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'No compromise' for government-funded Christian school in Alberta

Written on June 4th, 2007

Relationship with public school board a good one

Parents and administration at Strathcona Christian Academy (SCA) say there has been no compromise in the school’s Christian worldview since it came under the umbrella of the Elk Island public school board eight years ago.

SCA is one of over a dozen independent schools that have become part of the public education system under the alternative program funding in Alberta. A system unique to that province, the alternative program funding allows schools to maintain a particular focus, including a faith focus, while providing full funding for education. The school operates under the umbrella of the local public school board.

Lisa Mol, a parent of two, admits that when the alternative program funding was first considered she was very leery.

“I thought that as a result of receiving public money they would have more say in our school and we would lose that hold on it that we had, that Christ-centred education,” says Mol.

“I was 100 per cent wrong,” she continues. “We have a very very good working relationship with the Elk Island public school board and the only thing that I’ve seen as a result of the funding and becoming part of Elk Island is positive.”

She lists several positive outcomes of the change, including technical support, special education support through consultation, and funding for educational assistants.

Mol herself has since become an educational assistant at the school, possible only because of the funding.

Jim Seutters, principal of SCA, says the school has “never been asked to compromise anything,” in the eight years that it has been a part of the public education system.

“In fact, we’re encouraged to be as Christian as we want to be and we have been. Any changes that have been made have not been precipitated by pressure from the public school system.”

The school is able to hire staff according to its original standards, for instance.

“The teachers need to have a testimony that’s current and alive,” says Tracy Sedens, an SCA parent. “Our teachers are vibrant and awesome Christian teachers in the classroom.”

Christian teaching takes place in all subjects. There is a Bible class offered for all grades. Spiritual emphasis retreats still happen. Parents must pay a small stipend for the Christian component of the education, but this is miniscule compared to tuition amounts when the school was an independent school, according to Sedens.

In terms of governance, it has been pointed out that the alternative program funding shifts the mode of governance away from a parent and community ownership model to more of a state assimilation model where the government’s rule of education is absolute.

Seutter says that the school does have another partner to consider now, but he doesn’t see this as a negative thing.

He points out that the school has a partnership with a local church which sponsors it as well as a partnership with the Elk Island school division.

“So for the Christian component, we basically answer to the local church, and for the educational component we answer to the Elk Island board.”

“It’s a very happy relationship we have with the board,” he adds.

The alternative program funding is very mutually advantageous to the public system, he says.

“We’re providing for the education of the students in their district in a meaningful and significant way, the way parents want to see it happen. It makes it affordable. Our teachers are full members of the educational community. Instead of being viewed as the enemy by the community and the public we’re now a partner.”

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