Catholic board head eager to take reins
Richard (Rick) Boisvert officially took on the position of director of education for the Northwest Catholic District School Board and secretary to the board this week, taking over the reins from Mary-Catherine Kelly, who retired Aug. 30.
Although he didn’t officially start until Sept. 1, Boisvert arrived in Fort Frances in mid-August and began to familiarize himself with the board.
“I’ve had an opportunity to meet with all the senior staff and we’ve been participating in meetings. . . .
“I also met with the school principals and have visited four of the schools on the first day,” Boisvert added.
“It’s clear that staff have been working over the summer to make sure the start of the school year was going to be a good one for the kids, so it was good to be part of that.”
Boisvert, who grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo from the time he was about seven years old, went through the Catholic board there and then lived in Kitchener-Waterloo for much of his adult life.
For the last 16 years, he and his wife lived in the community of Listowel, which is about 45 minutes north of Kitchener-Waterloo.
The couple has three children—one just finished grad school while the other two both attend university.
Boisvert brings to the school board here an impressive range of qualifications with plenty of local, regional, and provincial experience.
He served the Waterloo Catholic District School Board for 28 years in the capacity of teacher, principal, superintendent of education, acting director of education, and, most recently, associate director of education.
“So it’s a pretty diverse experience that I come here with,” Boisvert noted, citing there was several things about the Northwest Catholic District School Board that interested him.
“When I looked at the opportunity that was here, there were a couple of things,” he remarked.
“First of all, on a personal level, I like small towns. I like living in small towns, so that is something that drew me.
“Fort Frances is probably twice the size of Listowel, so we see this as a move to the big city,” he quipped.
“The other thing is the town is absolutely gorgeous,” Boisvert stressed. “I like the outdoors, fishing and ice-fishing, so those things on a very personal level were draws for me.
“Professionally, when I looked at the board, there were things that they were doing that I thought was a fit with my beliefs,” he continued.
“I have a belief that all kids can learn. And I have a real strong belief in the inherent value in each child,” he said.
“So I think school boards have to invest in programs to make sure we are creating the right learning conditions for kids.”
Boisvert said the board’s investment in the early-learning program was one of the things that really caught his eye.
“I had a lot of experience working in the program in the past and I saw real potential in it,” he explained.
“I think it’s a way to make sure all kids can succeed, so I was really impressed with that.
“This board, as well, has done a lot of investing in technology, preparing students for the 21st century and 21st-century learning, so I was impressed with that, as well,” Boisvert added, noting their leadership programs also stood out.
“I think it’s important that you be future-focused,” he stressed. “That was another thing that really struck me.”
Coming into the position of director of education here, Boisvert admitted one of the challenges will be working within a board that is so widespread, encompassing schools in Fort Frances, Stratton, Atikokan, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout.
“It’s going to be an area of learning for me, without a doubt,” he conceded. “But when I look at the infrastructure that’s in place, the staff here are probably more comfortable with that type of communication and relationship than I am.
“So that will be an area where I’ll obviously have to get used to it.
“I’m an optimist at heart, so I think the upside to that is that it means we’re going to have to work harder to make sure that communication is strong and that we’re connected,” Boisvert stressed.
“Because we have a mission statement in the board that really calls people to work with partners and work together to build excellence in Catholic education.
“And I think that’s something that we’ll just have to work harder at,” he said. “It’s the way that you overcome obstacles.”
Boisvert believes the board needs to be characterized by transformational learning, meaning the students have the knowledge, skills, ability, and desire to change their world.
“That’s part of the mandate in Catholic education—we want all of the students who come through our system to understand that it’s their responsibility to change the world to one that is better and one that reflects Gospel values,” he explained.
“So that’s something that is near and dear to my heart as a person who has been in Catholic education my whole career.”
Boisvert also intends to see all the schools within the board continue to strive for academic excellence.
“I have a firm belief in the need for strong partnerships with parents and parishes,” he noted. “And it goes beyond partnerships, really.
“We have to engage parents and parishes, and that means that they have a voice with what’s happening and a presence that matters at our schools because I think they bring something to the table that really will support kids.”
As well, Boisvert intends to continue all the positive things the board has been doing, such as being progressive and trying new things.
“As a board, we have to continue to be progressive and look for excellence in everything that we do,” he reasoned.
“I’m a really believer in innovation, but I think innovation occurs in small steps.
“It’s really giving people permission to try something that’s new without being afraid of failing,” he remarked, adding another priority of his will be ensuring the community has confidence in the Catholic system.
Boisvert said he and his wife have started settling in and meeting new people in town.
“[We] have had a chance to roam around and explore,” he noted. “We went down [to the marina] for the ‘Kraft Celebration,’ which was really neat.
“I think the culture of the community was really evident. There’s a real spirit here.
“I think it was an opportunity for me to really see first-hand the number of people who are participating, supporting, and volunteering in the community,” he added. “And the pride of the community was really on display and that was neat to see.
“It really portrayed the community in a positive light.”
Boisvert said he will continue to visit schools, staff, and students over the next few weeks.
“I want to make sure I get into all of the schools, just to get a better sense of the culture of the board and the schools,” he stressed.
“And to talk with other people about what are the opportunities, what are the areas where we need to move forward.”
He added the trustees seem like a great group and are very committed to Catholic education.
“That’s something that is so important,” Boisvert said. “I’m really looking forward to this new opportunity.”
In related news, there have been several other appointments of key leaders within the Northwest Catholic District School Board for the 2013-14 school year.
Ron Fryer, former vice-principal at St. Francis and St. Michael’s Schools here, has been appointed principal of St. Patrick’s School in Atikokan while Margot Saari has been appointed to a second year as superintendent of education for the board.
Brendan Hyatt will take on the role of principal at Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton while Darlene Fejos Rousseau becomes principal at St. Michael’s School here.
In addition, Meghan Bourgeois, former special education teacher at St. Michael’s School, has been appointed to the position of eLearning/Homework Help.
Amy LaFroy, meanwhile, has been appointed to the position of Catholicity co-ordinator for a third year to support the students and staff in their ongoing faith formation.
Kelly Jaeger has been appointed to the new position of mental health leader for the board.
Brody Marsonet has been appointed to the position of math facilitator for the second year while Natalie Cousineau has been named Human Resources administrative assistant.