How to Make Changes to the CATA Organizational Structure

By John Williams, President-Elect

The CATA organizational structure is founded upon a set of written documents that are used as the guiding principles for members, officers, and the CATA office. The bylaws and operating policies direct the organization to complete work that is needed to be done, for the good of the members. They are living documents which are open for change as society and our industry changes through the years. The purpose of this article is to summarize these documents, inform members about where they are located, and review the process of altering the documents. Additionally, I will briefly explain the state leadership structure, as it is important to have a basic understanding of how the foundational components of our organization are interconnected. 

Leadership

The leadership structure is broken down into separate divisions and committees. The CATA Governing Board is an ensemble of elected representatives from throughout the state. The board consists of the state officers, region presidents, division chairs, and chair-elects. There are three scheduled meetings for the governing board: one in January, and pre-conference and post-conference meetings in June. The role of the governing board is to set policies, plan summer conference, assist with organizational needs, represent membership, and disseminate information to regions and sections. The governing board is the glue that holds our organization together since every region has a voice on the board, and it is a true representation of members. 

The CATA Executive Committee consists of the state officers, division chairs, and the post-secondary vice chair. This committee’s focus is on the CATA office. Our organization employs three personnel: the executive director, a full-time executive assistant, and a part-time executive assistant. The executive committee is responsible for evaluating the executive director and they are also responsible for personnel changes. The executive committee is in direct communication with the executive director and serves in an advisory role. The members of this committee are elected by the general membership. This committee has three scheduled meetings: fall, winter, and summer conference. Both the executive committee and governing board can be called to a meeting by the state president, as needed, to address issues and concerns on behalf of the CATA membership. 

There are three divisions within the CATA that are responsible for the operations of the CATA and host the various committees that aid in meeting the needs of our organization. The Operations Division is responsible for the following committees: Curricular Code, Teacher Recruitment, Budget/Audit, Membership Services, Articulation/Certification, Professional Ethics, Ag Issues, and Nominations/Bylaws/Professional Awards. This division does not segregate between high school and college instructors. It is open to all members to serve in various roles and to add input in the organization as a whole. The Secondary Division is the governing body for junior high and high school teachers. The purpose of this division is to open communication for this subgroup of our organization to meet their needs. The Post-Secondary Division consists of teachers at the community college and university level. Just like the Secondary Division, its purpose is to address issues and meet the needs of the teachers in this subgroup. Both the Secondary and Post-Secondary divisions have standing committees that meet as needed. All three divisions have a “seat” at the table regarding representation on the governing board and the executive committee. 

Bylaws and Operating Policies

The easiest way to access the bylaws and operating policies is via the CATA website, www.calagteachers.org. At the top left of the homescreen, select the “CATA” dropdown menu. You will see the documents listed there. If you are not able to access the website, all elected state, region, and division officers have a paper copy of these documents and should have them on their person at CATA meetings. Lastly, you can email the CATA office and ask for a copy. The bylaws and operating policies have evolved over time, and are able to be changed, as needed, following the appropriate process.

Operating Policy Changes

The operating policies are guidelines used in operating the day-to-day functions of our organization, including summer conference, role of the executive director, fiscal policies, and more. The operating policies were adopted in 1985 and may be changed. The procedure to change operating policies is relatively simple: a motion is needed and a majority vote is required by the membership present. Changes can be made at an executive committee meeting, governing board meeting, or during a general assembly at the summer conference. Unlike a bylaw change, the changes to the operating policies do not require a vote from the general membership. If you would like to change an operating policy, you need to be prepared to debate and express your thoughts as to why the change is needed.

Bylaws Change – Curricular Code

There are two distinct sections of the bylaws that can be changed, and each section has a unique process. First is the curricular code. The curricular codes for career development events (CDES) are part of the CATA bylaws. Changes to curricular codes are completed through the curricular code committee meetings within the operations division. Curricular codes for specific events can be changed every three years and are on a scheduled rotation. Each year, CATA announces which events are open for changes. If you want to propose a change to an open event, you must submit your proposed changes to the CATA office by June 1 using the curricular code proposal form that is posted to the CATA website. If you want to submit a change to a contest that is not slated to be open, you may still submit a proposal to the CATA office by June 1 and that proposal will be added to the pre-conference governing board agenda. The governing board must approve the consideration of any change for a contest that is out of rotation. It is recommended that those who do propose a change for an out of rotation contest be present at the pre-conference governing board meeting to state their reasons for opening the contest. In the past, the governing board has denied opening a contest out of rotation when the individual who submitted the proposal was not present at the pre-conference meeting. 

On the Tuesday morning of summer conference, the contests that are open will each have a meeting to discuss proposed changes. All CATA members are invited to participate. For each contest committee, the coach of that year’s winning team is appointed as chair. In these committee meetings you can only change what was proposed in writing prior to the conference. This eliminates the chance of a member going into the meeting to alter the contest without proper vetting. All contest change proposals are posted on the CATA website prior to summer conference so that teachers can learn about what changes are being considered. If there is conflict between a contest change and what is written in the general rules, the general rules will override the individual contest. If a proposal for a contest alters how the state finals host site will put on a contest (e.g. additional facilities, new sections, additional scoring, etc.), the host site advisor must also sign a form stating that they were notified and willing to accommodate the proposed change prior to submitting the change to the CATA for consideration. This allows for open communication between the state finals host and the CATA. 

Each contest committee’s minutes—with approval or denial of the proposed changes—are then submitted to the operations division chair who presents the changes to the CATA general membership during division reports, typically during Wednesday morning’s general session. At the end of the operation division’s report, a motion is needed to approve the report. At that time, a motion can be made to amend the report to change a curricular code. Debate will ensue and eventually a vote to approve the amendment and the operation division’s report will take place. Adopting curricular code amendments during the general session does not happen often, but it has happened.

Bylaws Change – All Other

Per the operating policies, all changes to the bylaws must follow the resolution process. The flow of the resolution process is described within the operating policies, which also outline the proper format of a resolution. Essentially, any member can propose a change to the CATA bylaws, but there is a process that must be followed in order to get the change on the ballot to be voted on by the membership. A resolution may be initiated by a region, the governing board, or the executive committee. All resolutions must be on the agenda and presented at region, executive committee, or governing board meetings during the year of the proposed changes. 

As a member, you may make a motion for the resolution at your region’s meeting. If you are unable to do that, you can request that a governing board member or executive committee member make the motion at one of their board meetings on your behalf. Depending on the time of year, the process may differ slightly. 

If you want to submit the proposed change in the fall, your region must vote and pass the resolution at their fall meeting. The region must then submit the approved resolution to the executive director at least 30 days prior to the winter governing board meeting. The resolution will then be presented at the executive committee meeting and the governing board meeting in January for consideration. The executive director will present the resolution and explain how it will change the bylaws and/or operating policies. Next, the governing board will recommend further action—“pass” or “do not pass”—with a two-thirds vote. If the recommendation does not receive a two-thirds vote, a “no action” response will be reported back to the region. After the winter governing board meeting, the regional presidents will present resolutions under consideration for members to discuss. Regions can make amendments to the resolution, but the region must specify how the amendment will change the bylaws or operating policies. Every region must make a recommendation of “do pass,” “do not pass,” or “no action” and submit their recommendations prior to the pre-conference governing board meeting. Please note, if a region does make an amendment to the resolution, the region must submit the amendment to the executive director at least 30 days prior to pre-conference governing board. At the Sunday pre-conference governing board meeting, the amendments (if any) are finalized. The governing board will once again make a recommendation on the resolution, and it will then be added to the agenda of the Nominations/Bylaws/Professional Awards. This committee will review the resolution and any amendments for accuracy. Then they will post the resolution in a conspicuous place no later than 24 hours prior to a vote. Resolutions are posted near the CATA office at Cal Poly as well as on the CATA website. The committee then prepares the ballot, and a vote is held at the Thursday morning general session. 

If the resolution is initiated in the spring, the initiating region, executive committee, or governing board must submit the proposed change to the executive director 30 days prior to the pre-conference governing board meeting. The governing board will make a recommendation on the vote and disseminate it to the regions. At the Monday morning region meetings, the regions will vote on a recommendation on the resolution, and if a region amends the resolution, it must be submitted to the executive director immediately after the conclusion of that region’s meeting. At this point, the state president will call for a special governing board meeting to finalize the resolution and make another recommendation on how they feel the membership should vote. It will then move to the bylaws committee and to the ballot as outlined in the previous paragraph. The general membership can amend the resolution from the floor at the last general session prior to voting. All changes to the bylaws require a two-thirds majority vote from the general membership to pass.  

Conclusion

I know this was a long read, but I wrote this to (hopefully) make sense of what can be a very confusing system. A couple years ago, those of us on the executive committee tried to make a change but did not follow the proper protocol. Thankfully, some members were paying attention and helped correct our mistake. This is one example of how great our organization is, but also why we have a system of checks and balances—so that all members have a voice in the organization. Please let me know if you have any questions. As you finish your semester, I hope you get a chance to relax, reflect, and spend time with those you love. 

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