Independent school governance model offers broad democratic base: director

The governance model for the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools offers a broad democratic base, according to John Vanasselt, director of communications for the coalition.

Rather than a parochial or private form of ownership, a society owns each school. The society is comprised of parents and other community-members who are committed to promoting the mission and philosophy of that particular school.

The society elects board members to represent it. As the governing element, the board sets the vision, accountability and policy standards for the school. Typically, nine to twelve members make up the board for each school.

Besides its strength as a democratic broad base, this particular governance model allows for the direct influence of parents on the education of their children, says Vanasselt, and “that is as it should be.”

“Parents should be the ones to direct the education of their kids,” he notes. “This is not a church or state responsibility.”
In an article Vanasselt authored, called “School Credit was Good Benefit,” published by, Vanasselt pointed to a survey by the Ontario College of Teachers which backs his argument about the dramatic importance of parental influence. In this survey, 98 per cent of teachers agreed that “parental involvement is essential to students’ educational success.” Vanasselt also referred to an Ipsos-Reid poll of 1000 randomly selected Ontarians. Eighty-six per cent agreed that parents are the most important factor in “the development in children of proper social values such as tolerance, respect, discipline, and work ethic.”

Parental influence can happen with this particular governance model like nowhere else. That influence takes place not only in the home while working on homework assignments, and in the classroom while volunteering, but also behind boardroom doors. Parents themselves ultimately oversee the course of each school.

This localized, largely decentralized model of governance has been shown to play a key part in the high satisfaction levels from consumers (the parents) and strong organizational integrity of these independent schools.

At the same time, the schools are not operating completely in isolation. All are members of a coalition, the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools. The self-declared mission of the OACS is to “enable the schools to meet the purpose of Christian education.” It does this in a variety of ways, including by working with leadership at individual schools to design solutions and provide comprehensive administrative resources and support.