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Christian Schools Canada conference brings educators together

Written on September 29th, 2008

Participants from across country network, exchange ideas

Forty Ontario participants attended the Christian Schools Canada (CSC) 4th leadership conference Sept. 18 – 20.

Nine organizations are part of CSC, including the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association (OCSTA) and Ontario Christian Schools Administrators Association (OCSAA).

Every two years CSC hosts a national convention that rotates in location between the three member regions of western Canada, central Canada and eastern Canada.

This year’s conference, titled Rhythms of Leadership, was held in Sidney near Victoria, B.C. Participants included principals, vice-principals, curriculum co-ordinators, department heads, board members and superintendents.

“What really drives me in terms of being associated with Christian Schools Canada is that it brings principals from different regions of the country together,” says Ted Harris, president of OCSAA and principal at Smithville District Christian High School.

Harris, who attended the CSC conference, says it is an opportunity to meet with people who are in the same field and learn about what joy and struggles they have in their work.

“It gives you real encouragement in your work,” says Harris.

Leo VanArragon, OACS secondary programs co-ordinator, says he was interested to find out what program development and innovations are happening in B.C. and the prairies.

“The way the conference was organized there was time for interacting informally and also some very stimulating workshops,” says VanArragon.

One of the sessions VanArragon attended discussed the changing climate of Christian schools. Though the session discussed issues on a global scale there are very local conditions, situations and responses to be considered, VanArragon says.

“I came away from that feeling an ongoing commitment to helping the Christian schools identify the contours of this current climate (and cultural environment) that we’re in,” says VanArragon.

VanArragon says the keynote speakers – Rod Wilson, president of Regent College in Vancouver, and Mark Buchanan, lead pastor at New Life Community Baptist Church – were excellent.

Participants were mailed copies of Wilson’s book How Do I Help a Hurting Friend and Buchanan’s book The Rest of God to read in preparation for the conference.

Paul Marcus, principal at Orangeville Christian School , says he found Wilson’s ideas of working with people who are hurting through caring rather than curing very relevant.

“I’ve been able to apply that with people here who started coming to me,” says Marcus. The idea to listen to someone who is hurting rather than try to give advice that may or may not be true to his or her life is helpful, says Marcus.

Marcus says the conference was a great way for him to meet other first-year principals.

“It was nice to get to know that other people are going through the same things I am and to run ideas off each other and connect that way,” says Marcus.

Participants also networked through small groups with a mix of people from across the regions. The groups shared stories and talked about questions.

“We were able to be open with our struggles and with our concerns, with things we also have joys about,” says Marcus. “There are many approaches to leadership, and it is interesting to see the different approaches that people bring to the table.”

Jasper Hoogendam, Immanuel Christian School principal, says the conference was an opportunity to exchange ideas and have more in-depth discussions that can translate into solutions for local situations.

Hoogendam says one interesting idea he came home with was a talk with an administrator who shared his thesis that schools get the principals they deserve and principals get the schools they deserve. This idea heightens the awareness of the role you play and increases the idea of partnership, says Hoogendam.

The conference had a relaxed venue with a lot of outdoor space, which promoted interaction, says Hoogendam. He says it was also a chance to connect with other administrators from Ontario in a retreat-like setting.

“It’s time away that gives you opportunity to reflect,” he says.

To learn more about the Christian Schools Canada and the Rhythms of Leadership conference, visit