It’s hard to believe that the OACS community has been meeting for its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Conference for over sixty years. Last Saturday, board and staff members from Christian schools across Ontario gathered at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville to attend the 61st OACS AGM, with the goal of equipping and encouraging one another through workshops, engaging presentations and meaningful conversation.
Session One of the conference invited attendees to participate in one of two workshops: they could learn about running a school operated thrift store from Marcel DeRegt, Executive Director of the Canadian Christian Education Foundation. Or, they could hear about the good work being done at Hamilton District Christian High School’s (HDCH) Ontario Christian Teacher Academy, from Nathan Siebenga, Principal at HDCH.
During Session Two, Justin Cook (OACS Director of Learning) and Chris van Donkelaar (OACS Director of Communications) invited teachers, administrators and board members to explore the changing landscape of learning in Canada. Other AGM attendees gleaned wisdom from Ray Hendriks, OACS Director of School Quality, as he outlined the ways in which school boards can consistently support, challenge and evaluate school principals.
“I wish that I could have attended all of the sessions,” says Carol Fairley, a representative from Maranatha Christian Academy in Windsor. She says that she appreciated the practical and informative workshops that she did participate in, as well as the meeting afterwards, where she gained valuable insight about the governmental changes that are likely to affect OACS member schools.
It’s been a particularly challenging year for the OACS membership, notes Chris van Donkelaar, but the OACS was able to provide clarification where it was needed— responding to difficult questions around CRA issues, administrative issues and financial issues, with transparency and insight, he adds. Overall, the experience affirmed to van Donkelaar that the OACS is (and has been) working in the right places.
Conference participants were stuck by a variety of things at the AGM. For Stephen Janssen, Principal at London Christian Elementary School (LCES), the day was a reminder to him that LCES is part of a large, living community. “My main impression was this: Wow, what an exciting time to be connected with a Christian school in the province of Ontario!” he says.
Janssen enjoyed listening to the ‘good news’ enrollment stories from school boards in Ontario and was excited to learn of the province-wide 2.2% rise in enrollment among OACS member schools. Given last year’s enrollment numbers, which reflected a steady pattern of decline, that news was especially heartening, and affirmed to him that God is faithful.
Janssen was also encouraged by the many Christian education organizations (OACS, OCSAA, Edifide and others) that are working together to pursue wider initiatives. “We are moving toward unprecedented times of collaboration as each organization leverages the previous work and talents in wider initiatives,” he says. “If only all the founders of those organizations could all see how exciting the Christian education landscape is today!”
At this year’s AGM and Conference, representatives from many OACS schools seized the opportunity to learn from each other. They shared advice, forged new connections and grew together. By all accounts, those experiences added up to a day well spent.
“I’ve attended these workshops for a long time and always leave with a jump in my step,” says Eric Hartemink, a representative from Immanuel Christian School in Aylmer. “Good things continue to happen!”