, including energy innovation, transportation, aviation and agriculture. The centre will also support RDP’s future expansion into more medical device manufacturing and health-care innovations to support both patients and providers.
  • RDP’s expansion of the CIM-TAC will grow the facility’s footprint from 15,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet.
  • The CIM-TAC currently houses $7.6 million of advanced manufacturing equipment.
  • In 2022, RDP attracted more than $2 million in applied research investment. RDP also completed 64 projects for 57 companies and participated in more than 1,300 engagements with industry partners.
  • Since the CIM-TAC’s inception in 2009, RDP has supported more than 300 industry partners (including repeat clients).
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