The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the failure of the government to show leadership around the operation of schools has tested both teachers and their Association, said executive secretary Dennis Theobald at the 104th Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) on May 22.
Speaking to more than 450 delegates who attended ARA via Zoom, Theobald said that schools and school authorities were largely left to their own devices to create safe spaces as best they could for students, staff and teachers while community messaging and health measures remained both incoherent and often contradictory.
“Even when faced with uncertainty and anxiety, teachers were there for their students. The pandemic didn’t change that. And for 104 years, the ATA has served and advocated for members. The pandemic didn’t change that either,” Theobald said.
While schools and teachers struggled to navigate the muddy waters of teaching through a pandemic, Theobald stressed that the Association was also affected, as staff strived to continue its regulatory, professional and union obligations to members. When schools closed the previous March, so did Barnett House and SARO, with staff dispersed to work from their homes.
“These steps were essential for ensuring that the Association could maintain critical services to its members while ensuring, to the greatest degree possible, the safety of our employees and their families. The Association was determined to model the concern and response that teachers expected of the government and employers,” he said. “Throughout, the guiding principle that informed all of our operational decisions was to sustain the highest quality of service to members while protecting the public health of teachers and the community.”
Theobald said that it would have been easy in the last year to simply put the Association’s organizational development projects on hold until some form of normalcy had returned. However, Association leaders chose the more difficult path forward. In 2020, the Association’s Information and Technology Services (ITS) and Human Resources (HR) units underwent major restructuring and the Teacher Welfare and Member Services program areas were amalgamated to form an integrated Teacher Employment Services.
“These changes, and others throughout the organization, were made to enhance efficiency and efficacy while enhancing service to members and honouring their expectation that we would make the best use of membership fees.” ❚
SCREEN CAPTURE / CORY HARE
ATA executive secretary Dennis Theobald delivers his annual report to delegates of the 104th Annual Representative Assembly on May 22.