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New families, new energy at Orangeville school

Written on September 27th, 2011

Orangeville Christian School (OCS) is starting its third year in a row with an increase in enrolment and the positive momentum is being felt in the elementary school’s atmosphere, says Paul Marcus.

Marcus, the independent school’s principal and chief operating officer, notes the school’s tuition reduction plan was the catalyst for its enrolment success, with other factors contributing to its growth.

The tuition reduction plan saw a 33 per cent decrease in tuition starting in the 2009-10 school year. To make up for the tuition reduction revenue, the school aimed to gain 18 full-time equivalent families in three years. With 13 new families enrolling this year, the school met its growth goal.

The tuition reduction plan fostered positive momentum, says Marcus, as once some new families started more people would talk about the school and express interest.

He adds lower tuition always helps, with some Christian families who attended a local private school switching to OCS.

“In some ways I attribute (the growth) to tuition reduction, in other ways I attribute it to just being a very good school with very good staff and programs and getting the word out there,” Marcus tells the OACS News.

When the plan began Marcus says the emphasis was that parents had to “own” it, to be the ones promoting the school and spreading the word. He notes it’s important to make it easy for them.

Marcus looked to social media to provide parents with tools to share the news. He uses a Facebook account called “Principal Marcus” to keep in touch with parents and alumni. Through using the like or comment features in Facebook parents can have their network of friends also aware of happenings at OCS.

Another social media tool is the school’s blog, which is updated regularly with photos and related text.

A monthly e-newsletter is sent out to anyone who has opted in to be a subscriber, and includes pictures and a link to the blog.

Marcus says the school has been focusing on providing more and better information to its donors and supporters on a consistent basis. The school has been sending press releases to local newspapers.

OCS started a golf tournament on the last day of school, the first year raising $25,000 and the second year raising $26,000. The tournament has been a way to start community partnerships and have businesses get involved with the school.

Marcus started visiting churches on a regular basis, sometimes setting up a promotional table, talking to the congregation or being announced as a visitor. There are 17 churches represented in the student population.

Along with the 98 students at the school this fall comes an excited attitude amongst staff, says Marcus. The staff room has a whiteboard with the number 98 on it, with staff members internally hoping to see the school get to its record 1991-92 enrolment year of 102 students.

“Everybody has really rallied around that and everybody is really excited about it,” says Marcus.

He notes the overall atmosphere with students has also improved, as with the larger student population children have more choice in terms of their peer relationships.

Many principals have asked Marcus about the tuition reduction plan, and he says it isn’t necessarily right for everyone. There needs to be a well thought-out business plan in place, including knowing what would happen if the enrolment goals aren’t met, he says.

He adds it’s important that schools are always doing something, and don’t “just sit still.”

“You can easily get stuck into a negative cycle, and I think if you start doing good things and you start making people talk about the school you can really get into a cycle of positivity but you’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to keep moving forward,” he says.