After 42 years in education, it’s still about the people for Bill Barneveld
Retiring principal Bill Barneveld leaves a legacy of keeping students’ needs and well-being the priority when it comes to administration. He has also been a genuine friend and support, say colleagues.
Marvin Bierling, principal of Strathroy Community Christian School points out that the administrative role involves a lot of different activities which could become the priority.
“It’s been a great reminder for me to see somebody, after so many years, still realize it’s about the kids,” he says.
As a former student of Barneveld’s at Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian), Bierling has been able to experience the effects of that philosophy firsthand.
Hugo Marcus, director of curriculum publications at the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) has known Barneveld for about 29 years. They connected as Christian school principals in the late 1970s.
Over the years, Barneveld has been a mentor and close friend, says Marcus.
“He was always generous in his support and genuine in his friendship not only with me but with everybody he came into contact with.”
Currently principal at John Knox Christian School in Woodstock, Barneveld will be passing on the torch after 42 years in education. Aside from an eight-year stint in public education, he’s been in Christian education for the majority of those years, 31 of them as principal at both the elementary and secondary levels.
Barneveld has seen what has happened with the Christian education movement over the years and from his standpoint the changes have largely been positive.
He describes the early years of Christian schooling in Ontario as “wild and woolly.”
While today’s Christian schools are excellent models of education with a strong curriculum and professional teachers who know their craft, that wasn’t exactly the case 40-plus years ago, according to Bill.
The schools have gained increasing credibility over the years and parents can now be assured the teachers are well-qualified and the curriculum, developed now largely through the OACS, “comes with a very strong and clear Christian biblical perspective, recognizing that Christ is Lord of all.”
Today’s Christian schools are also able to be much more inclusive and welcome students with a wide range of disabilities.
As Barneveld looks to the future of Christian education in Ontario he says the challenge will be to ensure schools stay relevant.
“We have to make sure that we stay relevant and that our curriculum keeps changing,” he says, pointing out that a common charge against schools is that they educate students for the last century rather than the present one.
“I hope that’s never true of us,” he adds. “We have to stay current and make sure our kids are well-prepared to take their place in society and that means constant change and revisions.”
Barneveld says it will also be vital for schools to continue to work with the Ontario government and raise awareness about the need for public funding.
He points out that the cost of Christian schooling is becoming increasingly prohibitive and while schools are attempting to lessen tuition costs, the load is still very heavy for families to carry.
“We have to let (the government) see that we are a positive asset to the provincial scene and that we deserve some public money.”
Barneveld retires in June.
“Personally I’ll miss his wisdom and counsel,” says Marcus. “And I’m sure that his years of experience and his presence will be greatly missed by the Christian school community.”