Catholic board gets new boss

Richard Alway takes over as supervisor

He might have just assumed the role, but Toronto Catholic District School Board supervisor Richard Alway already wants out of it.

“My ambition is to work myself out of a job … the sooner, the better,” Alway said three-and-a-half weeks into his provincially-appointed role as head of the board’s 12 trustees.

And the reason?

Alway believes the faster he fulfils his new job’s expectations; the faster the board can rectify its past problems of accountability and transparency.

While the former president of University of Toronto’s Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies has no exact timeline in mind, Alway doesn’t foresee himself still in the supervisor position by the time the next municipal election roles around in November 2010.

Alway sees his main role as picking up where former supervisors Norbert Hartmann and Norm Forma left off in a clear and succinct manner.

Alway, who was appointed by provincial education minister Kathleen Wynne on Aug. 24, describes the former supervisors’ work as “phase one” of the Catholic school board’s renewal process.

Hartmann and Forma were responsible for initiating a policy to monitor trustee expenses and offer the public a more transparent view of the board and its practices.

Describing it as “heavy lifting”, Alway says the two former supervisors dealt mainly with balancing the board’s budget.

His role — phase 2 — continues the transparency aspect but centres more on management, specifically around the trustees and their practices.

Alway will focus on Moving Forward Together, a document that outlines how the board trustees will work together.

“My style of management is open,” Alway says.

Small changes have already happened under his leadership: trustees now sit at one table during board meetings instead of in the general audience and they have been given access to the meetings’ agendas as soon as they are available so they can review them and raise any questions they might have with Alway.

He also wants board decisions to be made in a timely fashion, ideally at meetings and not behind closed doors after the meetings have ended, as was the case in the past.

So far the trustees’ input into the new changes have been receptive, he says. Alway believes it is important to create an open dialogue with the trustees, as in turn the openness will aid in the public’s perception.

Along with his work and what he hopes to achieve, Alway is of course familiar with the board’s negative past, especially the expense scandal last year, where it was discovered some trustees charged personal purchases, including dinners and shopping expeditions, on their budgets.

“We have to overcome that,” Alway says regarding the negative public confidence, adding he plans on working with the trustees through a show-not-tell approach.

“One test of a viable and accountable organization is for it to be able to reform itself,” he adds.

About this article:

By: Lorianna De Giorgio
Posted: Oct 5 2009 4:47 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto