‘I am so encouraged about the future of the Christian school movement’
ORILLIA, Ont. - Fourteen participants and seven facilitators gathered at the YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia this week for the second annual Ontario Educators Leadership Development Institute (ELDI), an event designed to help Christian teachers explore school administration.
“ELDI began about nine years ago out of a recognition that current leaders in the Christian school movement were retiring and we were wondering where the new people are going to come from and how we could try to identify them,” says Bruce Hekman, Calvin College adjunct professor of education and ELDI co-director.
“I think what’s most exciting every time I’ve done this is to see the people God is calling to leadership. I am so encouraged about the future of the Christian school movement” because of the people coming through this program, says Hekman.
Gary VanArragon, Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools director of secondary services and ELDI facilitator, also says he is excited about the upcoming leaders. When the older leaders retire Christian schools will strongly move forward and go onto better things than can be imagined, he says.
“I don’t think we have a leadership crisis … but leadership can be much more effective if we have these kinds of platforms where people can talk to each other, can get some experience and know where they can go with questions to test things,” says VanArragon.
Though the program agenda stays mostly the same each year — covering topics such as the scope of school administration, what leadership is and how it is developed, the board-administrator relationship, school governance issues and discovering your strengths — Hekman says the facilitators try to be led by participants questions, so the amount of time spent on a topic depends on what questions the group asks.
Participants are encouraged to write down questions and post them on a question area on the wall, and throughout the day facilitators pause and spend time discussing the questions.
“The task of school leadership has gotten significantly more complicated and it has always grieved me to see people flame out after a year or two because they just didn’t know what they were getting into. So we are not only trying to equip them with some knowledge, we are also trying to model the idea that you don’t do this alone anymore,” says Hekman.
Each day participants spend time in smaller groups of three to four people sharing stories, praying and journaling. Hekman says the organizers are very thoughtful about these groups as they hope participants form a bond and become a team where they can continue to look to one another for advice.
This summer for the first time the ELDI is creating a Facebook page for the groups as a social networking place where participants can continue to engage in dialogue.
ELDI graduates have been tracked and generally 70 per cent of the participants do end up in a leadership position in a school.
Hekman says those that do not become leaders become better followers because they have more understanding of what is involved and the complexities and challenges of leadership.
The ELDI started as a joint project between Christian Schools International (CSI) and Calvin College and was first brought to Ontario for a midwest event in 2008. The OACS partnered with CSI, Calvin College, the Ontario Christian School Administrators Association and the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association to co-ordinate and sponsor the Aug. 10 to 14 event.