Monroe Christian High School website is live

In advance of an upcoming parent information meeting, we have now completed our information website for the new high school. This site will be used to present general information about the school to the public. I am anticipating a separate student portal that will provide links for current students once we begin learning together in September.

The Monroe Christian High School website is now live!

Our vision for the new Monroe Christian High School

We recently held a fund-raising banquet with the goal of generating some essential start-up funding for the new Monroe Christian High School. During this fine evening together, I gave a presentation on the vision for the new high school. I was able to highlight our intentions for engaging students in their learning and equipping them for service throughout high school. I also highlighted what blended learning can look like for Monroe Christian High School, and shared some exciting news regarding the attention that we are garnering as more people learn about our model. (Unfortunately the audio is not strong for this video, so it is necessary to adjust your volume accordingly.)

Click here to watch and listen: A vision for the new Monroe Christian High School

FAQ #1 – What do you mean by a hybrid school?

A hybrid school is an institution that offers traditional, on-campus classes as well as online classes for students to select from as part of their studies. For example, students may take an English Language Arts class with an on-campus teacher in the morning and then have a biology class online in the afternoon.

Hybrid schools can vary in the amount of “face-to-face” and online instruction that it offers. The plan for the new Monroe Christian High School is developed on the assumption that approximately 50% of the day will include instruction in the classroom. Students will enroll in online classes for the rest of the day.

Students need S-P-A-C-E to learn

I was recently introduced to Challenge Success, which is an organization that works with schools to help create balance and academic fulfillment for students. One of their cornerstones is based on the notion that students need SPACE to learn. SPACE is an acronym for five practices that can help change a student’s experience of school:

S – Students’ use of time

P – Project-based learning

A – Alternative and authentic assessments

C – Climate of care

E – Educate parents, students and faculty

It is worth viewing the recommended SPACE policies and ideas that can positively influence a student’s experience of high school.

Interestingly, we have been advocating for these same principles (minus the fancy acronym!) and planning for many of the recommendations for our new high school. It is rewarding to see how our efforts are aligning with recommendations from the research base for school success.

Of particular interest is focus “C” on developing a caring community for students in which they feel safe and appropriately challenged to learn. This is so central to our plans for Monroe Christian High School, as it is in a Christian community-based learning environment that discipleship and student development can occur. Our high school students need community and a caring advising system in which teachers will get to know their students in order to help them succeed academically  We don’t believe that a fully online, virtual high school will lead to the type of academic and personal growth that we desire for our high school graduates. We remain committed to the deliberate blending of on-campus learning experiences and positive relationships with the best that online learning options may offer for high school studies.

Resource:

Barseghian, T. – Why kids need schools to change

A important lesson from last June

Summer is coming to an end and I realize that I haven’t provided an update on the new high school during the past few months. I want to share a bit about a meeting that I held with last year’s group of 7th graders during the final days of classes in June.

Since this class will serve as the inaugural freshmen class for the new high school, I wanted to meet with them and begin to honor their voice in the planning process. I spent a bit of time sharing some key aspects that we had been considering for the new high school and then answered their questions. I also wanted to learn what interested them as we continued our planning.

The significant insight that I took away from my hour with the students was acknowledging their interest over student life activities. They weren’t overly concerned about the range of courses that they will take or the type of instructional format for their classes (although they were excited about using either a personal laptop or tablet!). No, they wanted some reassurance that high school would include opportunities for clubs, sports and activities outside of regular class time.

For me, this meeting will serve as a reminder to keep the student experience central in all our considerations.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 1

Today was the pre-conference day to discuss specific elements of digital learning strategies and methods as applicable to the Christian School. It was a good day together. Unlike other conferences that I attended, I found that the day included quality breakout sessions and meaningful conversations all around. I was impressed by the sense of collegiality that permeated the various sessions and I had a chance to meet some very dedicated professional educators. I chose to attend three specific sessions.

Success Strategies for the Business of Education helped us reconfigure the business and marketing end of schooling. Of the many insights I gained, I thought the most simple and practical was to get students involved in the touring process for prospective students and families, especially at the middle and high school levels. This can definitely help students see themselves “fitting in” which is so important when families enroll or transfer to the school. I realized that we do this on our university campus, so it makes sense here. I wonder why we didn’t think of this before.

Physical + Virtual = Space for Learning challenged us to reconsider our use of physical and virtual space in teaching and learning. This was a brilliant presentation of what can be, especially with regards to self-directed, competency-based learning. I like the emphasis to keep relationship and community deeply centered in the learning landscape.

Change Leadership for Dynamic Times offered some insight into leading change in a school where some resistance may be encountered. An eight stage approach to ensure effective change was shared. I found the first step, namely “creating a sense of urgency in what needs to be done” as one of the more important steps since it helped focus energies on initiating the process of necessary and better change in the school.

This was a good day to start the symposium. I will definitely need to review and consider my notes and ideas a bit further, especially as they apply to the high school project.

Proposing a governance structure

The question of governance and accountability of the proposed new high school was brought to my attention last week. Acknowledging that the current MCS Board is fully occupied with its various responsibilities, I offered a suggested governance structure to provide oversight of the school development process as follows:

During the initial development and implementation phase of the proposed new high school, a High School Advisory Council (HSAC) will be convened whose mandate and primary function will be to seek the will of God by providing oversight in matters of development concerning the proposed new high school per the request of the MCS Board.

Goal & Purpose

The HSAC will be charged to make recommendations for consideration, approval and action for regarding initial, annual and long-range plans for the proposed new high school and will serve in an advisory capacity for 3-5 years: one year (2012-2013) for initial preparation, planning and development, and then 2-4 years (2013-2015/16/17) for implementation, assuming one grade level implementation per year.

Expectations

The HSAC will reference the existing Christian School International Vision to Action standards to develop, or cause to be developed, the immediate implementation plan for the new high school. This will include recommendations for consideration, approval and action regarding:

1)       Community (CSI Standard Category 1.0)

This will address and include the development of a proposed high school philosophy, mission, goals statements (1.1), overall school organization (1.2), financial management (1.3), public relations (1.4), and parents (1.5).

2)       Staffing (Category 2.0)

This will address and include the development of policies and expectations for all staff members (standard 2.1), administration (2.2), and teachers (2.3).

3)       Students (Category 3.0)

This will address and include the development of policies and expectations on admission and retention (3.1), student services (3.2), and physical facility (3.3).

4)       Curriculum (Category 4.0)

This will address and include the development, expectations and understanding regarding curriculum procedures (4.1), instructional procedures and resources (4.2), and the written curriculum (4.3).

Level of Authority

The HSAC will be under the authority of, and respond to, the MCS Board. One current member of the MCS Board will sit on the HSAC and serve as a liaison between the MCS Board and the HSAC.

The decisions made by the HSACwill be understood as recommendations for consideration, approval and action when shared with the Monroe Christian School Board, with whom final decision-making authority rests.

HSAC Membership

The HSAC will consist of a minimum of five and a maximum of seven individuals. One current member of the MCS Board will sit on the HSAC and serve as a liaison between the MCS Board and the HSAC. This member will represent the HSAC at MCS Board meetings.

All HSAC members either i) hold membership in the MCS Society or ii) are employed as administrative and/or instructional staff at MCS.

Monthly Reporting Mechanism

The HSAC will meet monthly on an agreed-upon date before the monthly MCS Board meeting. All recommendations from the HSAC for consideration, approval and action will be reported to the MCS Board in the form of written statements and/or minutes of the HSAC meetings. It is expected that the MCS Board will respond diligently so as not to impede the progress of the HSAC.

Meeting with an admissions counselor

I had the opportunity to meet with a university admissions counselor earlier today. I was interested in getting a sense of what counselors may be considering when they review an application from a student who recently graduated from a new or relatively unknown high school.

I was pleasantly surprised that they were not necessarily looking for the number of honors or AP classes that a student took, per se, but, rather, that applicants could demonstrate that they attempted to challenge themselves in school, especially when considering the various courses that could be taken in the school curriculum. Did the student choose the “easy credits”? Or did the student attempt to engage in a variety of classes throughout the curriculum? Is the student a well-rounded student as a result of the high school experience?

The counselor advised the need to let the university know of the school’s graduation requirements at least a year in advance of the first graduating class. This notification should highlight the minimum graduation requirements and expectations of the school’s students. This was especially important should the school expect the students to participate in service learning, internships or offer other learning opportunities for credit. Based on this provided profile, careful decisions are made regarding admission status.

The counselor didn’t even flinch when we talked about a hybrid high school graduation diploma. To her, this was part of the reality of admitting students in the 21st century.

Overall, I appreciated the opportunity to discuss what a new school needs to consider from a university admissions point of view. Clearly, the need to explicitly express minimum graduation requirements is important. Even more important is to articulate the vision and expectations that a new Christian high school may have for its students as graduates and representatives of the school when they leave to go to college.

A visit with the pastors

I had an important meeting yesterday afternoon to share our developing vision for a new Christian high school in Monroe. The MCS Administrator and I were invited to spend a couple of minutes with a group of pastors from the local churches in Monroe.

We shared our vision for a high school that would equip students for the 21st century; a vision to prepare students for discipleship and stewardship.

I felt it important to communicate how we started on this project together and shared God’s whisper for a new high school. As I mentioned to them, after a rich history of Christian education in the local community for more than 50 years, we believe that now may be the time to consider a new high school for Monroe.

We highlighted that the proposed high school would offer a high quality, Christian, secondary school education that is:

1. Focused on academic excellence; grounded in discipleship, stewardship and service,
2. Meets/exceeds minimum WA high school graduation requirements, and
3. Aligned with knowledge, skills, and competences required for the 21st century.

We ended by asking if the pastors and their churches would help us by praying for this significant expansion on Monroe Christian School, specifically for insight into God’s will for the school, the overall development and implementation process, and that families may come forward to choose Christian education for their children.

The pastors seemed open to our brief presentation. They had a few preliminary questions. One that surprised me was on the overall validity and effectiveness of this new approach to “doing” high school. I do believe that I was able to ease any concerns they might have had. I look forward to their support in prayer as we move forward.