SQAP, new building, marketing help build energy
“There’s something exciting going on here,” says Jennifer Richmond, principal of Belleville Christian School (BCS), as the new school year approaches with a jump in student numbers and a complement of some new “stellar” staff.
BCS began September 2008 with 88 students, graduating 10 in June. There are now 100 students enrolled for September 2009.
In addition the school has been able to hire three new staff-members who come with years of experience in Christian education.
“One of the big indicators that this year is a turning point for us is that we’ve been able to attract some really high-caliber staff,” says Richmond, noting the three new employees have about 80 years experience between them.
So what exactly is going on at BCS?
The principal says she doesn’t have any “magic formula” for the school’s current well-being but she does say it has gone through some hard times in recent years and that is changing.
“We have not been a healthy school and we’re becoming a healthy school,” she says, adding there was a time when the school board asked a strategic planner to work with them and was told, “You’re not ready for a strategic plan; what your school needs is an emergency plan.”
Since Richmond came on board five years ago a number of different activities have gone on which she says are strengthening the school, energizing the community and attracting new people.
One of these activities was the school’s participation in the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) School Quality Assurance Program (SQAP) several years ago.
Through the process a significant list of recommendations was made for the school’s improvement, which the board chair at the time took very seriously.
“He was bent to use that list as a refining tool for our school,” says Richmond, noting the chair set in motion a series of activities which got most of the school members involved in addressing those recommendations.
“(That) checklist from SQAP enabled us to bring ourselves to where we are now,” she says, noting some of the changes have included policy revisions as well as identifying areas for growth.
Richmond suggests that a vision for a new school building has also created some excitement in the community.
In addition, she says that a marketing strategy of promoting the school “as a place to belong” is attracting people.
The school is creating this culture of belonging by making it “a fun place to be,” with the help of a teacher heading up student life activities. In addition, it is keeping strong tabs on bullying.
Staff is also being encouraged to think and act as a unified body of spiritual mentors and leaders to the entire student population.