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Editorial: The Ghost of Jeff Johnson’s Task Force

April 9, 2019 Jonathan Teghtmeyer, ATA News Editor-in-Chief

Colleagues, the 2014 report of the Task Force for Teaching Excellence was buried for a very good reason. By the time all was said and done, it became quite clear that it was designed as a politically motivated attack on teachers and the profession. The data gathering and research appear to have been done in such a way as to develop arguments that would support predetermined outcomes.

The Association, with the widespread support and engagement of teachers, successfully uncovered this plot and effectively and efficiently discredited the process and report. It is incredibly disappointing to see that it is now being revived and has been included in the election platform of the United Conservative Party.

Ongoing re-evaluation for teacher certification assumes incompetence and undermines the professionalism of teachers. It is burdensome, unnecessary and uncommon among other regulated professions — this proposal exists in the UCP platform.

The removal of principals from the Association would severely undermine collegiality and collaboration in schools. It replaces a professional relationship focused on student learning with an industrial management–labour relationship that is focused on human resources — Jason Kenney has espoused this idea during the campaign period.

The splitting of the ATA into separate professional and union bodies would alter the culture of schools and Alberta’s education system dramatically. Again, it moves from a collaborative and professional model focused on learning to an industrial and more combative model. It would have impacts in all schools and boards — this is an adopted policy of the UCP, although it did not make it into the election platform.

Vigilance from teachers through the election and after will be required to make sure that these dangerous ideas do not move forward.

The task force report has been figuratively cremated — effectively destroyed. Too bad its ghost still haunts us. ❚

I welcome your comments—contact me at

With apologies to Robert Service.

Now Jeff Johnson was from Ath’basca and a slick pol’ticker was he.

He assembled with Glenn, five women, six men to take a look and see,

what could be done about these teachers, “I don’t think they’re A-OK.

And most of all, you hear my call, do something about the ATA.”

They rushed ‘til finished, the brief was published, the chair sang, “I’m so excited!”

But teachers saw through, the attack was true, and they responded united.

Five year evals? Remove our princ’pals? You want to split the ATA?

You got it all wrong. We won’t play along. The teachers cried out, “No way!”

Those teachers set out, from rooftops they’d shout, “Down with this awful Task Force!”

They toiled for days, they met MLAs and they talked to parents, of course.

We have to confess, this thing’s a mess, we’re more than just simply annoyed

The solution’s clear, we have nothin’ t’fear, long as this report’s destroyed.

And off with a jerk, the team set to work, and it gathered the data it could.

But things were hurried, and some rats scurried, so things were left misunderstood.

Surveys, submissions, web consultations, but one meeting sorely missed;

Ne’er once did the fray meet the ATA, to ask ’bout teachers dismissed. 

Some boards we tore from the school floor and we lit a boiler fire;

Some gas was found, just lying around, so we fuelled the fire higher;

The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;

And into the blast, the task force was cast, much like our muse Sam McGee.

We thought it was done, that it set like th’sun, but these things often come back.

The campaign trails have their secret tales; pol’tics can revive an attack.

The backroom lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest one of course,

Was that time in ’nineteen, when we all seen the Ghost of Johnson’s Task Force. 

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