Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Officer Job Descriptions

Who (and what) the heck are the “officers” of Council? We thought you might like to know.

One of the principal items on the agenda for the first meeting of the term is the election of a slate of Council officers: Council President (Chief Governance Officer), First Vice-President (Advisory Coordinator), Second Vice-President (Member Liaison) and Secretary-Treasurer. 

Officers, including the President, are not ├╝ber-Councillors, nor do they form an Executive Committee with special decision-making powers. They are ordinary Councillors to whom Council has delegated some specific responsibilities to help Council do its work, and each position entails consistent time commitment beyond regular meetings.

Despite what one might assume from the title, the Council President is not the head of Equity, nor even the head of Council. The President is best understood as the “servant-leader” of Council – he or she “leads” Council by taking instruction from Council. In summary, the job is to organise, coordinate, enable and support Council's work, and that has bee done
 for the past while by Stage Management Councillor Allan Teichman (me). 

Probably the most basic responsibility of the President is chairing Council meetings. That’s fairly simple, and it's not much different from the same task in any other setting. However, the lion’s share of the work is done between meetings: managing the Council calendar and agendas, arranging for Council education on upcoming topics, communicating with staff and others as required, and acting on motions that were passed. In addition, all of the material that Council needs for each meeting must be written, compiled or arranged for in time for the monthly package mailing deadline.

At the moment, the 
President is also Council’s main communications link, requiring a column for each EQ, two or more Council Link reports to the members each year, as well as regular blog posts, various reports, and the like. All told, it’s roughly the equivalent of a part-time job.

The First Vice-president of Council acts as the Advisory Coordinator, whose purpose is to assist Council’s advisory committees to effectively carry out their responsibilities. The job generally involves helping to set up new a
dvisory committees, making sure that they are informed of resources at their disposal, have access to them, and that there is follow up to ensure timely completion and/or reporting on progress related to each committee mandate.

The Second Vice-president of Council is the Member Liaison, and provides a direct point of contact for members who would like to make Council aware of emerging issues, concerns, and trends. The primary focus for this position is in the area of Owner Linkage – ensuring Council stays connected to the members who own the Association, and enabling input on the many things that are important to them.

Council is looking at a review of this position. One of the main upcoming topics of discussion on the Council agenda is member communication – how we can best reach out to them (and they can connect in), on the topics members want to talk about, and through the most effective avenues. While this work is not yet complete, it is expected that the 2nd VP’s job description will change to reflect future directions in this area.

Lastly, but not leastly, the Council Secretary-Treasurer is in charge of ensuring the integrity of Council’s documents and various other governance materials. Because all of Council’s business is recorded in minutes, and all its decisions are written into policy and bylaws, this work is pretty much ongoing throughout the term. Staff handle most of the minute-taking and document updating, but the Sec-Treas is involved all along the line to ensure that these documents are kept current and are an accurate reflection of Council business. From time to time, the 
Sec-Treas is also called upon to sign documents as required by law or the expectation of outside agencies, such as our auditor.

Another of the key responsibilities of the Sec-Treas is to track the various monitoring reports received throughout the year, since these will form the basis of Council’s annual evaluation of the Executive Director. The Sec-Treas also helps Council track its own self-evaluation, so that we ensure we behave consistently with our own rules over time. And, of course, the Sec-Treas tracks agenda proposals we receive from the members.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advisory Committee Survey Summary

In prep for the inaugural meeting, Council got its first look at the detailed Council Advisory Committee survey results. We still have to work our way through them, but we wanted to share the overall picture with you right away.

331 submissions were received from a total of 216 members, which is great. Up to three suggestions were solicited per response – half of submissions included at least two, and one-quarter included three. Even better, almost half the respondents indicated that they would be willing to serve on at least one of the advisories.

Here are the results ranked by frequency.

Topic Category
Independent/Small Scale Theatre (action/monitoring/flexibility/help)
Communications (general/transparency/social media/simplify/inbound PR)
Stage Management issues
Director/Choreographer/Fight Director issues
Member Education (general)
Audition conditions
Diversity issues
Agreement Ratification (eligibility to vote)
Merging with ACTRA
Engagement opportunities (increasing)
Working conditions
Rehearsal Models
Regional/local support committees (various)
New Members (welcome and education)
CTA/Level 2 Monitoring
Senior Artists
Guest Artist Policy
Concessions (to working terms)
Member Linkage
Cost reduction
Women's issues
TYA issues
Professional development
Producer's issues
New media
Discipline based (none specified)
Cultural community outreach
Western office
Child performer's issues

Each submission was assigned a short topic heading based on the main point being made. Then, related and compatible categories were combined – the top two suggestions are good examples of this. The "miscellaneous" item at the end includes all those for which only a single submission was made, and where none of them combined easily with a higher-ranking category.

Along with the committee proposals, general comments were also requested at the end of the survey, and we received 59 of these. In a few cases, they were used to reiterate or expand on the suggestions already made. Almost all of the remainder commented on the change in advisory structure, and responses were overwhelmingly favourable. Council is pleased to see the new system meet with such a positive response, both in the number of proposals received and the enthusiasm for the idea.

Council will be reviewing the overall patterns in these results as a priority item and making a determination on which committees will be struck as part of the initial slate. Committee mandates will be developed from the proposal material, and members can expect to see the first committees formed early in the new year. Finally, Council will set up an ongoing application procedure, so that advisory suggestions may be submitted at anytime going forward. You'll hear more about that once it's in place.

As always, we welcome your comment and feedback. You can contact me at, or Aaron Willis, Second Vice-president at,or either of us through the national office.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Start of new Council term and handover

With the start of a new term of Council, perhaps this is an opportune time to talk about how that whole thing happens…

The election process itself begins 18 months in advance of the end of the term. Council strikes a committee to handle this job, and their first task is to review the membership numbers to confirm the distribution of seats across the various regions.

Next, the election committee gets the mechanics of the election in hand, including choosing a voting provider and an independent auditor to ensure the integrity of the process. All major voting paperwork is reviewed and revised as well.

A couple of months in advance of nominations, the logistics aspect of the vote is handed off to staff, since it will need ever-increasing daily attention through to the end. The committee does, however, continue to monitor the process regularly through to the completion of the vote, and if there are any issues needing our immediate attention, we convene to decide them.

Most of the rest you know about. Nominations open, are solicited throughout the membership, and close. Candidate lists are generated and circulated, ballots are sent out, and the actual voting is conducted.

During this time, the committee's attention shifts to compiling the orientation package for the incoming Council. Aside from basic informational stuff, there will also be a number of agenda items that need to carry over, and Councillor training has to be arranged. Although the last bits of the package will not be finalised until the outgoing Council has met for the final time, most of the material is complete even before the results are in, so that it can be sent out as soon as possible.

In the same period, the committee starts drafting its final report, along with any recommendations for future process improvements, or rule changes. This report will be presented to the new Council at its first meeting. Following that, the committee is dissolved and the committee members breathe a sigh of relief!

It's not all about the committee, though…

At the end of each term, Council prioritises completion of any major initiatives that are in the works. Rather than hand over something 95% complete that would require significant recap and review time in order to bring the new Council up to speed, and to facilitate staff planning for any upcoming changes, Council tries to hand over as clean a slate as possible. Consequently, the last few meetings are jam-packed with major decisions to be made.

Of course, there are always future issues to which Council has committed for the upcoming year, but it's best if a new Council can take them on from square one instead of half-way through – we rarely start anything new at that late point in the term.

The outgoing Council has its final meeting in late October, and continues to serve up until the day the incoming Council first meets. I'll talk more about that in a future post.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Independent Theatre Agreements

At the end Monday's meeting, Executive Director Arden R. Ryshpan announced the imminent publication of the two new agreements. One last round of proofreading to go before launch!

2012 Honours Ceremony

This year's awards ceremony was held Monday, December 3 at the brand new Daniels Spectrum in downtown Toronto. Councillors, past honorees and members from the area all came together to celebrate the 2012 slate of honours recipients.

Members Evelyne "Evie" Anderson (Manitoba) and Marti Maraden (Ontario) were accorded Life Membership in Equity, in recognition of their lengthy careers and manifold contributions to theatre. We also welcomed arts supporter Martha Lou Henley (British Columbia) as an Honorary Member, acknowledging decades of promotion and support of a wide range of vocal and operatic organisations in Vancouver and across the country.

Former Councillor and Council Vice President Dawn Obokata (Ontario) received the Larry McCance Award in appreciation for her many years of dedicated service to the Association and its members. And finally, the 2012 Stage West-Equity Emerging Theatre Artist Award was presented to dance and theatre artist Mayahuel Tecozautla (Ontario) in peer recognition of an impressive start to her career as an Equity member.

I have always regarded this event as one of the great pleasures of being a Councillor. This opportunity to join with members across the country in a celebration of talent, energy, dedication and support for the performing arts is without parallel.

Media release here.

Photo gallery here.

First Meeting of Council

As of this past Sunday, the 2012-2015 Council formally took office. The team for the term (in case you missed the announcement) is:

Hume Baugh (Ontario)
Scott Bellis (BC/Yukon)
Nigel Bennett (Ontario)
Mark Brownell (Ontario)
Angela Christie (Saskatchewan)
Kerry Davidson (BC/Yukon)
Jane Heyman (BC/Yukon)
Evan R. Klassen (Eastern Opera)
Kristina Nicoll (Ontario)
Wade Nott (Western Opera)
Simon Mallett (Alberta South)
Geoff McBride (Eastern Ontario/Outaouais)
Yanna McIntosh (Ontario)
Robert Pel (Eastern Opera)
Kimberly Rampersad (Manitoba/Nunavut)
Bill Robertson (Dance)
Howard Rosenstein (Quebec)
Robert Seale (Atlantic)
Garett Spelliscy (Alberta North/NWT)
Vinetta Strombergs (Ontario)
Allan Teichman (Stage Management)
Aaron Willis (Ontario)

If any of these people arrive back home looking a little bleary-eyed, and perhaps a bit stunned, that will give you some idea of the jam-packed nature of the meeting. It was three full days of board training and business.

On Monday afternoon, Council proceeded to elect it's officers for the term, and they are:

Allan Teichman - President
Kerry Davidson - 1st Vice President (Advisory Coordinator)
Aaron Willis - 2nd Vice President (Member Liaison)
Evan R. Klassen - Secretary Treasurer

A few years back I casually remarked that I anticipated the first year of the term would see Council working flat out, but that things would ease up a bit after that. I could not have been more wrong, and this term looks like it will also be packed wall to wall.

Welcome and congratulations to the 2012-2015 Council. Let's get to work!