From the President: Navigating the New Normal and More

From the President
Ted R. Wozniak

While it may be too soon to proclaim “the end is near,” it does appear that we’re approaching a return to normalcy and a post-COVID world. Here in New Orleans, most restrictions have been lifted and we even have live music again. I recently flew to Tucson, Arizona, and, except for a mask requirement in the airport and on the plane, restricted drink service during the flight, and not all food venues being open at the airports, flying was almost normal again. In two days, President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo and I will conduct a site visit of the conference hotel in Minneapolis and get a first-hand look at what ATA62 will look like in October.

While not everyone may be ready and willing to travel in October, especially members who live overseas, I do hope that we have something close to normal attendance at this year’s conference. While virtual webinars and conferences are convenient and certainly less expensive than in-person events, they cannot provide the same quality of networking as physical interaction.

But we were not quite ready for an in-person meeting back in April when the Board of Directors held its spring meeting virtually on April 24–25, 2021. Here’s a recap of some of the items that were discussed or acted on.

Finances: Treasurer John Milan reported on the Association’s financial situation for the first half of the 2020-2021 fiscal year (July 1–December 31, 2020). As expected, revenues were down, coming in at $1.46 million, with drops in revenues from dues, certification, and the Annual Conference compared to a year earlier. The declines in certification and the Annual Conference were directly related to the pandemic, while declining membership may or may not be related. But expenses were also down across the board, totaling $1.24 million, which resulted in a positive operating income of about $217,000 for the first half of the fiscal year.

Treasurer Milan expressed concerns about the coming years. Our budget projects net losses for the next three fiscal years, mostly due to declining membership revenue but also increasing costs. The Finance and Audit Committee is examining the issue and will be proposing cost-cutting and other measures to reverse this projection.

Bylaws Amendments: The Board discussed several proposed Bylaws amendments that will be presented to the Board in final form at its summer meeting, at which time the Board will vote on presenting them to the membership for approval at the Annual Meeting of Voting Members during the conference this October.

One amendment, which I initially proposed to the Governance and Communications Committee, would remove the president and president-elect as ex officio members of the Ethics Committee. Currently, the Bylaws stipulate that the president and president-elect are non-voting ex officio members of all committees except the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee. As the Board is the final appeal authority for ethics cases, neither of these officers should be involved in ethics cases. Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, our governing parliamentary authority, also strongly suggests that officers not be ex officio members of either nominating or disciplinary committees.

Another amendment would expand eligibility to serve on standing committees to corresponding and associate members, and to chair standing committees to corresponding members. This is in response to a number of standing committees that have “members” who are currently ineligible to serve as voting members of the committee and to the increasing disproportionate number of associate members compared to active members.

The other amendments are so-called “housekeeping” amendments to clear up possible ambiguities or resolve “wording” issues such as the use of gendered nouns. All the amendments and the full rationale for those that are approved by the Board in August will be published in due time before the Annual Meeting.

Certification: One very pleasing report came from the Certification Committee regarding its efforts to move the certification exam to an online platform. The first online session has since been held, and while it was not nearly as smooth as one would have hoped, the majority of issues encountered were technical. These issues can easily be resolved. Additional sessions will have been held by the time you read this, and the online offering should be operating smoothly. Not only will this platform allow us to meet the pent-up demand created by the suspension of in-person exams during the pandemic, but it will also enable candidates to take the exam without having to travel or lug a suitcase of paper dictionaries and brings the exam environment closer to the real world.

Ad Hoc Website Committee: The Board accepted the final report from the Ad Hoc Website Committee following the very successful launch of the new website. My thanks to the committee members and all the members who reviewed and revised website content is worth repeating – THANK YOU!

Advocacy: The Board discussed a proposal from the Advocacy Committee intended to increase the professionalization of ATA’s advocacy efforts. After much discussion, during which there was unanimous consensus that ATA needs to professionalize some of its advocacy work and not rely solely on member volunteers, the Board ultimately rejected the proposal as presented and asked the Advocacy Committee to revise its proposal and present a new proposal at the next Board meeting.

Finally, I’m happy to report an additional sign of a return to normal. The next Board of Directors meeting will be held in-person in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 7-8, 2021. I’m so glad that my last Board meeting will be a real one. See you at ATA62 in Minneapolis!

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