Requests to Change Report Card Marks or Comments
Imagine the scene. After hours and hours of hard work, you’ve just put the finishing touches on your last report card of the year. What a great feeling! You e-mail the report cards to your principal for final review and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. However, the next day, your principal calls you to request that you change the final marks for two of your students and the comments for three of your students.
What are your obligations?
Teachers are professionals and, as such, should be afforded a high degree of professional autonomy. Teachers also know the specific circumstances of their class and their students, as well as to what extent their students have met the outcomes for the year. Because of this, a teacher’s professional judgment regarding the assessment and evaluation of students should be paramount. However, sometimes a teacher’s professional judgment is at odds with a directive of school administration. Section 197 of the Education Act outlines the statutory duties of the principal. A relevant duty in this situation is “(h) supervise the evaluation and advancement of students.” Thus, it is reasonable and within a principal’s rights (and obligations) to review a teacher’s report card marks and comments.
Another relevant duty of the principal is “(e) direct the management of the school.” Because of this, a principal may give a directive to a teacher, including a directive to change report card marks or comments.
If a teacher is comfortable with the requested changes to the report cards, the teacher can simply make the changes. However, if the teacher believes that the requested changes are not appropriate in the circumstances (for example, if the requested changes are not consistent with the evidence of student learning that the teacher has collected), another important thing to consider is the teacher’s obligations under section 16 of the Code of Professional Conduct:
The teacher recognizes the duty to protest through proper channels administrative policies and practices which the teacher cannot in conscience accept; and further recognizes that if administration by consent fails, the administrator must adopt a position of authority.
Often, the best solution is for the teacher and the principal to cooperatively and collaboratively discuss the concerns. The Association encourages dialogue between the teacher and the principal to identify their interests in order to come up with a plan to which they both can agree. If this has been attempted unsuccessfully, the Association encourages the teacher to contact Teacher Employment Services to learn about the options.
In some circumstances, the advice to the teacher would be to ask the principal to make the requested report card changes in writing. If the teacher receives these requested changes as a written directive, the teacher may wish to protest this directive in writing, as mentioned in section 16 of the Code of Professional Conduct. Teacher Employment Services can offer contextual advice and assist in the creation of this letter, if circumstances warrant it.
If after the teacher protests through appropriate channels, the principal’s directive still stands, the teacher may choose to comply under protest with the directive. Noncompliance with a written directive of school administration may result in disciplinary action. Call Teacher Employment Services for advice prior to making any decisions.
Health and Wellness Spending Accounts
A majority of teachers have a combined health spending account (HSA) and wellness spending account (WSA) as part of their collective agreement. Teachers are responsible for allocating the credits for the health and wellness accounts; however, understanding Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules about HSAs and WSAs will assist in this process. There may be some variances between alternate health benefit providers such as the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP), Manulife, Sun Life or Canada Life.
On a yearly basis, teachers are asked to reallocate credits to their HSA and WSA accounts. This will prompt teachers to choose a percentage amount for each account with their health care provider.
Health benefit providers receive the credits for teacher accounts from the employer and then deposit those credits into the HSA or WSA (as allocated). Credits cannot be transferred between accounts once they have been deposited. If a teacher changes employers or is terminated during this period, credits remain accessible for 60 days following the date of change or termination. Note that expenses are eligible only if incurred prior to the date of change or termination.
As a single person with access to both a WSA and HSA, a teacher can submit eligible wellness-related expenses for themself. As a member on a family plan, eligible expenses related to themself and their dependants can be submitted.
WSAs are similar to HSAs, but there are differences regarding what can be submitted. While the HSA covers health-related expenses, the WSA covers wellness-related expenses. These are items that are outside the scope of prescriptions and dental or vision care, and are items such as health support and fitness expenses (such as purchase of a treadmill, gym memberships or other sporting equipment/clothing).
Remember that WSA expenses are taxable and that a T4A is sent at the end of each tax year for WSA claims that were reimbursed in that tax year. You are not taxed on money which has been allocated to your WSA but remains unused.
When submitting claims, remember to always include the date of service or purchase date, the provider or store name, the total cost, a detailed description of the service or item and, finally, proof of payment (that is, a receipt) when applicable. The number one reason that WSA claims are rejected is that one of these five vital items is missing. Save time (and get reimbursed faster) by ensuring that everything is included the first time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Should I use HSA or WSA first?
It is always advantageous to use HSA credits first, because HSA credits are tax free. There are many ways to use HSA credits, and teachers should familiarize themselves with the complete list. If using WSA credits, the plan provider will provide a T4A slip that must be declared as income in the annual tax return. For this reason, it is always better to use HSA credits first.
2. How can I spend my HSA?
HSA can be used to cover any expenses that could be deducted as medical expenses on the CRA tax return. Below are some examples:
· Dental services not covered by the plan
· Massage therapy sessions that cost over and above what the benefit plan pays
· Glasses or contact lenses that are more expensive than what the benefit plan pays
· Travel expenses for medical services
For a complete list of medical expenses, see the following link to CRA’s website: Details of Medical Expenses.
Teachers are encouraged to review the list regularly. Be wise consumers of HSA dollars and use them for everything that is available.
3. How can I spend my WSA?
Use the WSA to purchase items according to the list agreed to at central table bargaining:
· Health support, fitness and sports activities, and equipment expenses that support the overall well-being and physical health of the member and dependant
· Professional development and education courses
· Family expenses that support the member’s dependants
For a complete list of WSA items, see the following link to ASEBP’s website: www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/spending-accounts. Note that “WSA 2 (For Teachers)” describes WSA expenditures in detail. This list applies whether or not the WSA is with ASEBP or another health benefit provider.
4. How do I know how much I have left in my HSA or WSA?
If the HSA/WSA is with ASEBP, this information is available on the ASEBP website by logging into MyASEBP or on the app.
· MyASEBP (under “Benefits, Spending Account Activity”): There will be a summary of the credits added, what was paid to the member and what credits are still available. To the right of that summary is “Unused credits at risk of forfeiture.” That number indicates how many dollars may be returned to the employer if credits from the previous year are not used by August 31.
· ASEBP App (under “Usage”, click “Account Details” under either the HSA or WSA heading). This will show the opening balance as well as what was added and paid out and what is currently available.
If the HSA/WSA is not with ASEBP, teachers are encouraged to contact their payroll administrator to determine the HSA/WSA credits available.
5. When do my credits appear in my HSA /WSA account?
Depending on how it was set up, employers will deposit HSA/WSA monies. Money may be added on a monthly or yearly basis.
6. How do I assign credits into my WSA?
On an annual basis, teachers are required to notify the WSA administrator of their choice.
· If with ASEBP, the teacher will receive an e-mail in August requesting allocation of credits between the HSA and the WSA. To make changes, log into MyASEBP and allocate the percentage for each.
· If with another health care provider, log onto their website for information and instructions.
· Remember that this decision is locked in for one year.
7. If I am taxed on WSA spending, why bother?
Here’s an example to consider:
Suppose there is $100 in the WSA. The teacher uses that to purchase a $100 gym membership. The teacher will be reimbursed the full $100 when the expense is submitted to the WSA. A T4A slip for $100 of income will arrive for that taxation year. Because the typical teacher has a marginal tax rate of 30 per cent, they will have to pay $30 more tax because of the T4A income slip. This means that the teacher received a $100 gym membership but only paid $30 (a savings of $70).
8. Who directs my allocation for the HSA or WSA? How do I decide?
The teacher does! Review how much HSA has been used in the past. Take the remaining amount and move that to the HSA to use as much of the allocated amount as possible. For example: $725.00/year is allocated but only $500.00 is used. Convert that to percentage and allocate an approximate percentage to the HSA if anticipating that expenses will be similar.
Am I really in a union? Both union and professional functions are important. In the context of union membership, the teacher’s rights are protected and efforts are made to improve the teacher’s situation. In the context of professional membership, the Association seeks to protect the interests of the profession and the public. #WEAREATA
Funding Manual Explained
Funding manual and changes - the funding manual now allows funds for
One of the largest adjustments in the new funding formula, when it was released last year, was how the formula funded distance education for non-primary registrations (non-primary registrations are students from another school division taking a distance course from a different division). For example, a student from Wolf Creek taking an online course through Pembina Hills would count as a non-primary registration for Pembina Hills. Funding was based in blocks as follows.
$1,000 per student
In this year’s funding manual, the above shifted to $1,350 per student. Under last year’s funding method, the maximum amount a board could receive was $3.6 million. Now, funding will increase as the number of students increases.
The other major change was the introduction of a new grant for kindergarten students with severe disabilities and language delays. The funding amounts are as follows.
Half day (children 2 years, 8 months to 3 years, 7 months—minimum of 300 hours; children 3 years, 8 months to 4 years, 7 months—minimum of 400 hours; children 4 years, 8 months and older—minimum of 475 hours)
Full day (minimum of 800 hours)
Along with the new grant for disabilities and language delays, a grant of $4,000 per eligible student for pre-kindergarten students with moderate language delays was also introduced.
Some teachers may have a compromised immune system or other medical condition that necessitates special accommodations to ensure their health. In that case, the teacher must have medical documentation showing that they require the employer to make changes to certain rules, standards, policies, workplace cultures or physical environments to ensure that school conditions do not have a negative effect on the teacher. This may mean extra PPE, barrier protection or, in more complex situations, a teacher not being able to work in a regular school setting. Medical documentation that supports substantive accommodations requires the teacher to work closely with their health care provider, Teacher Employment Services (TES) and their employer.
It is the duty of the employer to make accommodations for medical disability to the point of undue hardship. This will require working with the employer to establish the medical limitations of the teacher’s disability and ensure that the employer best accommodates the teacher’s disability. Teachers must bear in mind that employers have the ability to direct them to attend a medical examination under section 226 of the Education Act.
Further, teachers also have the obligation to enforce public health directives to ensure the safety of their school communities. If students refuse to comply with public health orders, teachers have the authority to address the noncompliant behaviour. Under section 36 of the Education Act. a teacher may suspend a student from one class period if “the student’s conduct, whether or not the conduct occurs within the school building or during the school day, is injurious to the physical or mental well-being of others in the school.” This would require that the teacher direct the noncomplying student to the school office. While out-of-school suspensions are often reluctantly considered, under the act, principals may suspend a student for up to five days, without a recommendation for expulsion, to ensure the safety of students and staff.
As workers in a school, teachers have an obligation to ensure the safety of their workplace. Teachers must report unsafe conditions to their site supervisor (usually their principal). Moreover, teachers can contact Alberta Health Services, Environmental Public Health or the medical officer of health with respect to COVID restrictions and enforcement of compliance with public health orders. Occupational Health and Safety and Alberta Health can coordinate efforts to ensure safely and compliance, dependent on the concern raised.
Filing an Occupational Health and Safety Complaint
In Alberta’s occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation, teachers are considered workers, the principal is the supervisor, and the school division is the employer. The Occupational Health and Safety Act does not define or determine appropriate assignments or tasks for teachers to complete—only that the work that happens at the school must be done in a safe and healthy manner.
Legislation defines the obligations of the parties at the worksite. Teachers have a role in ensuring the safety of themselves and others at the worksite, including participating in the hazard assessment creation, and reporting health and safety concerns to the site supervisor as soon as possible. If the health and safety concern is not addressed, a complaint can be filed. A complaint is for reporting unhealthy or unsafe conditions at a workplace. Anyone can file a complaint about unhealthy or unsafe conditions.
Reporting unsafe work occurs when a worker believes that an unsafe or harmful work site, condition or act exists or has occurred. The teacher (worker) must report the unsafe or harmful work site condition to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor).
If you are unsure of the best way to proceed, please contact Teacher Employment Services (TES) at 1-800-232-7208 or the OHS Contact Centre.
Before you call, ask yourself:
· Did you report unsafe work to your supervisor? What was the response?
· Did the site or school division’s health and safety committee review the unhealthy or unsafe condition? What was the response?
Please note: According to section 5 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a teacher (worker) who believes that an unsafe or harmful work site condition or act exists or has occurred must report it to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor).
Second, have you reviewed the hazard assessment for your school?
· Does the hazard assessment address the unhealthy or unsafe condition for which you are filing a complaint?
· If not, why not? Suggest that the supervisor discuss the issue with the health and safety committee.
Then, consider whether the hazard can be eliminated:
· What controls are in place to limit the hazards associated with the unhealthy or unsafe condition to the lowest level possible?
· How were the teachers and other worker groups at the school involved in the creation and review of the hazard assessments?
· How were the teachers and other worker groups informed of what they need to do in order to work in a healthy and safe manner?
· How is healthy and safe work monitored by the employer?
· Is the focus of the complaint in the hazard assessment? Why or why not?
The internal responsibility system is the foundation of OHS legislation in Alberta. It includes the responsibility of the school division (employer), the principal (supervisor) and the teacher (and other workers in the building) to work in a safe manner and ensure their safety and the safety of others in the school. Is there evidence of the internal responsibility system in use at the school?
· If a teacher or other worker in the school makes a suggestion or requests that a health and safety issue be considered or discussed by the health and safety committee, what happens?
· Where is this suggestion logged?
· What is the discussion?
· What is the reply to the suggestion?
· Is there an assessment of what is needed or not needed?
· How is this information shared with all workers at the school?
A suggestion from a teacher or other worker in the school can make a practice or condition healthier or safer. If a suggestion is not considered or is rejected by the health and safety committee, the teacher or worker can still file a complaint with OHS. However, if the work site is compliant with OHS legislation, an order will not be issued even if the suggestion has not been considered.
Finally, if you determine that it is appropriate to file an OHS complaint, this can be done by calling the OHS Contact Centre or through an online form. If you are filing online and the nature of the complaint has to do with harassment or immediate danger, you will be directed to phone the OHS Contact Centre. The online form is for non-urgent situations only.
You will be asked if you want to make an anonymous complaint. If you answer yes, you will go to the form for submitting an anonymous complaint. If you are not making an anonymous complaint, you will need to sign into MyAlberta Digital ID or create an account. If you choose to be anonymous, the information you will be required to provide will be the same, with the exception of your personal information. Once the complaint has been filed, the response time is typically 10 business days, or two hours if the danger is immediate.
Resources—Government of Alberta
ATA OHS Information
File an OHS Complaint
OHS Act, Regulation and Code
OHS Work Site Inspections: What to Expect
Report Unsafe Work
Hazard Assessment and Control: A Handbook for Alberta Employers and Workers
Changing School Divisions
Changing school divisions can present both opportunities and challenges for teachers. Learn your rights and obligations—call Teacher Employment Services at 1-800-232-7208. #WEAREATA
Returning to Teaching After Retirement
Many Alberta teachers retiring from full-time teaching at the end of this school year may be considering postretirement employment.
While there is no limit on substitute teaching or nonteaching work, returning to work under contract for an Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) employer in a position that requires a teaching certificate may impact the monthly pension. Teachers should ensure that they inform their employer that they are receiving their ATRF pension so that pension contributions are not deducted.
If a teacher works more than 0.6 of a year within any school year (September to August), the pension payable for the month in which they reach that limit must be reduced dollar for dollar (without creating a negative balance) by the amount of salary they have earned, once they have reached the 0.6 threshold.
This means that the pension payable for each subsequent month in that school year will also be reduced. If there is a reporting delay and the full amount cannot be recovered within the same school year, pension payments to the teacher in the next school year may also be reduced.