The start of a new school year is an important transition for students, teachers and parents. Edifide has chosen this key moment in the school calendar to make a transition of its own. Edifide has rebranded to become Vocate, the Christian School Employees Association. This new name reflects an expanded new vision and range of services to support all Christian school employees and their workplaces.
Vocate combines “advocate” and “vocation,” in recognition of both our main service (advocacy) and the area in which we do our work (employment at a Christian school). The name also symbolizes that our members have a calling from the Lord in their chosen vocation, in service to Him and His children.
Up until late 2018, Christian schools in Eastern Canada were supported by three different professional organizations: the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), the Ontario Christian School Administrators Association (OCSAA) and Edifide, previously the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association (OCSTA). The OACS provided advice and assistance to school boards. OCSAA provided leadership and assistance to the principals. Edifide provided employment services and professional development primarily for teachers. In late 2018, these three organizations merged and two new organizations were born: Edvance Christian School Association and Edifide.
Edifide has until now provided services in two areas: employment and professional development. This work was done, primarily, on behalf of the teachers in Christian schools in Ontario. With Edvance now overseeing professional development, Vocate has focused its services on employment, while also expanding our vision for the workplace community of the Christian schools.
Previously, Edifide primarily represented teachers. The membership of Vocate will include all employees of Christian schools, from teachers to caretakers; from principals to finance managers to teacher assistants. This inclusive view recognizes the importance of each and every employee and the important part they play in the success of its educational vision for supporting the growth of our children into Christ-followers.
When I was a Christian School student, I had many wonderful teachers who each made an impact on my life. Yet I also learned a lot from a custodian, who taught my friends and I about what it meant to be responsible. He taught us the value of hard work, scolded us when we were out of line, and showed us that respect extends not only to people but also to the physical world our Lord created, including the school building itself.
Some years later, I became a teacher. I’ll never forget one secretary at the time, beloved and respected by students. For two decades she unofficially served as school social worker, mental health counsellor and general life advisor. Similar stories could be told about education assistants, bus drivers and other school employees who go above and beyond their official job descriptions and take on authentic relational roles.
Recognizing the inherent value and impact of all employees working at Christian schools is the driving force behind the new vision of Vocate. We exist to provide expert and professional employment services to all employees in order to build and foster healthy workplaces in Christian schools in Ontario and beyond. Our services are arranged in three specific areas: employee advocacy, workplace community assistance, and training and certification. The employee advocacy services include individual contract and employment rights advice, conflict resolution and facilitation services, legal support for employment-related matters including a mediation and arbitration process, and other employment contract and schedule matters including the annual compensation report. The workplace community assistance services include workplace policy development, workplace legislation consultation, Contract Partnership Committee assistance, workplace relationship facilitation and restoration, mental health workshops and workplace health surveys. The training and certification services include workplace-related training and other workshops. Vocate is also the certifying body for the Christian School Teachers Certificate (CSTC), which provides training for and recognition of what it means to be a teacher in a Christian school.
Whatever your role, Vocate is here to assist you and your workplace. We represent the voice of employees in Christian schools. We work closely with our members and their local school in order to seek mutually positive outcomes. We are driven by justice and fairness as we continue to live into our vision of supported employees and healthy workplaces in Christian schools in the province of Ontario and beyond.
Jonathan Schat is the Executive Director of Vocate (formerly Edifide). He lives in Copetown, Ontario, with his wife and four children.