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Learning Conference offers tools, ideas, inspiration

Written on April 2nd, 2008

Attendees excited about what they have to offer 

The Learning Conference presented by the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) this past weekend was no waste of time for attendees from Rhema Christian School in Peterborough. They came away from the event with a fresh enthusiasm and new ideas for their involvement with the school board.

For Christine Leney and Melanie Metrow this conference was a first. Tammy Schultz had participated in last spring’s Learning Conference.

All three say they were intrigued to hear from the keynote speaker, who dealt with Internet safety, but found at the end of the day that each session they attended had a lot of valuable information that was very timely and relevant to their particular roles on the board.

Leney attended a session on human resources and a new mediation protocol to deal with difficult employment situations and was particularly motivated about the need to be more proactive on that front.

She was also inspired by a session that dealt with how one Ontario Christian school has eliminated its debt.

Leney says an overarching message she heard in that session was that “while the school is a business, it’s a business that we do in favour of what we can teach the children about the Lord.”

She notes that this particular school, while it needed to operate as a business to get out of debt, also incorporated prayer and faith in the Lord’s work to do so.

“I think sometimes we can separate those two identities, and they can’t be separated,” she says.

Metrow found a session on creating a capable board was especially useful for her as a new board member without a lot of training in board work.

“(The workshop) was really an eye-opener,” she says. “It gave me a lot of skills I’ll be able to take back and use at the board level.

She found it helpful to hear from other school board members and how they’ve overcome different challenges. It was both reassuring to know they’ve faced similar issues and hearing their creative ideas and solutions sparked some of her own, she says.

Metrow is also a part of the principal search committee at Rhema so a session on the role of the principal and chief operating officer of the company was timely as well.

Schultz says the conference was obviously developed with a commitment to the core values that characterize Christian schools in Ontario. At the same time it revealed the OACS staff understands that times are changing and they are working to stay “on the cutting edge” of the issues.

“What I appreciate is that they make sure they choose topics that are relevant to exactly what boards are involved in at their schools at the time,” says Schultz, who is also involved in the public education system.

Hearing about successes and innovations from other schools was motivating as well, she says.

“You can’t do a carbon copy, but you can always be inspired and take ideas from something that’s worked for someone else.”

The conference also emphasized for her how the OACS is committed to developing excellent curriculum for Ontario Christian schools – “stuff the public schools would probably drool over,” she adds.

Leney, Schultz and Metrow feel all board members should be strongly encouraged to take part in an event like the Learning Conference.

“It really does give you a sense of the heartbeat of the board, and it gives you some good insight into what’s happening out there,” says Schultz.

In addition to the Learning Conference, the OACS puts on three other conferences each year: the Advancement Conference in October, the Governance Conference in November, and the Leadership Conference, which is primarily for principals, in late November.