4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; (1 Cor. 13, NASB)
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus, the Christ. I trust the summer vacation has been full and rich for you all! I am writing with some information that I hope will be helpful.
Occasionally we receive telephone and email inquiries from parents, former parents, former students and former teachers asking for information about the health and well-being of the school. Some of the people we hear from have bits and pieces of information painting a picture of VCS in this time that is inaccurate. In reality, very few people, in or around or associated with VCS, know the entire narrative of the changes and transition here. As the new Principal, and in an attempt to stay in ‘the present moment’ moving ahead into the new academic year I choose to share this information in the interest of openness, transparency and the well-being of the school community with the hope that shared understanding will occur.
The VCS Society Board and the Society as a whole undertook a lengthy process of reflection, re-visioning and assessment of the Society business...Valley Christian School. As a result they decided to initiate several changes, all of which are outlined in a ‘strategic plan’ and vision statement. This process was dialogical, and the reflections and conversations were saturated in prayer.
In mid-May I was retained by the Board as an interim Principal to assist the Society in implementing the Strategic Plan initiatives alongside VCS ‘champions’ in a number of strategic areas with a view to stabilizing and growing VCS as a strong and financially viable organization. From the outset it has been my aim to stay focused on moving forward decisively and sagaciously; this meant a focus on the ‘present’ rather than the past. My knowledge of events and decisions during this transitional period is limited to what I thought I needed to know to enable me to help us move forward. Having said that, it is the case that some people will have different stories and recollections informed by different experiences and perspectives to tell. As a rule I listen to stories until they become counter-productive or involve others who are not present at the telling.
With that in mind here is what I’d like you to understand. There has been a change of staff at the school and it is important that you know why. The staff at a school of this size is, typically, small based on enrollment so, when any change occurs it is felt more acutely. We have at least one teacher taking a long-planned sabbatical to travel to Israel and Russia among other places; she will return early next year. We had two teachers in the Primary grades move on to positions in other schools. Another teacher said, “I have been here a long time. It was just time for a change.” One high school teacher chose to seek a position in the public system for a teaching position more suited to her preferences and expertise. Two other teachers (one in middle and one in high school) were laid off for budgetary reasons (enrollment did not support the positions). Another teacher chose to relocate to be closer to family in another province. We also found it necessary to layoff some educational assistants and one clerical staff member for budgetary reasons. It is not the case that there has been an exodus of staff unhappy with the changes occurring at the school. Since the end of the school year we have hired teachers to replace departing teachers and to teach in classrooms from which teachers have taken maternity leaves. I am very happy with the expertise and character of our new staff.
ENROLLMENT and STAFFING at VCS
Now, let me say a few words about the relationship between enrollment and staffing in general and at VCS in particular. I was a public school administrator for 15 years before retiring and coming out of retirement to VCS. In each of the schools at which I served as an administrator we staffed and created a timetable of courses for students based on the number of confirmed students we had on our registration lists. If our enrollment was down we had to make changes to be fiscally responsible. If enrollment was up, we staffed accordingly. The most significant difference between the public and private schools in this regard is that private school parents pay tuition fees to buy the kind of schooling and education they think is best for their child. So VCS, like any other independent school, continues to operate because parents believe it is a good investment for their children in ‘life and eternity’.
The staffing of our classrooms to provide nurture and expertise is influenced and impacted by a couple of factors. Enrollment ebbs and flows for several reasons. Sometimes, as in our case, parents are uncertain about the direction of the school and sometimes this uncertainty is derived from misinformation or a lack of information. Parents want to know that their children will be well taught and cared for and that the school will be well led. When parents are uncertain they tend to reserve judgment and wait before making a change. This is understandable. Unfortunately the unintended consequence of this is that the Principal must make budgetary decisions about staffing based on the confirmed enrollment / registration of students. This year, at this point, this has meant creating ‘split classes’ and laying off teachers or not replacing departing teachers.
It should also be noted that staffing a school is a challenge. In general staffing schools in both the public and private sectors is impacted by changes in policy and practice by the provincial government and ministry of education. The recent Supreme Court decision requiring school districts across the province to restore positions that were lost during the last administration meant that teachers who were on ‘teacher-on-call’ lists were finding employment and the ‘pool’ of available teachers became much shallower very quickly.
I am convinced that Valley Christian School is a place with caring, compassionate and expert teachers, each of whom is committed to excellence in every element of the school experience. I know them to be ‘community-minded’ and professional, kind and hardworking. If you are you are still pondering, I invite you to be in touch with us with your questions and concerns. If you know of others who have decided with some reluctance to move on please encourage them to reconsider and be in touch with us. If you are in relationships with families looking for a smaller school where the children are known, loved and cared for, encourage them to explore Valley Christian School.
Finally, if you have lingering questions or any discomfort about the times of transition the school has come through please be in touch with me and I can direct you to people you can speak to directly to have your questions answered. In the meantime we will move forward in implementing the Vision and Strategic Plan of the Valley Christian School Society and I encourage every Society member to read the Vision and Plan documents.
Our offices are open from August 21st from 9 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to take new registrations, answer your questions and receive tuition payments for this school year.