After receiving an anonymous email claiming Medicine Hat Public Schools had not offered an extended contract to any probationary teachers for the coming school year the News reached out to the division.

MHPSD says it will be teaching approximately 7,000 students during 2023-24, and in fact had five teachers move from a probationary contract to continuous. However, 10 teachers retired in 2022-23, and with a decrease in provincial funding the division says it had to lower the number of teachers, leaving fewer continuous contracts offered than total retirements.

There will be 332 full-time equivalent (1.0 FTE) and 28 part-time teachers within the division next year. A total of 8.4 will have a first-year probationary contract and 16.86 will have a temporary contract.

Usually, teachers have a year of probation before being offered a continuous contract. A school division can, on occasion, offer someone a continuous contract without vetting them.

“It’s risky,” said superintendent Mark Davidson, “because if they show up and turn out to not be an exemplary teacher, you’ve bought that service for a long, long time.”

The probationary contract allows a year of evaluation.

“At the end of the year, you can do another year of probation if you have concerns about their practice, or you can give them a continuous contract or you can release them,” said Davidson, adding that there are often more teachers with probationary contracts than there are jobs coming available in the next year. “Even six years ago in this system, there were more people with probationary contracts than there were new jobs available. Others have to compete for the jobs that were available and might not get them, that’s just how it works,” said Davidson.

Temporary contracts are different from probationary in that they are always connected to a teacher under permanent contract who is on leave for whatever reason.

“Temporary contracts are going to flex and contract and it has nothing to do with choices we are making as a system,” stated Davidson. “It has to do with people getting pregnant, surgeries, long-term illnesses, or family issues.”

Moving five teachers from probationary to a continuous contract is a fairly normal number for MHPSD. In addition to the 10 retirements, some teachers will be moving into administrative roles, either within MHPSD or to another school division, while others simply moved on. There were four teachers who were offered a probationary or temporary contract but accepted a position elsewhere. Seven teachers moved out of the division, two to other cities, two to Prairie Rose Public Schools, two to the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education and one to Medicine Hat College.

“It is an interesting situation. When I first came out of university in 1992, it was similar to how things are now in terms of jobs, and out of 17 or 18 in my section, only two of us got full-time jobs in our first year because we were the only two willing to move away. People who stayed and weren’t willing to go where the jobs were and then were angry at the local school division for not employing them, doesn’t make sense. People follow jobs, that’s how it works. As a colleague of mine once said, are you position bound or place bound? If you are place bound, you can’t be mad that the job you want isn’t right in front of you. If you are position bound, you will find it.”

MHPSD also employs 257 FTE and 64 part-time support staff. These numbers include clerical, custodial, education assistants, family school liaison workers, optimal learning coaches, facilities and central office staff. The division is still in the process of hiring one more probationary teacher and three, possibly more, temporary.

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 04, 2023 at 09:42

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta
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