Colleagues reflect on retiring OACS executive director’s contributions
As Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) executive director Adrian Guldemond retires this month, his colleagues share how his leadership influenced the organization during his 30-year tenure.
John Vanasselt, former OACS director of communications, says he has known Guldemond for close to 30 years, working with him on various OACS projects in the 1980s and as colleagues at the Alliance from 1994-2008.
“I most appreciated his leadership style, which I liken to the leader of a jazz ensemble — everyone playing the directed song but each with the opportunity to soar with a solo,” he says.
“His broad range of reading and knowledge provided direction, motivation and challenge to those working with him.”
Hank Hultink is the former executive director of the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association.
Hultink was appointed as OACS’ part-time executive director in 1977 while he was also principal of Calvin Christian School in Hamilton, serving in that position until Guldemond moved into the role full time in 1979.
“It wasn’t until Adrian got into the job that he gave it a sense of credibility, a sense of perspective, a presence on the Ontario scene,” says Hultink.
“He had a healthy arrogance about him,” recalls Hultink, adding this was in the sense that Guldemond told the public and separate school systems the OACS is a credible organization and to treat it as that.
The response from the other two schools systems was to “prove it,” and Hultink says over time that’s what the Alliance did, to the extent that its publications are used widely in other schools.
“In terms of the profile of the Alliance and giving it the presence and perspective, I think Adrian is primarily responsible for that,” he says.
Over time Guldemond surrounded himself with very competent people but it was Guldemond who held it together, sometimes “despite the odds,” notes Hultink.
Jim Vreugdenhil was the OACS director of elementary education from 1990-2003. He says Guldemond was very committed to helping schools and strongly encouraged and supported the Alliance’s curriculum development initiatives.
The Alliance issued a series of novels, two Grade 7 and 8 books for the history program and a short story collection for Grade 7 and 8 anthologies, as well as a Grade 3 picture book for social studies.
Vreugdenhil says these publications were expensive but worthwhile for schools to have books written with Christian values.
“Those were expensive projects for the Alliance and Adrian was very supportive of that,” says Vreugdenhil.
Guldemond also encouraged the OACS to hire its own fundraisers, which Vreugdenhil says he appreciated.
“I think that was a big step forward (when the OACS hired its own fundraisers), the curriculum work really went ahead by leaps and bounds,” says Vreugdenhil, adding at the time he was able to hire two full-time writers to work on curriculum production.
Another area Guldemond supported early in his tenure as was the value of providing organizational and administrative resources for volunteer school boards, says Vanasselt.
“He recognized the importance of doing the right thing, and doing it right — and kept that direction throughout his career,” says Vanasselt.
— Part 1 of a two-part series