Our History: 1998 to 2018 – Our First 20 Years
The political climate of the fall of 1997 was shaped by the controversial Bill 160, “Education Quality Improvement Act”. Features of this Bill included: transferring important (financial) aspects of education from the locally elected school boards to the province, introducing Standardized testing, cutting teacher prep time, changing the collective bargaining process and removing approximately 1 billion dollars from educational coffers. The famed “funding formula” was implemented, cutting many jobs and services to our schools. The then Minister of Education, John Snobelen, was quoted as saying by creating a “useful crisis” in education, he was moving towards fiscal responsibility for the province. He was quickly replaced by Dave Johnston as Education Minister who was faced with the task of implementing the controversial Bill.
In response, the teachers across the province voiced their concern over the implications of the Bill by walking out in protest from October 27 to November 10th. “Days of Action” was the largest strike of its kind. On October 2, VPs and Ps discussed possible actions and for the first time, Vice Principals and Principals joined their teaching colleagues on the sidewalks on the second day of the protest. For nine days, we walked the picket lines together. Upon our return, VPs and Ps were promptly removed from the union.
With an uncertain future, (none of us had ever worked in a non-unionized environment) and a new employer (January 1998 also saw the amalgamation of the 7 former school boards: Etobicoke, City of York, North York, Scarborough, East York, Toronto and the Metropolitan Toronto School board) a group of concerned administrators gathered to discuss possibilities.
The 12 chairs of the local secondary associations (6 Ps and 6 VPs) met weekly and sometimes twice weekly, over a period of 6 months, to discuss the new reality that faced administrators across the city. We learned that Labour law protected us somewhat, but our first item of business was creating a Terms and Conditions document. During those discussions, we discovered that the former Toronto board had a half time release position for an administrator to work on behalf of colleagues, with the senior staff. Chris Bolton joined in the discussions for future directions. “Time release” became a new possibility in dealing with our new employer and keeping the voice of VPs and Ps alive. The TSAA was born. In fact, the first TSAA meeting was Wednesday January 7, 1998.
Key features of the newly minted association included: representing both elementary and secondary VPs and Ps, an association fee that would cover the expense of a released administrator and an Office Assistant and a constitution that would secure our future as a Professional Association. We agreed that as a professional association we would seek out working administrators to act as Chair / Vice Chair. We felt that their recent experiences as an administrator would give credibility to our observations on work load and working conditions. We also agreed that an association that represented both panels, and both positions would offer a stronger voice. The original twelve acted as the first Executive and in 1998, we elected Janet Dalziel, a Secondary Vice Principal from the former Toronto (Humberside Collegiate) as the first Chair.
The first official meeting with then TDSB director, Marguerite Jackson on Tuesday May 12, 1998 was on the topic of caretaking cuts due to the new funding formula. It was an interesting meeting. The Executive (the original 12) attended to address the impact these cuts would have on the schools. As we started to outline the issues, Marguerite turned to us and said, “Who are you?” .. With pride, we said “We are the TSAA and we represent the interests of hundreds of school VPs and Ps” .. We held our first Annual General Meeting at Lawrence Park Collegiate on Tuesday May 26th 1998 and since then, we have never looked back!
Over the years, the Association has grown. We began with one Chair but in our second year, we realized that the job was bigger than one person could handle and the voice of both panels was a decided asset. An Executive was struck to support the work of the Chair / Vice Chair. Our location at Fairmeadow has changed from the second floor to the first. Our constitution has been changed to reflect the changes in our membership. Our membership has grown steadily from the original 75% to the current 96% of all administrators. Centrally assigned Ps and VPs, and Adult Day principals have been included in the voice on Rep Assembly. Recent changes include the change to the length of service of the Chair / Vice Chair from a 2 year appointment to a 4 year term.
In terms of our presence within the board, there have also been many changes. We have been invited to sit at many tables with Senior team and we continue to seek out more venues for our voices. We are the sole agent for the purposes of negotiations. We are regularly sought out by senior team for the “pulse from the field”. We regularly offer our own, unsolicited comments.
Our link with the Ontario Principals Council has also expanded over the years. We watched OPC as it grew as an organization and we are now an OPC local affiliate. TSAA sends 4 councilors to the Provincial OPC council. Two TDSB principals have been elected to the position of OPC President, including a former TSAA Chair. We have also had a number of members serve as Members at Large for Toronto.
Over the coming years, TSAA will continue to seek out opportunities to ensure the voices of the membership are heard both at the local and provincial levels. We continue to grow this association as the needs of our membership change. We continue to provide an outstanding conference, social events and networking opportunities to our membership. We look ahead to connecting with members.
The TSAA is an organization that grew out of necessity and difficult circumstances. It continues to grow as the members face new challenges and new needs come to our attention.
Our past chairs are regularly invited to TSAA functions and many are still working as administrators.