Innovative group Guelph school’s ‘secret weapon’ for success | Edvance Christian Schools Association
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Innovative group Guelph school’s ‘secret weapon’ for success

Written on February 11th, 2011

A group formed a couple years ago is creating change that is attracting and retaining families at Guelph Community Christian School (GCCS).

Principal Bob Moore says a number of years ago during an Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) event the school learned about recruitment and forecasting tools from then principal of Cambridge Christian School Julius de Jager.

This prompted the Guelph school to form a recruitment committee to try and replicate some of the practices.

Moore recalls they realized after a year or two that “we could recruit all we wanted but if we didn’t retain them it was like a revolving door,” which led to adding retention to the group’s purpose.

Now called the recruitment and retention committee, the small group of parents is a sub-group of the promotions committee.

Jokingly referred to as a “stealth” group, the committee has no formal power as it is not in the school’s bylaws. Moore says the group has “wide-ranging freedom” to listen to parking lot talk and report back to him.

The committee meets on a regular basis and monitors the temperature of the school families, looking at who’s coming, who’s going, what’s taking place in various classrooms and concerns they are hearing.

The group runs an extensive two-part survey every year.

The first part of the survey looks to discover the issues that are important to families and what people are talking about, and the second aims to determine the level of importance of those issues.

The group challenges the school to run from the bottom-up, says Moore.

“I don’t know of any other schools that have got such an effective, free-ranging ground-up kind of group that they let loose,” he says.

“They are continually scanning the horizon and gathering information and bring it to my attention,” says Moore.

If the items brought up require systemic change the issue will be forwarded to another committee and make its way up to the board level.

The recruitment and retention committee has had a direct impact on the school’s significant growth in the past year.

For example, having heard parents complain about long bus rides, the group urged the board to have the transportation committee look into the issue.

The result was the transportation committee making a major change by adding a third bus route for the school, which was a risk as it increased cost, notes Moore.

The new bus route has decreased ride times for the children, diminished children acting out on the bus and allowed the school to reach a larger area.

“We are reaching further with our bus than we’ve ever reached to, and new families are able to come to the school because they needed a bus,” says Moore.

The school had 40 new families enrol for this school year.

Moore attributes this growth to the work of the recruitment and retention group, and estimates 10 per cent of new families were directly due to the new bus route.

“We know there is parking lot talk, let’s give the parking lot talkers a venue in the school,” says Moore, adding there is smart political strategy happening.

“I think that’s our secret weapon.”

- Part 1 of a two-part series