Holland Marsh District Christian School in Newmarket principal Rod Berg says the Ontario Alliance of Christian School’s (OACS) School Quality Assurance Program (SQAP) is a great process that challenges schools to take it to the next level.
The school was visited by SQAP auditors last November and given the green light to proceed with public accreditation through the Canadian Hallmarks Institute (CHI). CHI auditors will be visiting the school in May.
Berg says the program lines up with the OACS theme of “helping good schools become better.”
The program includes examining a good balance of policy work and detailed parent, staff and committee surveys, says Berg, noting this is a rare piece that has been left out of other evaluations.
“It’s paper and people put together, it’s a nice balance of that,” says Berg.
The first stage in the accreditation process is a self-evaluation of the school. Local review teams are formed to work through the five SQAP domains, which are school identity, school management, academic performance, school culture and community relations.
“The self-evaluation part of the process that the local review team does is essential to this whole process,” says vice-principal Sherry Bokma, who chaired the team.
Berg says self-evaluation is important because it fosters ownership from people.
The community relations domain was very interesting, says Berg. Schools have a sense of where they are in the eyes of the community, but the surveys provide a reality check, he says.
“For us it confirmed that parents are passionate about Christian education, it confirmed there’s a lot of appreciation and support for the school,” says Berg.
“I found that going through the process with my team that a lot of good things were happening at Holland Marsh,” says Bokma.
The process triggered the school to upgrade and update its constitution. Berg says the program challenges schools to check that its policies are in line with its vision.
The community feedback also provided an important check on how the vision is spreading, says Berg.
Often SQAP auditors outline a few outstanding items the school needs to address before successfully completing public accreditation. Berg says after going this far, it makes sense to “finish the lap” and go through the CHI.
“I think it’s so important to take it from the SQAP level to the CHI level because we are living in a society where there is more accountability expected, where parents want more accountability and we as Christian schools should not be afraid of accountability,” says Berg.
“If you’ve got your green light and you’ve been audited by the OACS, why not take it to the next level and complete the process, because accountability is a good thing.”
Though the SQAP looks like a lot of work going into it, at the end of the day it was well worth it, says Berg.
“When you get to the other side you think it was a good process, we are in a better place because of it,” he says, adding that when asking people who are in an accredited school if it was worth it they will answer with a resounding “yes.”