Having resigned to pursue other political aspirations, former Education Minister Gerard Kennedy left public education with an interesting parting gift - Bill 78.
The bill - still being debated in the legislature as of this writing - would add six teachers to the College's Council. It would make support for new teachers mandatory. It would let school board trustees pay themselves more. It would hold boards more accountable for reaching government-set targets for student performance and it would give student trustees more influence in local decision-making.
But the proposed legislation also raises some interesting questions. Why, for example, does the College need a new committee to ensure that we meet our mandate to serve the public interest? Why is it recommended that this Public Interest Committee include only non-College members? To whom will it report and what powers will it have?
The bill is before the Standing Committee on Social Policy of the Ontario Legislature at the time of this writing. Apart from the questions it raises for the College and for district school boards, the bill's passage is critical to the election of the next College Council.
The former Education Minister asked Council to extend its current term by six months to enable the government to create and introduce the new legislation. Council did so last September.
He also requested that the College delay the formal election call until June to ensure the changes are in effect.
With the addition of six positions to Council comes the need for regulation amendments. Who-votes-for-whom-where still must be determined, along with many other sensitive and nuanced changes, such as the definition of a classroom teacher.
Consequently, Council passed a motion at its March meeting to have myself or the vice-chair attend all meetings with Ministry staff to determine the regulatory language.
In the meantime, College staff is busily preparing for an election that - should Bill 78 pass and the necessary regulation be put in place - will occur from September 5 to October 24.
Our election committee is working hard to improve candidate and voter participation. In the 2003 election, voter turnout was appallingly low. Only 4.4 per cent of those eligible actually cast a vote.
A comprehensive communications strategy has been developed. This includes a special election issue of Professionally Speaking, which you will receive in about a month's time, when we expect that Bill 78 will be law and our election regulation will be finalized.
Once the election call has been issued, we will act quickly to let you know how you can run for one of the 23 elected Council positions or how to nominate a colleague. We will let you know what Council and its committees do and why their work is vital to your working life as a College member. We will also inform you about all relevant College policies and procedures, including how to vote and for how many positions.
We will do our best to keep candidates and voters aware of the changes that will occur once the bill becomes law and the regulation takes effect.
We've attempted to tell you in this issue all we can about what is known to this point. Please take time to read it - and the forthcoming special edition. As well, check the College web site at www.oct.ca frequently.
Council is committed to a well-run election with much interest from candidates and a good voter turnout. We are as effective as our members are engaged.
Run, nominate or vote. It's YOUR College to influence.