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

A class’ prayer

I received a pleasant and encouraging email earlier today. It was from the 7th grade teacher at MCS who wanted to share her class’ prayer request with me. Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer, and as the various classes moved through prayer stations in the building, they wanted to have a special time of prayer for a new high school. The prayer included the petition that the a new high school would be ready for them when they graduated a year from now. I was encouraged by this.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 3

“Let’s not leave the developing world behind.”

This message resonated deeply with me today during our third day together. Cellular and Internet connectivity is worldwide, and as Christian schools work to prepare our students for the world they will face, it shouldn’t be too difficult for us to partner with missions and/or local schools in the developing world. They have access to the connection; they need to be provided with the opportunity to interact more together.

Imagine a learning partnership where our children are interacting with less-advantaged children in the world via the world wide web. Imagine how these children may be reached with the Gospel by our Christian school students demonstrating their beliefs as they learn together. We may be able to teach them through our interactions, but, more importantly, imagine how much our students can learn from them as we partner together.

Today’s ‘a-ha’ for me was that it shouldn’t be too difficult for each and every Christian school to have a ‘sister school’ in the developing world. As I think about some of the mission partnerships with my home church alone, I realize that at least two of them are with missionaries in their local school systems. Why couldn’t the new Monroe Christian High School partner with these schools, especially if we consider offering (for example) English as a Second Language tutorials online, service learning opportunities to benefit these sites, or mission-related study trips?

What if we worked together?

What if a number of smaller K-8 Christian schools decided to partner together to share resources as we develop our own high schools based on a 21st century learning model?

This question was behind a special meeting today to discuss a proposal for the Pacific Northwest Christian High School Consortium. The leaders from four Christian schools in the NWCSI region met to start developing a shared vision for working together. With great appreciation to CSI Online Academy for hosting the event, we were able to envision how the academy can play an important role in this partnership.

There was interest in the room, as each school has faced the incredible organizational and financial hurdles of wanting to expand 9-12. I enjoyed meeting with building leaders who share a similar passion of excellence in Christian education. I have a feeling that the schools will be watching Monroe Christian School very closely as we “break new ground” in our attempts for a new high school.

A fund-raising idea

An animated discussion over coffee led a small group of people interested in the MCS “high school project” to suggest holding a fund-raising dinner to raise some necessary start-up funding.

We are envisioning a professionally catered, semi-formal, banquet-style dinner held in a unique and welcoming location. The event will include dinner, entertainment, a possible testimony, an overview of the high school proposal (including benefits for students and Monroe Christian School as a whole), a summary of the anticipated start-up budget, and a formal appeal for funds.

The audience for this event will be a targeted subset of MCS alumni and donors. The focus will be on those alumni and family members from the founding generation of Monroe Christian School who typically no longer have children or grandchildren enrolled at the school.

I was surprised at how quickly these ideas came together, and encouraged by the interest and excitement that is spreading in the community. I continue to pray for God’s will and success in our efforts to follow God’s whisper for a new school.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education

With much anticipation, I received notice today of my acceptance as a full participant to The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education for the 21st Century! I have been quite excited about this conference, as I see it as a valuable opportunity for networking, resource gathering and sharing our vision for Monroe Christian School.

From their website: “This symposium will be the second of three annual events that will bring together innovative Christian Leaders for the purpose of dialogue and leadership for the K-12 Christian school movement. The three year goal of these meetings will be to give vision and direction to the global Christian School movement. This will culminate in a pedagogical manifesto for Christian Education in the 21st Century to be completed in the summer of 2013.”

I find that the manifesto drafting process will add a significant focus and value to our time together, as we deliberately attempt to influence education for this century.

Looking forward to Vancouver!

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.

The challenge of funding …

Every private school begins with a dream. The challenge for the visionaries is to realize the dream.

Marks (2006) highlights the fact that far too many potentially good private schools fail simply on account of a lack of funding. I have not studied private school finance, so his brief article provided a very cursory introduction to private school finance.  The “crib sheet” he provided highlighted categories of expenses that need to be considered in the set-up. These included:

  • determining school location and facility rental
  • necessary building renovations to serve the school population adequately
  • budgeting essential building services, such as landscaping or janitorial services, to support the facilities
  • insurance costs for running the school
  • learning supplies, including computer network, laptops, art supplies, etc.
  • library upkeep and subscriptions
  • budget line for faculty training and professional development support

In the end, the greatest budgetary expense relates to personnel. One aspect that successful new schools plan on to keep staffing costs low is to require as many employees as possible to have a regular role with students. There are no employees with limited direct contact with the students. The notion is that every adult plays a significant or contributory role to student learning, including those with administrative responsibilities. This is meant to minimize costs for solely non-instructional staff members.

Since the lion’s share of the operating budget is tuition- and donation-based, all new school planning needs to address establishing, developing and maintaining a constituency of families and alumni who remain interested in the school’s mission. New parents need to understand the call to Christian education and believe that a Christian high school is a viable education alternative for their children. Similarly, alumni need to be reminded of this call and their commitment as adults to support Christian education at their local school.

Nevertheless, on the question of funding and budget, when God whispers a dream we need the guts to respond …

He will provide.

Reference:

Marks, A., (2006, Nov. 5). Building the Next Dalton. Retrieved July 7, 2011 through New York Magazine (online).

Meeting with the board – for the first time!

I had my first opportunity to meet with the MCS school board last night. They held a special meeting for me to present my ideas for a new Christian high school. I wanted to encourage an open discussion on the whisper that God had given me, so I developed a simple PowerPoint presentation to introduce some of my reflections and musings on what a Christian high school could look like for the 21st century. I was careful to emphasize the need for a paradigm shift as we consider hybird learning as part of the high school experience.

While carefully considering the mission of the school, I felt it was important to align my thinking and presentation to the CSI Standards for accreditation. Part of this included introducing “what works in schools” (Marzano, 2003) as part of the presentation, too. I shared a vision for curricular themes across the disciplines and necessary 21st century fluencies that we would need to foster in our students, the teaching and practice of which would need to be appropriately integrated throughout the curriculum. I attempted to paint a picture of what the students would be experiencing in the school and provided an overview of a daily timetable. Finally, I also wanted to present what we would expect from our teachers and how we would need to support them in this setting.

I recall that the board followed the presentation quite  closely and remained interested in the new ideas. A time for questions and discussion followed. Questions for clarification on how the school would run on so few specialists were addressed. Indeed, gaining a better understanding on how to balance on-campus project-based learning with a learning commons challenged us to consider a new way of experiencing high school. I was most encouraged that the board voted immediately to pursue further this exciting project. I continue to believe that God is speaking to me for this vision, and I am glad that His whisper may now be heard by others, too.