Harris says his governance experience will help school board

By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

As a governance professional, Terry Harris helps organizations define the roles of directors. And he sees no greater opportunity than to put his skills to work with the Edmonton Catholic school board.

“Good governance is a big deal in making sure that organizations are doing what they’re intended to do,” said Harris who is running for election on Oct. 16 as trustee for Ward 71 in northwest Edmonton. “My sense is that what’s going on in the administration of the schools is fantastic but I’ve been disturbed in some respects by what I’ve been hearing and seeing (from the board).”

Last year, the Edmonton Catholic school trustees were grappling with controversies that included gender identity, trustee expenses, and the role of faith in schools. Harris wants to see trustees focus on the classroom.  

“It’s important to make sure that we’re representing our community and Catholic education very well, that we are expressing a narrative that’s very affirmative about Catholic education, and we’re getting attention focused back on where it belongs: on the schools and on the students and away from the drama,” said Harris.  

The incumbent Ward 71 trustee, Patricia Grell, declined to comment on running for re-election. For the last 15 years, Harris has run his own management consulting firm, helping to develop the next generation of leaders. He believes his background will serve him well as a trustee.

“What I’ve done for an entire career basically is work my way through very challenging issues with folks that have different views from me, and we generally land on very effective, sustainable, win-win type of solutions.”

Harris and his wife Eileen attend St. Thomas More Parish in southwest Edmonton. They live just south of the Ward 71 boundary, but that’s where his family has the closest connection. Harris was born in the Inglewood neighbourhood and attended St. Andrew Parish. He graduated from Austin O’Brien High School, and his son Kevin and his daughter Christine also attended Catholic schools.

“I have a love of the district,” Harris said. “It’s been a very important part of my life for many, many years.”

Harris has served on the boards of the Edmonton Catholic Schools Foundation and Catholic Social Services, and he now wants to work toward preserving the Catholic school system as a trustee.  

Born into a Royal Canadian Air Force family, Harris attended Catholic and public schools in the U.S. and Canada. He said he was deeply affected by the “moral compass” and spirituality in Catholic schools.

“There’s all the difference in the world with a Catholic education,” Harris said. “The Catholic district prepares our students to serve God through one another. That’s totally the key differentiator between ours and the public system: the recognition of the importance of Jesus Christ, of God in our lives, and recognizing and serving God through our sisters and brothers.”

Among Harris’s goals are ensuring the Edmonton Catholic School District’s 2018-2021 capital plan is implemented, and that the right candidate is hired when superintendent Joan Carr retires.

More information is available on Harris’s website, www.terryharris.ca. The deadline for nominations in the upcoming school and municipal elections is Sept. 18. For more information on running for election as a Catholic school trustee, download the ACSTA Trustee Handbook.

The Bishops of Alberta have also written a Pastoral Letter offering guidance in making informed choices in the upcoming school board elections: Pastoral Letter.