Fox in the henhouse: Oversight of BC independent schools

The Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools, a department of the Ministry of Education, is responsible for the oversight of independent schools.

Janet Steffenhagen’s thorough reporting in the Vancouver Sun in 2007 found that every inspector of those schools going back to the 1980s was connected to an Evangelical Christian School. This trend has continued through today and it raises the question of why the one office designated to oversee BC's private schools has been run entirely by people coming out of a faith group that accounts for approximately 13% of British Columbia and, as we'll show next week, a fraction of the independent school community.

Inspectors of BC independent schoolsThe Society of Christian Schools of BC and its umbrella group, Federation of Independent School Associations (FISA), were two of the main organizations to lobby for public funding of independent schools in the 1970s and at the front of those organizations was Gerry Ensing. Following his lobbying, Ensing joined the Office in 1985 and he was later promoted to inspector.

Jim Beeke succeeded Ensing as inspector in 1998 and held the role until 2005. Beeke authored Bible books for children, teens and adults. Beeke was also principal of Timothy Christian School.

From 2005 to 2009, Susan Penner served as Inspector. Penner was previously principal of White Rock Christian Academy and Credo Christian High School.

Penner’s vice-principal at White Rock Christian Academy was Ed Vanderboom who was also a principal of Credo Christian High School. Vanderboom became the next inspector in 2009 and held the role until 2011.

Theo Vandeweg took over the role in 2011 and is the current inspector. Vandeweg was also a principal at Timothy Christian School and together they co-authored Teaching from a Christian Perspective.

The inspector is responsible for appointing External Evaluation Committees that perform the major inspections of independent schools. These committees are established to inspect Group 1 and 2 schools every 6 years, and Group 4 and Distributed Learning programs every 2 years. Additionally, monitoring inspections are performed on Group 1 and 2 schools every 2 years, and on Group 4 and Distributed Learning programs on alternating years. Group 3 schools are inspected by Ministry representatives every 2 years.

Results of the inspection reports are returned to the school and not generally released publicly.

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