Mr Johnston, a head for 20 years, opened his presidential year in forthright fashion calling for a better pay deal for senior school management.
"Completely unsatisfactory" is how Mr Johnston, 57, describes the arrangements in the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee, dominated by the Educational Institute of Scotland. But how can heads and deputes demand more? "We've taken on more responsibility through DSM, controlling budgets, setting budgets and we've had an obvious increase in responsibility which teachers have not had. We've been given more responsibility as education directorate have less but their salaries have gone up," he argues.
Such sentiments and the plea for a pay review body may not sit easily in classrooms, but HAS will try to forge a consensus with other associations on educational issues. In the current financial climate it will be vital, Mr Johnston maintains.
Cuts and teacher redundancies were major concerns at the St Andrews conference attended by more than 100 heads and deputes. The new president's education authority, Scottish Borders, is facing stiff education cuts of around Pounds 2.5 million, and he said: "Horrendous things are likely to be happening in January, February and March and we want to start talking now. We would never want to be a militant organisation but we clearly have to give our views. We must let the public know what's happening and what the consequences are. "