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Q & A: Explore your options before resigning

September 13, 2016 Gordon Thomas, Executive Secretary

Question: The school year has hardly started and I’m already overwhelmed. I’ve got more kids than I’ve ever had, the composition of my classes is more diverse and the time allocated from support staff has been further reduced. I’ve been thinking about resigning. Do I have to give notice, or can I just turn in my keys?

Answer: Whoa. Submitting a letter of resignation will sever your employment relationship with your board, and you would want to be very certain in your decision to resign. Before taking any action you should contact your ­Association to discuss your options.

If your collective agreement includes provisions with respect to instructional or assignable time, or other provisions relating to your conditions of professional practice, you should contact Barnett House and ask to speak to the Teacher Welfare duty officer. Our staff will review your circumstances and examine provisions of the collective agreement to determine if there are violations that should be discussed with your school board. If issues cannot be resolved, a grievance could be taken forward.

Many teachers’ conditions of professional practice are not contained in a collective agreement but still have a substantial impact on a teacher. If your concerns do not relate to or are not covered by the collective agreement, you should contact Barnett House or the Southern Alberta Regional Office (SARO) to discuss your circumstances with the Member Services duty officer. There may be things that can be done to address the circumstances you face. Our staff can discuss your concerns with your principal or superintendent and press for improved conditions. It may also be appropriate for you to protest your conditions of professional practice with your employer. There is an obligation to do so, in such circumstances, under the Code of Professional Conduct.

We expect to have a very full discussion about teacher workload and professional autonomy issues at the central table in this round of bargaining, so there may be ways to address your circumstances through collective bargaining. But whether there are or not, you need to follow the law and the Code of Professional Conduct. If you decide to resign, you must give at least 30 days’ notice. Failure to do so could be considered unprofessional conduct, and we have ordered hearings in the past in these circumstances. But you should exhaust all other options before going down the retirement road. ❚

Questions for consideration in this ­column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (

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