Last year, when I accepted the position of Executive Director, I understood my task very clearly … while assisting a new Christian school organization to find its footing, I was to oversee the dissolution of the OACS, an organization I deeply loved. That journey is coming to its rightful conclusion highlighted for me by a tour of many of our member schools. In doing so, I wanted to personally thank our members, reassure them about the new organization which will serve them, and witness to how our Lord has blessed us and built us up over the past generations.
The most energizing thing for me during this last year has been the revitalization of our schools. I’m watching really good leaders think about leading this generation of learners. I’m seeing teachers experiment and readily adapt to changing or opportunities to enrich their teaching. I’m watching us grow in care and concern for every single student in our schools so we are implementing practices which reach into the lives of all students. Lastly, I’m watching students engage in a new way, excited with learning as they research, as they write, and as they present a project and ideas which are indicative of the really good things happening in our schools. And all of that is led by a new generation of parents on our boards who are once again claiming the cause of Christ-centered education.
Looking back at my work with the OACS, I’ve been in a position of privilege; that privilege being called into schools who were in crisis and watching those schools move from crisis to stability to flourishing. To visit a school where just a short time ago a Board or Principal might be wondering whether the enrolment, energy, or resources were there to open the doors of the school the next year and then to witness growing enrolment, creative energy and a renewal of resources as signals of God’s presence in our school communities. Its been invigorating to watch communities accept their mandate and once again flourish as an educational environment. It has been a privilege to witness to it over and over through the province.
Of course, these last few months have also given cause for deep reflection. As the OACS comes to a close after 65 years, I have thought much about our lasting gifts to Christian education in Eastern Canada. One enduring gift is that the OACS believed that the cause of Christian education in Ontario was greater than any individual school. We collectively believed that this was about being a learning community in Eastern Canada and that we were charged with a mission to influence education in Canada as a result.
Inside of that, there are a number of other gifts:
- The gift of a curriculum which over the years brought together the worldview of our faith and the requirements of the ministry of education for learning and did so in a way that freed teachers to be high quality craftspersons and artisans in their classrooms.
- Another gift that the OACS gave was its respect of Christian teachers, principals, board members, anyone engaged in the school. The OACS encouraged them, promoting and supporting them in a high level of professionalism. We required certification long before that was popular in other private schools, we had salary grids that challenged our schools to pay our teachers as professionals, we had accountability structures that were not always popular but led the movement in terms of being able to stand proudly and say we are communities of integrity.
- In terms of advocacy, we led the way in health care funding for our schools. And, as a result, the recent surveys from Cardus have shown us that the OACS was part of a movement of Christian schools whose graduates have become excellent citizens of this country – solid in their faith, committed to the core values and beliefs toward which we strive.
My prayer is that in this time of change we not only remain unified, but we widen the umbrella of schools engaging with a new organization that seeks to fully engage this culture from a Christian worldview. That Christian schooling will continue to grow and flourish under the banner of this new organization as it arises, and that our students will be equipped to deal with the variety of challenges and changes that our rapidly changing culture presents.
In concluding this final blog, I give thanks for what the OACS has been able to do and I give thanks for the faithfulness of our heavenly Father who upheld it through its time. I look forward with confidence knowing that the new organization is strongly founded on similar roots with a new and exciting vision for our movement.
May we continue together to experience the blessings of our Lord and Saviour as we continue our journey of Christian education.