Retiring communications director shares reflections, thoughts on Christian education
John Vanasselt, the recently retired Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) communications director, says looking forward schools need to emphasize quality academics, proactive marketing and advocacy for government support.
“The unique quality of our schools is found in the basic goal of teaching for responsible Christian citizenship,” he says.
The focus in the 76 OACS member schools is to help students become productive, responsible citizens in society which means getting involved in a variety of professions when they are older, he says.
“Schools must continue to emphasize quality academic programs in a technological world.”
There is an increasing need for schools to look at what their own growth drivers are and to develop proactive marketing techniques in their communities. A shift needs to take place from the view that people will come to the school to start to proactively market the school, he says.
Throughout his career Vanasselt has advocated for government funding. He says the bittersweet history of acquiring a tax credit in 2001 and then having it revoked in 2003 is memorable.
“(John) was responsible for organizing the lobbying with respect to the government funding of independent schools that we received in 2001,” says OACS executive director Adrian Guldemond. “He deserves a lot of credit for keeping that organized.”
The quest for government funding needs to continue, and it is a matter of justice and citizenship, says Vanasselt.
“I firmly believe that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children,” says Vanasselt. “I believe government should support those parents whenever their kids receive an education that prepares those kids for constructive citizenship.”
To address issues such as government funding the OACS has struck a Christian Schools in the Public Square task force that will be studying different issues for independent schools.
Vanasselt says these three areas – education programming, marketing and advocacy – are important steps for the OACS moving forward. For him, he says he plans to have no plan in retirement other than spend more time with his wife and family.