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RRC holding off on new Forsyth contract

Province examines school's finances

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Stephanie Forsyth's performance is still being reviewed by a committee.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Stephanie Forsyth's performance is still being reviewed by a committee. Photo Store

Will the Red River College board of governors offer Stephanie Forsyth a second term as president?

And does she want a contract extension?

With a provincial review of the college's finances pending, and yet another senior administrator just gone out the door, the board of governors will only offer a prepared statement it is still reviewing Forsyth's performance -- after appointing a performance review committee in May.

Forsyth was hired in the summer of 2010 but officially started in September of that year. Post-secondary institutions generally decide whether to offer presidents a second term at the four-year mark of five-year contracts.

In a statement from board acting chairwoman Kathy Knight, RRC said, "Every RRC president is hired under a five-year contract and each year the board of governors undertakes a performance review.

"In the fourth and final year of the contract the board of governors conducts a more in-depth review...this review is currently underway as president Forsyth is serving in her fourth year of the contract.

"The details of this, along with any discussion regarding contract extension are considered a private HR (human resources) matter," Knight stated.

It is not known whether Forsyth wants to stay beyond September 2015.

A college spokesman said it would not be accurate to report Forsyth is choosing not to respond to the Free Press -- she is aware of numerous interview requests, said the college official, but at this time it is only appropriate for the board of governors to speak publicly.

The latest high-profile departure is Keith Muller, the highly visible dean of the culinary arts and hospitality program at the new Paterson GlobalFoods Institute.

"He is no longer employed at Red River College... the college does not disclose any human resources related information for any former or current employee," said a Red River College official.

Muller declined to comment, on the advice of his lawyer.

Forsyth arrived in the fall of 2010 from a college in northern British Columbia. She was intent on exploring her aboriginal roots and in making indigenous education and the environment priorities of RRC's growth.

Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum has refused to discuss Forsyth or the college until his staff completes a review prompted by what she called an ambush by college employees back in April.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union demanded a leadership review, alleging a $2-million shortfall in the college's budget, the departure of senior staff, exceedingly low campus morale, and a lack of confidence in RRC's leadership.

Allum dispatched both his own and finance department staff to investigate what's going on at Red River.

In April, an aide to Allum said the minister received "a number of serious allegations about financial and human-resource issues at Red River College. The minister has a responsibility to look into the allegations, which is why he immediately directed his department to undertake a review into those allegations."

Said Forsyth in the spring: "Leadership isn't for the faint of heart." Declaring she isn't going anywhere, Forsyth said then, "We've got lots to do. I'm very excited."

Last year, Forsyth came under fire over her expenses, including $205 golf shoes, a $134 bag she bought at the Vancouver airport, car washes, insurance, winter tires, and a GPS device. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation made public her expenses it had obtained through freedom of information legislation.

Within a few months of becoming president, Forsyth abruptly fired long-serving vice-president of finance and administration Catherine Rushton and associate vice-president of facilities and campus services Robert Olson. Ken Webb, for 20 years the highly respected vice-president of academics and research, was among other senior staff soon going out the door.

Webb was succeeded by Stan Chung, who arrived in 2013 from British Columbia and was gone in less than a year.

Red River will not discuss the departed officials, or their severance packages; the former staff signed non-disclosure agreements.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2014 B4

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