Maze’s election as President of STF represents desire for change
Originally published in "Saskatchewan Bulletin" Volume 81, Number 9, May 20, 2015. Re-published here with permission.
Once the much-anticipated results for the election of President of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) had been published at the Annual Meeting of Council, it was obvious the appetite for change among many of the councillors had been actualized.
For several moments the one missing ingredient was an appearance by Patrick Maze, who as of July 1 will be entrusted to assume the position following this year’s elections, after having received the most votes among three candidates (current President Colin Keess had withdrawn just prior to the opening day speeches).
After he had a few moments to catch his breath, Maze readily acknowledged he was feeling a sense of relief, if not some trepidation, in the aftermath of having laid out an ambitious plan in his campaign speech the previous day.
“I think it’s time to start a new chapter for the STF, where we as an organization get back to the business of representing teachers. There have been so many issues that we have been facing in the last couple of years that I think Council has decided they want to move forward in a new direction, and so from that perspective, I guess it’s a turning point. I think I have a lot to offer and I hope to be able to deliver on a different approach,” Maze suggested.
The current full-time president of the Regina Public School Teachers’ Association said, similar to his campaign speech, that his stated priority is to make sure the voice of teachers is heard, mostly through Council.
He allowed that there are doubtlessly complexities and extenuating circumstances, but added that “some of the direction Council has set should have been easier to act on, but it seems to me we debate them too much when we just need to make it happen and don’t be afraid. I would like to see us take more decisive action in the future.”
According to Maze, the frustration he has referenced is shared by many members of Council, adding that in his opinion a lot of damage has been done in the last couple of years, “and teachers are still dealing with the fallout and it’s still in their memory, and we need to work hard to regain their trust and make it right so that when we talk to external stakeholders, we are speaking as the voice of teachers.”
Despite his desire for a new approach, Maze describes himself as a consensus builder, alluding in particular to the knowledge he has gained regarding governance work, having been involved as a board member at the University of Regina for the past five years.
“I like to think of myself as an active listener and then make decisions based on what you hear. I think, as an organization, we could strengthen our governance model and have a greater understanding of the roles and responsibilities. We need to find a balance and be able to ask the difficult questions and to be sure we are accountable.”
Although there have been some murmurs of issues between the Executive and senior administrative staff, Maze alluded specifically to Executive Director Gwen Dueck’s “incredible corporate knowledge and an incredible skill set that we need as an organization and I am very respectful of her role, and absolutely we can work together.”
Maze added that as much as he campaigned against the status quo, “the organization is definitely not irretrievably broken, but we need to gain back the confidence and trust of the members.”
In addition to building greater unity at Council, he said there also needs to be a renewed commitment to listening to teachers, albeit realizing there is a very diverse membership.
“But we have to realize that many of the challenges and frustrations we are feeling are the same across the province and they are in every classroom. That’s why we need to re-connect with teachers to make sure their voice is heard and represented. That comes down to better communication between the Federation and the classroom teacher,” he insisted.
Maze acknowledged that by nature he can be quite impetuous and impatient, noting in particular his frustration with the increased workload for teachers without commensurate remuneration. In his view he would have favoured a firmer response from the STF.
“That’s been a stumbling block for teachers and it’s an example of the elephant in the room. In instances like that I believe we need to be a stronger voice for teachers.”
Having served less than a year on the Executive in 2010, Maze said the experience definitely gave him insight into the realities of the challenges that lie ahead.
“I know the members of the Executive are all classroom teachers and it’s a tough job, and I want to make it clear that we owe them a lot of respect for the work they have done in often tough circumstances,” he said, while adding that he would dearly love to see greater involvement in the Federation by rank-and-file classroom teachers.
“We have to be eternally vigilant, but I think to some degree it’s just become a matter of teachers having too many pressures being put on them and seeing the setbacks we have experienced.”
Maze admitted that he’s the sort of person who seeks new challenges every few years, although he said, ironically, what he professes to miss the most is being in the classroom–he has taught at both the elementary and high school levels.
“I know there will be pressure with this job, but I also know there will be a lot of support and it’s not like I will have the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s just a matter of doing what you can.”