Richard Alway to supervise Toronto Catholic board

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  • August 26, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - It's going to be a tough new assignment, but the Toronto Catholic District School Board's new supervisor says he's up to the challenge.

Richard Alway assumes his new role Aug. 27, taking over from the provincially appointed supervision team of Norbert Hartmann and Norm Forma. The team resigned on Aug. 21. The Ontario government has been running the embattled board since last year when trustees became mired in a spending scandal and failed to balance the board's budget.

Alway told The Catholic Register that ensuring “good governance,” focusing on student achievement and helping trustees work together will be his key priorities.

“My objective is to work myself out of a job,” he said.

In Catholic circles, Alway has credibility from a distinguished career in university education. For 18 years he was president of the University of St. Michael's College and sits as president of the University of Toronto's Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.

Dan Barrett of the Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education said the group is encouraged by Alway's appointment.

“It is seen as a positive step forward to restoring confidence in the board,” he said in a statement.

Alway said he is encouraged by the “major progress” made by the former supervision team. He cited its financial plan aimed at reducing the board's cumulative debt and eliminating it within the next year-and-a-half.

“It's quite clear that going forward, what we now have to address is the question of good governance because supervision is not meant to be a replacement or substitute for good governance by an elected board of trustees,” Alway said.  

He added the board needs to “refocus on the student and the classroom” and work on developing “a culture of mutual respect,” while recognizing the importance of public debate and discussion.

The board has been in the headlines in mid-August after unsuccessful attempts by two trustees to set up the first public meeting between parents and trustees, who currently have no decision-making powers.

Alway said he hopes to encourage trustees to have “a corporate sense of support, not through individuals or factions,” while keeping in mind the principles of Catholic education.

“If we can have that happen, we'll begin to see some progress towards the eventual goal which is a normalization of the (Catholic education) system,” he said.

Asked about when trustees would regain their powers, Alway said that's the education minister's decision. But he said he will work towards helping trustees and the board on that path.

“If the trustees are able to focus on specific issues and function successfully and co-operatively, that could be a demonstration of functionality as opposed to dysfunction,” Alway said. He added that the document Moving Forward Together, written by trustees in May, is “a starting point” of discussions. The document set out suggestions on how trustees can gradually regain their powers.

In January, Hartmann removed trustees' advisory role after a public display of trustee infighting. Since then, trustees have been sitting in the public gallery and are unable to make statements during public meetings.

Newly appointed board chair Angela Kennedy said she and her fellow trustees are “ready to move forward.” Kennedy called Alway “the new face of collaboration and relationship building.”

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