Catholic Vancouver April 9, 2018

Peter Froese to retire as executive director of FISA

By Agnieszka Ruck

Peter Froese, executive director of FISA since 2010, is retiring. (BCC file photo)

VANCOUVER—Three hundred and ten independent schools in B.C. will soon be sailing under the leadership of a new executive director.

Peter Froese, head of the Federation of Independent School Associations of B.C., is retiring this summer. FISA, which represents 13 per cent of all K-12 students in B.C., has been running with Froese as its executive director since 2010.

“It has been my joy and privilege to advocate on behalf of independent schools in B.C.,” said Froese. In the last eight years, he's seen interest and enrolment in independent schools climb.

“Independent schools continue to grow,” Froese told The B.C. Catholic after the massive 2014 B.C. teachers’ strike in public schools. The strike had given a boost to the next year’s enrolment in independent schools, but he said when asked, parents offered more reasons than the strike for opting out of the public system.

“The number one reason parents are giving is that the values of the school are consistent with the values of the home,” he said. “All of them want to be taught in that tradition they support in the family.”

Most FISA schools are faith-based: 27 per cent are Catholic, 25 per cent are Jewish, Muslim, or of other faiths. Many other Christian schools and online or homeschool groups are also represented.

“The second reason (parents) gave was the opportunities in independent schools were greater than what the kids had available to them in the public sector,” he said. And while enrolment numbers for online learning did level off after the strike, independent schools still seemed to be growing.

Froese, who has his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of British Columbia, worked as the superintendent for the Mennonite Educational Institute schools in Abbotsford for 13 years before taking on the leadership of FISA.

In a letter, he said while he was motivated by “a bit of travel and more time at the cabin,” as well as time with his young grandchildren, in his decision to retire, he was soon offered a two-year appointment as a superintendent of Maple Leaf Educational Systems in China.

He will leave FISA Aug. 1 and take up the new role Aug. 15. “I guess retirement was not ready for me yet!”

Shawn Chisholm, principal of St. Ann’s Academy in Kamloops (the oldest continuously operating independent school in B.C.) will take his place as executive director of FISA. 

Chisholm has served on the FISA board for several years and has also participated in B.C. Ministry of Education school inspection teams, sat on the Teacher Regulation Branch of the Independent School Teaching Certificate Standards Committee, and served on the Thompson River University Faculty of Education’s Advisory Committee.

In a press release, FISA president Ed Noot said Chisholm’s “passionate commitment to independent schools, strong background in finance, effective experience in change management, admirable work ethic, and calm demeanour made him an excellent candidate as FISA’s next executive director.”