In a recent arbitral decision, the issue was whether a teacher who has additional responsibilities as a “Teacher in Charge” or “Teacher Administrative Assistant,” can be asked to provide more than the 80 minutes per five-day instructional cycle of supervision time allowed under the collective agreement.
Individuals who are chosen for the Teacher in Charge/Teacher Administrative Assistant roles continue their work as classroom teachers, but spend a predetermined portion of each week fulfilling administrative duties. Such positions are often created in schools which do not have the student enrolment to justify a Vice Principal position, but where the need for some level of additional administrative support is acknowledged.
As Teachers in Charge/Teacher Administrative Assistants are members of both teacher and administrator groups, at issue was whether they could be assigned their 80 minutes of supervision as teachers, and then additional supervision time in their capacity as administrators.
The union argued that nothing in the language of the collective agreement suggests that teachers abrogate their protected rights under the contract by accepting additional responsibilities as administrators. Thus, the union maintained, teachers with administrative duties were still entitled to the 80 minute cap on supervision duties. The school board countered that teachers who accept these positions are given release time from their classroom responsibilities, so that they can assume such administrative duties as are deemed necessary. Their duties as administrators can include supervision, just as they can for full time administrators.
Moreover, the Board cited the language in the agreement which read “…the maxima of supervision minutes for elementary teachers will be eighty (80) minutes…” (Emphasis added). It was submitted that the agreement would read “member” rather than “teacher” had the parties intended the limitation to apply to those working outside the classroom.
Lastly, the Board pointed to the agreement’s specific preservation of all management rights necessary to operate its schools, arguing that the assignment of supervision responsibilities to administrators as needed falls clearly within this function.
Arbitrator Knopf relied on the principles of contract interpretation in finding for the union, stating that clear and unequivocal language would have been necessary to preclude some members from a protection clearly intended for the benefit of their group. The job titles of “Teachers in Charge” and “Teacher Administrative Assistants” clearly denote that, at all times, these positions are held by teachers who are still within the bargaining unit and who are therefore entitled to the 80 minute cap on supervision as negotiated.
The supervision cap and interpretation of its application to Teacher’s in Charge/Teacher Administrative Assistant may force some school boards to consider appointing Vice-Principals to small schools and requiring them to have considerable teaching duties, on top of their administrative duties.