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Regional office provides improved service

March 13, 2018 Jen Janzen, ATA News Staff
The Southern Alberta Regional Office (SARO) maintains a staff of seven,  including (above, and L-R): Kurt Moench, Patrick Loyer, Keith Hadden and Doreen Link.   Photos by Jen Janzen


Regional office provides improved service SARO an experiment that became a permanent fixture

Welcome to In Focus, an ongoing series that shines a spotlight on the operation and programs of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. This instalment focuses on the Southern Alberta Regional Office in Calgary.

It started as an experiment: place a staff officer in Calgary for two years and see how it goes.

Fifty years later, the Southern Alberta Regional Office (SARO) is an important part of the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s service to members.

“We know the communities involved,” Moench says. “They’re our communities too.”
– Kurt Moench,
SARO associate co-ordinator

SARO associate co-ordinator Kurt Moench, who has worked at the office since 2001, says having a Calgary office is essential for the Association to meet the needs of teachers in southern Alberta.

“It’s easy [for us] to drive to Medicine Hat or Lethbridge and make it a day trip,” he said. “Not so easy from Barnett House in Edmonton.”

Because they focus on southern Alberta — defined for the Association’s purposes as the area from Red Deer south to the U.S. border — SARO staff can effectively build relationships with superintendents, administrators, teachers and local universities.

“We know the communities involved,” Moench says. “They’re our communities too.”

SARO’s first office space was established in 1968 in downtown Calgary. It had occupied two other downtown locations between 1972 and 2000, when it moved to its present location in Calgary’s northeast quadrant.

Administrative officer Doreen Link has been working at SARO for 38 years, starting as a part-time receptionist working late afternoons and Saturdays. When she started, the receptionist position was shared between the Association and the Calgary public and separate locals.

A lot has changed in the interceding years: email has replaced the telephone as the go-to mode of communication, the Calgary locals have gotten their own administrative staff (but still share the same building as SARO), the ATA is no longer open on Saturdays and SARO’s employee roster has surged to four staff officers (Moench, Patrick Loyer, Ian Stewardson and Keith Hadden) and three administrative staff (Link, Melody Osterhaut and Rose O’Brien).

“We have all the functions of Barnett House,” Link says, such as a mailroom, caretaking services and meeting catering, “but we do a lot of it ourselves.”

SARO’s space has more actual offices than it has people to put in them — partly to account for future growth and partly to give visiting Barnett House staff a place to work. There are a couple of meeting rooms that can be rented out to external bodies and ATA groups, as well as an internal meeting room for video conferences.

Apart from Hadden, who is assigned to the Government program area, all the staff officers in Calgary are assigned to the Member Services program area. Even so, their work will commonly touch on other areas like Teacher Welfare and the Teacher Qualifications Service. If teachers in southern Alberta have a question about their job, their first point of contact can often be a SARO staff officer. A Member Services duty officer, a rotating position among the staff officers, is available every day to field questions about anything related to teaching.

Loyer, who’s been a staff officer since 2009, first at Barnett House then transferring full-time to SARO in 2016, says a regional office is an asset to the Association.

“Our relationship to teachers improves because our service is quicker,” he says. “In some cases we can be sitting down in a meeting with members the next day because we are closer geographically.” ❚

Happy 50th

Jan. 15, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of SARO.

SARO misconceptions

That SARO is a person. Staffer Rose O’Brien says she sometimes gets calls from folks asking to speak to SARO.

That SARO exists to serve Calgary teachers. SARO is for all of southern Alberta, from Red Deer south to the U.S. border.

That SARO is a local. The two Calgary locals are in the same building, but the three organizations are separate. 

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