New Era Begins at the HCGM: First Working Board Meeting in Over a Generation

Summary of HCGM Board Meeting of August 6, 2019

As promised in Team Symmetexo’s Program, we have started to do things differently. 

We are introducing Quarterly Town Halls open to all members so that the could directly question Board members and Quarterly Press Conferences for the Media. 

At the same time, we wanted to improve the effectiveness of the Board of Directors and improve constructive dialogue, exchange of ideas and decisions by creating an atmosphere where all members can participate in a collegial and open manner. To that end, we closed the Board to the public, like every other Board of Directors and promised to inform the media through a summary issued after every board meeting. 

The first such meeting was held on August 6. It was held around a common table, where much work was done in a spirit of openness and team work. Due to the small new setup the meeting did not take too long and more issues were discussed and decisions were made.

This format will also allow all the Department Directors of the HCGM to present their priorities and progress and discuss these in the presence of all members of the Board instead of only the executive committee members. It also allows for confidential matters such as employee issues and supplier contracts to be discussed so that all board members can form an opinion instead of only the members of the Executive Committee. 

Summary and Highlights:

The Director General of Socrates-Demosthenes gave a thorough update of what the schools have achieved in the past decade, recent decisions and some ideas of what could be done to further advance the quality of education and improve the school’s financial situation. He explained that the small reduction of teaching minutes will have no impact on quality, that 97% of our graduates go on to university, and steps that will be taken to rent out excess space, and moves to improve registration at the high school.  The bottom line is that the schools offer more to parents that Government grants and Government restricted tuition allows and our fund raising is no where enough to breach the difference. 

The Treasurer explained that we are in the midst of our cashflow critical point and that every means is being taken to get us through this extremely difficult time, requiring sacrifices from everyone. But given the annual interest that we have to pay on our debt and small but persistent operating losses the situation gets worse every year and this situation is not sustainable, even if squeezed by again this year. 

The President proposed and obtained the support of the Board to start our Strategic Review by reviewing all policies and procedures and the internal organizational structure of the HCGM and how resources are deployed. There will be changes with a view to improving effectiveness and efficiency by focusing our resources on our priorities following “Lean” principles. The objective is not to save money but to refocus on our main mission and improve the organization. Also, to improve our Policies and Procedures where they are inadequate or develop them where they don’r exist. This was approved unanimously. 

The President also moved that we must systematically review every price that we charge for our services and see which ones have not kept up with inflation. We will gradually increases prices that in some cases have not been raised in 30 years while our costs go up every year and we are operating in a deficit. At the same time, we will begin to systematically review all supplier contracts to ensure that we are getting the best price and value. This was also approved unanimously.