Effective Branch Operations
The formal structure and responsibilities of a branch merely provide the foundation and the framework for its effective operation. The effectiveness of a branch is determined by how its members, especially the executive and its committees, perform their functions. The following sections contain suggestions which are designed to assist branches to operate effectively.
Responsibilities of a Branch General Meeting
The general meeting is the parliament of the branch in the same sense that the Biennial General Meeting is the parliament of the provincial association. The business of the general meeting should be limited to consideration of general policy, election of officers, and consideration of reports from the executive and standing committees. (The agenda for branch meetings, and all reports, should be distributed to members prior to the meeting.) In conducting the meeting, the President should observe the rules of order as suggested. The order paper for the meeting and all procedures and arrangements are the responsibility of the executive.
In a branch where the council and/or the executive are assuming their proper responsibilities, it should not be necessary to hold more than three or four general meetings each year except to consider special matters such as collective agreements which are beyond the jurisdiction of the council and/or the executive.
Responsibilities of the Branch Representative Council
In branches which use the school representative council system, the council may be given responsibility for some decisions that would normally be made at a general branch meeting. (See model by-law XVI for items of business which can be carried out only at a general meeting of the branch.) This includes approving the appointment of committees and representatives on other committees or to other organizations. All committees are responsible to the branch and should report directly to the council and/or the general meeting. The council should be responsible for approving all activities and projects which come under the general policy provisions of the branch and the provincial association.
Responsibilities of the Branch Executive
The branch executive is responsible for conducting the day-to-day business of the branch in accordance with branch and provincial policy and by-laws, and for carrying out decisions made at council and general meetings. These duties include preparation of agendas for council and general meetings, exercising general supervision over the affairs of the branch, preparing and transmitting necessary reports to the provincial association and supervising the financial affairs of the branch.
The President can be considered the captain of the team. The effectiveness with which the President meets these responsibilities will play a large part in determining the success of the branch operation. The President calls and presides at all regular and special meetings of the branch and at all meetings of the council and executive committee, and as chairperson of these meetings should:
- Make sure that the meeting place is ready.
- Have an agenda ready and know as much as possible about what is involved in each item.
- Confer before the meeting with all officers and committee chairpersons who have business for the meeting.
- Begin and close the meeting on time.
- Speak clearly and ensure that other speakers are heard by those present.
- Enforce the rules of debate.
- Preserve order and suppress distractions which may interfere with the conduct of the meeting.
- Prevent useless repetition or digression.
- Tactfully interrupt a speaker who is out of order.
- Be formal in order to keep proceedings business-like, especially in general meetings.
- Remain impartial in debate.
- If the meeting feels a need for information, see that factual information is provided.
In addition to preparing for and chairing the meetings of the branch, the President has the responsibility of supervising the overall operations of the branch and should become acquainted with the operations of all committees. In exercising this supervisory responsibility, the President must assume various leadership functions.
The branch vice-president should take charge of the branch in the absence of the president and should take the chair when the president is giving a report or wishes to enter into the debate. The vice-president assists the president in the discharge of branch duties and may chair a committee.
Some branches combine the positions of secretary and treasurer; others favour keeping the positions separate. One of the reasons for the latter policy is the desirability of involving more people in Association affairs.
The branch secretary is expected to keep accurate minutes of all general and executive meetings. It is advisable to write up the minutes as soon as possible after the meeting. This assists accuracy and also ensures that action will be taken early on decisions made by the meeting (e.g. correspondence).
The secretary receives, answers promptly (according to the wishes of the meeting) and files all correspondence. Copies of all outgoing letters should be kept, preferably stapled to the incoming letter. When correspondence is conducted through email, a complete chain of incoming/outgoing emails should be maintained.
The secretary is custodian of the records of the Association and should, therefore, maintain an adequate filing system including minutes, correspondence, branch by-laws, the current Collective Agreement, Act, By-Laws and Code of Ethics booklet, etc.. Material from earlier years should be kept separate from that of the current year.
It is the duty of the secretary to send out notices of meetings (unless such notices are included in the branch newsletter or are the responsibility of the branch communications officer). A complete list of all teachers in the branch with their email addresses and telephone numbers, would be useful.
- The branch treasurer is expected to keep accurate records of the financial business of the Association. Thus, he/she should maintain an adequate bookkeeping system and should have a safe repository or filing system for current and recent financial records (e.g. cancelled cheques, financial statements, copy of the budget). Some “petty cash” might be kept on hand in a safe place, but other funds of the Association should be deposited with a chartered bank or with a credit union. When a small sum of money is paid out from “petty cash”, a receipt should be obtained and kept on file. Larger amounts of money should always be paid by cheque. The treasurer, and at least one other officer, should act as “signing officers” for cheques and for other financial business. It is quite common to supply the bank with the names of three signing officers, any two of whom may sign cheques. Except in emergency circumstances, however, the treasurer should always be one of those signing the cheques (to assist in keeping an accurate record of expenditures).
- The treasurer should take to each meeting of the Association or Executive Committee such records as are likely to be needed. At each regular Association meeting a report on the finances should be presented. This report need be only a simple statement on the receipts and expenditures since the last financial report, the balance of money held in the account of the Association, and some information about the bills which need to be paid. The treasurer should begin the report with a motion: “That this report be received.” If there are outstanding bills, the treasurer will move: “That the outstanding bills be paid.”
- At the annual meeting the treasurer should submit a detailed record of the financial business of the year, preferably with copies for each member present. This report should be audited (i.e. checked thoroughly by at least two persons other than the treasurer to ensure that all bookkeeping entries are correct). It is advisable that the treasurer, after submitting this annual report, move: “That this report be adopted.” (As indicated above, this formality is not necessary at regular meetings).
- The treasurer should be a member of the committee which draws up a tentative budget for the year’s operation. Such fixed expenses as executive and council meetings should be included and also allotments for committees which will require funds. This budget should be approved by a regular branch meeting. Variations from the budget are permitted later only with approval of the Executive Committee (to be reported to a branch meeting). The treasurer should keep committees informed of their status, from time to time, insofar as the budget is concerned. Treasurers should check the policy on additional funding in the NLTA policy on Branches – I. Operations of the NLTA, Section H2c. If it is anticipated that additional funding will be required, it is advisable to apply for this funding in advance of actually spending the money. Funding should be applied for on the Branch Request for Additional Funding form which can be found on the NLTA website.
- Some branches give to the executive committee the power to spend small sums of money between regular meetings. It is important that the upward limit of this policy be established by the branch and be known by the treasurer.
The branch communications officer, as a member of the branch executive, will chair the branch Communications Committee and provide liaison with this committee and the local executive. The role of the branch Communications Committee is to assist the branch communications officer in the completion of specific duties listed below:
- Coordinate the total communications program at the local level.
- Collect, from teachers, information on local projects, etc., which should be forwarded to the NLTA office and/or used in the branch newsletter.
- Keep members of the branch informed about what is happening in the area.
- Attend all branch meetings. Preview meeting agendas, poll the staff on issues to be dealt with at the meeting, bring concerns to the meeting and return with suggested directions and additional information. If unable to attend, ensure that another staff member attends.
- Maintain an NLTA Bulletin Board in a prominent area of the staffroom. Distribute and/or post a copy of correspondence received.
- Request time on the agenda of school staff meetings for discussion of concerns to be conveyed to the branch executive and for reporting on items from the branch executive, branch meetings or the provincial office.
- Assist with the smooth operation of all branch functions as follows:
- receive and distribute all information concerning meetings, socials, etc.;
- as directed by the branch executive, ensure a communications network (e.g. email list) is established for immediate communications when necessary to all teachers in the school;
- assist in conducting its branch registration by providing a school staff list to the branch executive early in the school year;
- assist in conducting the registration of substitute teachers who usually substitute in your school. (Your branch president has a registration form to be used for this purpose.) Maintain contact with them by alerting them about upcoming meetings and other information;
- be aware of calendar deadlines. Post notices and/or remind people of upcoming deadlines re application for NLTA awards, scholarships, bursaries, etc.;
- aid in selection of delegates and in the discussion of resolutions for submission to Biennial General Meeting from the branch;
- prepare and organize the school’s participation in Janeway Day in the Schools (if applicable);
- provide information to school staff on all branch activities for Education Week;
- submit to the school board-teacher liaison committee any issues or concerns raised by teachers. Ensure that minutes or reports of meetings are made known to the staff. Provide feedback to the committee.
- collect and submit articles for the branch newsletter and the NLTA Bulletin. Make the staff aware of The Bulletin sections reporting school or branch news, such as “The Classroom” and “On Location”;
- assist new teachers in the school to become involved with and informed about the branch and the NLTA;
- be familiar with the various branch executive members and their duties;
- distribute information re awards/scholarships and collect any monies that are necessary for branch awards and scholarships (if applicable).