Changes to Teaching Assignments and Non-Curricular Duties
As was anticipated, the 2020-21 school year has become less “stable” than previous years given the ongoing changes in the provincial COVID-19 situation and public health emergency. In this regard, it is important that teachers be aware of their rights with respect to consultation on teaching assignments and other duties, such as supervision.
Clauses 29.01 and 29.02 of the Provincial Collective Agreement (Labrador West Clauses 17.01 and 17.02) require principals to consult with teachers and teaching and learning assistants, “in determining the allocation of curricular and non-curricular duties”. With respect to teaching assignments, “every effort” is required to determine teachers’ curricular duties for the coming school year before the end of the current school year. Overall, consultation for the coming school year should (“every effort”) occur no later than the first scheduled instructional day.
However, members are advised that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in place between the NLTA and the school districts recognizes the unprecedented nature of the current situation and provides, in part, for flexibility around the usual timelines for consultation with teachers regarding changes to curricular and non-curricular duties. The MOA acknowledges that evolving pandemic circumstances and Public Health responses may necessitate adjustments in teaching assignments and other responsibilities at times and with less notice than would ordinarily be the case. In return for this flexibility, both school districts have agreed to other provisions that are of benefit to all members. Regardless, consultation is still required, but teachers are advised to be prepared for a more fluid work reality during the 2020-21 school year.
With respect to consultation, while no teacher “owns” a particular teaching assignment or duty schedule, the Collective Agreements require principals to consult with teachers regarding potential changes, such as new instructional responsibilities or increased supervision. A recent arbitration ruling has clearly established what is required for consultation:
- Consultation must be real and meaningful and contain the following elements:
a) the active participation of the teacher, i.e., “a discussion” or “bilateral interaction”;
b) full consideration of the teacher’s input by the administration before a decision is made, i.e., that the teacher’s input will be “taken into account when the decisions are made”; and,
c) a decision explained, i.e., that a “legitimate rationale” must be given for the decision based on programming considerations for “the best interests of students and the programs that must be delivered”.
- Explanations of a decision to make changes to a teacher’s assignment/duties in the absence of the above will not meet the standard required.
- Changes to assignments/duties are due to necessity, and cannot be made on an arbitrary basis.
- While teachers do not “own” their specific assignments/duties, the process outlined above clearly establishes that changing assignments/duties is not simply at the discretion of the school administration.
As noted above, given the uncertainty inherent in the current reality, some changes may indeed be needed during the 2020-21 school year. Teachers whose assignments/duties may be impacted should have an opportunity to express their perspectives, hear what the issue is and propose any options they may see, and administrators should be able to demonstrate that they have taken these perspectives and suggestions into account in making a decision. Following consultation, there must be a legitimate rationale for any decision to change a teacher’s assignment or duties, based on necessity, not convenience or preference.
NLTA members seeking advice/assistance on specific matters related to their individual circumstances should contact the Association via firstname.lastname@example.org.