In 1986, the pastor of the Maungaturoto Congregational Church, Robert Steedman was experiencing the struggles of raising a family who attended the local school. Dissatisfied, he and his wife Lynelle figured there must be a better way to educate children to think and live Christianly.
They searched and discovered schools starting up around the country using Accelerated Christian Education. Together with Malcolm Cullen, also of the Congregational Church, they met and were inspired by Ross Davies, Ken Francis and Dick Gordon who were operating a school at Kamo and Alan O’Neil at Dargaville. They decided to do the same.
During the first term of 1987, Debra Windsor, who would be the first senior supervisor, lived at Kamo and worked with Ken Francis to learn all about how ACE operated. They proceeded to set up a school board under the church elders and began planning a school to operate at the church.
In due course they opened Otamatea Christian School on April 22, 1987. The initial student body consisted of 14 primary school aged children, mostly from the Maungatoroto Congregational Church and the Assemblies of God. In the following year there were 28 students in the school. Gradually they extended the top age of the student body up into the secondary school. The Accelerated Christian education style was working well for them. There was a real sense that school was an extension of family life as parents were integrally involved in the running of the school.
In 1991 a building was brought in and attached to the back of the church to provide additional classroom space. In 2004 an attractive purpose built school building was constructed at the back of the property freeing up the church building.
The Steedmans left at the end of 1991 at which time Les Gribben became the principal. Les faithfully continued in this role until he handed the baton to Lynette Bell in 2009. Lynette Bell continued to ‘Stay the Course’ and grow the school to 43 students during her time as principal. She believed in releasing the talents and gifts students had been blessed with and opened the school to those that would not be able to afford Christian Education through the introduction of Scholarships and Sponsorship. She served in this role for 6 years until 2015 where she handed over the leadership of the school to her husband, Mark Bell.
Mark Bell has been working in the school since 2011. Both Lynette and Mark are called to the Mission Field of providing a strong Bible based Christian Education in our area. They work as a team and hold a passionate vision for Christian Education in which all core subjects are infused with scripture and guided by the word of God.
During the time the school has been open, there has been a cross-section of Christian families and non-Christian families and children that have participated fully in the school community. Notably there have been families while based at the Youth With a Mission base at Paparoa contributing to the school community. There is a continuing warm and supportive relationship built up with the other churches in the district. The school has been a valuable contributor to the fellowship of ACE schools and home educators, being actively involved with conferences and conventions, and the local NZACS regional events.
Teachers and volunteers from parents, to grandparents, to friends of the school, willingly give of their time and are a blessing to those lives they touch.
Otamatea Christian School still remains an independent school. Faith and Trust in God are paramount to its smooth running spiritually, physically and financially.
Since the early days many students have passed through our school and have achieved outstanding results in their chosen paths including tertiary education. In recent years students that have been through our school have ended up studying medicine, law, physiotherapy, genetics. Some students have gone on to be teachers, nurses or linguists. Other occupations that our students are called to include engineering, building, architecture, social work and building.
Otamatea Christian School has been a wonderful example of a community of faithful families educating their children in the knowledge of the Lord and a shining light to those members of the community that have come through its doors in times of storm and uncertainty. Especially in recent years non Christian children and families that have joined our school community have given their lives to Christ. Thus the school has transitioned from a school essentially focused on discipleship to a school also focused on evangelism of those that do not know Christ.