Our History

From Association to International Union 

A Look at AFSA’s Beginnings   

For 50 years AFSA has been providing a powerful network of support and service to administrators and supervisors. It is important to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the dedicated activists who turned the vision of creating one strong, national voice for school administrators into a reality.

 The 1960s: CSA is Formed

The retrospective of our union’s origins takes us back to the 1960s, a time of unrest, change and eventual revolution in our country. Events and developments in the New York City public education system of the '60s reflected those same themes. After the teachers had waged their first strike on Nov. 7, 1960, they became the highest paid in the nation.  

School supervisors found their salaries lagging behind the teachers. The presidents of the 11 supervisory groups united to lobby the legislature for higher wages, organizing as the Council of Supervisory Associations. Dr. Benjamin E. Strumpf, an assistant superintendent in the Bronx, was named president of the new independent association in January 1962, a part-time post.   

The following year, the supervisors won a pay raise. Walter J. Degnan, the principal of DeWitt Clinton High School, succeeded Strumpf as CSA president. High School Chairman Al Morrison became the part-time executive director for CSA and successfully lobbied for legislation mandating a salary index for supervisors. CSA’s hard work and reputation for winning results led to its being regarded as the voice (unofficially) for supervisors on workplace issues, including salary, hours of work and working conditions.

CSA continued its fight representing the interests of its members, setting its sights on obtaining official recognition, salary increases and a grievance procedure. In May 1965, CSA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the board of education that provided for monthly consultations between CSA and the superintendent of schools, as well as annual meetings with the board of education to discuss education policy, working conditions, salary schedules and grievances.  

During the 1965 school year, CSA members elected high school principal Stuart Lacey to lead them as president. That year, CSA negotiated a choice of three health benefit plans, fully paid by the employer, as part of the new Welfare Fund.

During the summer of 1967, conflict erupted in New York City as Ocean Hill, Two Bridges and P.S. 201 became battlegrounds for teachers and supervisors. As school opened in September 1967, the United Federation of Teachers went on strike to protest the chaos. Joseph Brennan, a high school principal, was CSA president. Over the objections of CSA, more than 700 members of the Association of Assistant Principals participated in a one-day work stoppage in support of the teachers. It was the first school supervisors’ strike in history. Michael Romano succeeded Joseph Brennan in the spring of 1968 as CSA president.

CSA Makes History

In the fall of 1968, Walter J. Degnan again took the reins as CSA president. President Degnan made history when he negotiated the first comprehensive written contract for supervisors in the country, a three-year pact effective Oct. 1, 1969. He became CSA’s first full-time paid president on Jan. 1, 1970.  

Throughout the early '70s, New York City experienced a fiscal crisis and as a result, the legislature abolished the salary index and tenure for supervisors. The time was ripe for CSA to affiliate with a labor organization for greater power and strength.

The Next Step: SASOC Forges Into the Seventies

In 1971, CSA joined the AFL-CIO as Local 1, creating a distinct national entity in addition to CSA, known as the School Administrators and Supervisors Organizing Committee (SASOC). This move was significant because it meant that now CSA and its national entity, SASOC, had the strength and power of hundreds of thousands of other union members behind them  At the beginning of the 1973 school year, Walter J. Degnan resigned as CSA president to become the first president of the national union. Emanuel Munice assumed the CSA presidency.  

CSA members voted for a constitutional change that called for a new full-time executive vicepresident position. In February 1974, an election was held and Peter S. O’Brien, an elementary school principal, was named CSA president; his running mate, longtime activist Jack Zuckerman, became CSA’s first full-time executive vice president. The union continued to fight for the rights of supervisors, organizing new members along the way. SASOC’s growth was remarkable, having grown to 47 locals as of 1976. President Degnan was ready to take SASOC to the next level.  

If SASOC were to undergo a change in status to an international union, it would mean a greater voice for members. As an international union, SASOC would have equal standing with other international unions, as well as a seat at the table of the AFL-CIO General Board as an equal partner and independent union representing all educational administrators and supervisors in the country.  

In order to move from an organizing committee to an international union, SASOC needed to meet certain criteria: (1) be self-sustaining; (2) be representative of a group; (3) be representative geographically of the United States; and (4) show numerical growth. SASOC made its move and petitioned the AFL-CIO for a change in status from an organizing committee to an international union.  

Under the leadership of then-President George Meany, the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council examined SASOC’s growth and achievements over the previous five years and approved the change in status.  In the previous 35 years, the AFL-CIO had granted such a charter to only two groupsthe farm workers and SASOC!  

AFSA: The Dream is Realized

On July 7, 1976, the first constitutional convention of the new organization was held at the Americana Hotel in New York City. Delegates to the convention adopted a constitution, elected officers and a General Executive Board, and named the new national AFL-CIO affiliate.  

The American Federation of School Administrators was born!

Special thanks to CSA Historian Jack Zuckerman, former CSA president, vice president and delegate to the first convention for background information for this article.