As I’ve “captained” small boats on the inland lakes and the Great Lakes of Michigan, I’ve discovered what Don Soderquist, former Vice Chairman of Walmart, said about great leaders, “Great leaders are like great captains.” Here is what I’ve learned that I thought might be helpful to you.Read More
I recently moved to St. Louis (wonderful sports, food and Jazz in this city!) to become the Head of School for Westminster Christian Academy. As most of my readers are aware, three years ago, smoke and flames filled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. The riots started after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. What fewer of my readers may know is that in 2011 former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith in December 2011. Yesterday the judge issued his verdict acquiting Jason Stockely of murder.
Given the tensions around police shootings in St. Louis and around the nation, we anticipated reaction in our community if the former officer was found not guilty. With that in mind I wrote a letter to our staff and parents suggesting a biblical perspective on how to respond to events like this.
Although this case may not affect you directly, there are many controversial issues that do. Perhaps what I shared with our school community will be helpful to you or others you know.Read More
I have often shared with parents that character is more important than competence for our children’s success. In fact, character leads to greater competence through hard work, self-discipline, integrity, and other virtues, which help a child maximize his or her God-given abilities.
Character does not just happen, it must be cultivated. For maximum benefit, good character needs to be reinforced with good life habits. One of those is getting enough sleep.Read More
The unusual comparison of a retailer and an educational institution may seem to be a bit strange.
However, they have a lot in common and there are some clear corollaries which can be instructive considering the challenges and changes facing both sectors. Mission, Culture, and Leadership will be discussed in this article with a free article available at the end.
STRENGTH OF MISSION
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is the mission statement that guided J.C. Penney and his company when he was actively involved. Changing consumer behaviors, challenging employee hiring, Wall Street profit pressures, and a dramatic increase in competition from e-commerce challenged the commitment to that mission and to profits. People are shopping elsewhere—many online.
Many of these same factors are creating tremendous pressure on Christian schools who were founded to provide a Christ centered, biblically-directed education. Parents have ever increasing choices. The NCES says conservative Christian School enrollment has decreased 29% in the last 10 years. Charter schools, for profit schools, online schools, home schools, and classical Christian schools have experienced significant growth at the expense of the traditional Christian school ...Read More
Most students still learn using a method that has existed in our schools for over 100 years. In a typical classroom setting, students sit at desks in rows and the teacher “teaches” from the front of the room. The typical student has been trained since childhood for someone to give them information and take notes or listen.
While the traditional classroom is adept at preparing students for industrial and knowledge-based jobs, it has not kept pace with preparing students for today’s economy that employs a greater share of workers in service and innovation-based economies.
Today, new learning methods are available to give students an expanded skillset needed for their future. Many schools today are utilizing Project Based Learning (PBL) and computer-based instruction in the form of online and blended learning to fill the gaps left by traditional instruction. These initiatives are expected to grow as research studies indicate that families want more technology-based instruction and less use of teacher-driven instruction ...Read More
Have you ever flown in a 1967 Piper Comanche? Until recently, I had not. Here’s the story… We were scheduled on a flight from Atlanta to Birmingham. We boarded the plane; they shut the door and about three minutes later, the pilot said, “This plane is not flying today.” What would you do in that situation?
My traveling companion said, “Follow me.” We left the airport and drove about 20 minutes south. We pulled into a driveway and a just a minute later a plane was pulled out of a garage behind the house!
Moments after the plane’s appearance, we were taxiing down a grass runway in front of this guy’s house. He told me his plan was to get us airborne before we hit the trees at the end of the runway (pasture). We made it. The rest of the trip was uneventful compared to the takeoff.
During this adventure, I was reminded of a trait I admire in other leaders and have always tried to cultivate myself. Certainly, we all know there’s not always a way. But that’s one reason I love hanging around leaders, they always think there is.Read More
... Given the breadth and degree of financial challenges Christian schools experience I have taken some time recently to focus on the larger picture. This broader focus reveals an industry under siege by the consequences of decisions made years ago by well-meaning boards of directors, competition from homeschooling and charter schools, and cultural changes both inside of and external to the church. Yes, thankfully there are thriving schools and churches that are financially successful, but most Christian schools and many churches find themselves fighting for financial sustainability in a series of slowly cascading economic circumstances.
I have the benefit of seeing the industry through the lens of thirty years of commercial banking experience. This experience tells me that while more and more entities are vying for their “piece of the pie,” the pie itself is shrinking. The cultural stress on our society reduces the perceived need for Christian education of all types and the cast of providers now includes homeschooling cooperatives and charter schools in many states. Traditional educators find it difficult to compete with the well-established homeschooling group and competing with charter schools is even more challenging given their financial underpinning by the government.
My banking experience taught me that being an early adapter is fraught with risk. Consequently, I tend to observe from the sidelines until the evidence of lasting change is overwhelming. The evidence I have observed in recent years in Christian education screams loudly the fact that in many “markets,” the traditional Christian education model is no longer financially sustainable.
... Yes, traditional Christian education remains viable in most markets in most of the country. That being said, however, the financial tension in the industry must be met with inventive solutions if many of our Christian schools are to survive. One such solution involves tweaking the model to one including “university model” scheduling to attract homeschoolers and other students with unusual time constraints for various reasons..Read More
In a few weeks Christians will join millions of other Americans in electing a President. Seldom have American Christians faced such unsavory options in presidential candidates. Christians of good faith and good conscience disagree on whom to support: Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump, an independent, or “none of the above.”
As the election approaches it is helpful to pull back from the frenetic frenzy of 24 hour cable news, talking heads, social media angst, and the hysterical hyperbole dominating this election season to reflect prayerfully and thoughtfully on how Christians should approach any election and its final outcome. By God’s grace I will walk into the voting booth with deliberate calmness and will react to the outcome of the election, regardless of who wins, with dignity and confidence in God’s sovereignty over the affairs of state and of men.
The following biblical principles and practical advice help guide my thoughts, vote, and reaction to the outcome of this year’s election. I have divided my thoughts into two parts: Principles and Practical Application. Perhaps these will be of help to you as well.Read More
Though bullying, the superior use of power that intends to harm another student repeatedly and for no justifiable reason, is a cultural problem, not a “school problem,” schools across the country are expected to combat it on their own.
It's unfair, but like other unfair situations, it's also an opportunity to differentiate your school from other educational options within your community. To do so, school leaders must overcome a common but overblown fear.Read More
The new school year is upon us! Our schools will soon be teeming with students, staff, and parents.
We will enjoy the new school year honeymoon. Teachers will be refreshed, all of the students still have A’s, and no one has misbehaved. Everyone has just arrived from Lake Wobegon“where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." Happy Days, or Mayberry, are here again!
It will not last. I’m not being “a Debbie Downer.” The reality will set in soon enough; not everyone is from Lake Wobegon. Inevitably criticism will come. Some of it will be deserved, much of it will not be. Expecting and preparing for criticism are the best ways to profit from it, reduce stress, and avoid discouragement. As James Clear observes:Read More