Envision FundPosted by Dan Makowski on 4/23/2014 8:00:00 AMRecent inquiries about the plans Stillwater Christian School had to relocate to a new facility prompt me to write on this particular subject. We all recall the fast paced, upward trending economy of the early 2000’s. Many people were personally benefitting from what that economy could provide. It was during that time that SCS launched our “Envision” campaign. “Envision” was a capital campaign to fund a new campus on a site located near Reserve and Whitefish Stage roads.The components of the campaign included selling our current campus, gifts and multi-year pledges, and the provision of land for the project. Those efforts began in earnest. Along with seeking donations and pledges, the main work was in planning a new facility. Beginning with a charette we embarked on many hours of discussion, meetings with architects, and reviewing and revising drawings. In fact, we reached the point where we had a school plan that was essentially finished.The planning process, including architect and engineering fees, used all the money that was actually donated - approximately $360,000. It was at that time that the sudden downturn in the economy occurred and the board made the decision to put the project on hold. In hindsight we can see God’s hand in this and feel that we were protected from a financial burden that could have jeopardized the school. The board’s decision was to place the project on hold but to keep it under consideration. However, because we did not have a launch date we offered those who made pledges the opportunity to redirect their gifts to the Heritage Society and many did so.As time went on and the economy did not rebound, the board decided to take a new campus off the table as part of our future plan and to think about development of our current campus. Adding to our campus will not require the financial commitment of nearly ten million dollars that replacing our campus on another site will require.At the present time we are facing a definite need for added facilities. Our enrollment this year is very strong and re-enrollment for next year also looks very promising. There are several programs in the school that need improved facilities such as art and pre-school. We are currently considering options for additional space and ask you to pray for God to give wisdom and discernment as well as the needed resources to expand the ministry of SCS.If you have any questions or comments about this project - past or future – feel free to call me and I will be glad to discuss it with you.
Common Core #2Posted by Dan Makowski on 3/12/2014
There are a number of reasons why adopting the common core is not a good choice for Stillwater Christian School (and independent schools in general). These reasons are founded in the very nature and history of independent schools.
Christian Mission – the standards for Stillwater Christian School must align with our mission and so are developed by our school, for our school. Most importantly they must be distinctly different from standards developed in a secular framework.
Autonomy – as an independent school, SCS is not mandated to comply with state curricula, and we are free to develop programs that best fit the needs of our students. While autonomous, we are still accountable, perhaps more accountable than regulated schools. Our families are investing in their children’s education, and are not mandated to send them to a private school, so if they are not satisfied they will choose another option.
Academic Distinction – parents making the choice and financial sacrifice required for a private school education create a school culture where academic achievement is highly valued. Our responsibility is to exceed minimum standards and to pursue academic distinction.
Diversity – within the larger categories we use to classify schools (public, private, charter, etc.), there exist many differences related to demographic and other factors. Christian schools demonstrate such differences from school to school. While we can share ideas and benefit from other schools, the diversity that exists is something to be valued and protected.
Holistic Education – if those things that can be tested judge a school’s success, we begin to lose sight of the great benefits schools, and to a greater extent, teachers, provide. Not only are many of the greatest advantages of a Christian school found in the shaping of the whole person, but they are not able to be immediately, nor objectively measured.
Common CorePosted by Dan Makowski on 12/17/2013This writing is my first on the common core, and I am sure it will not be my last.
I will raise several questions that I am not certain have been answered related to the nature of the common core. The first question on my mind is why one would define something that he hoped will communicate excellence as common? The dictionary includes, in its definition of common, the words ordinary, everyday, and even vulgar. If, in fact, the common core standards are set so that everyone is able to achieve them, then the bar has just been lowered.
Another question in my mind has to do with accountability. For a long time the educational establishment has had standards – both state standards and national standards - developed by various disciplines such as the national math standards. It seems that our need for improvement in education is not the need for standards but the need for accountability. Will the proponents of common core require that no student will progress if he/she has not met the standards for that level of education? Students missing the mark at lower levels will not reach the stated goal of the common core which is to be prepared for the workplace or for college.
A final question (for the moment) has to do with the origin of the common core standards. It seems reasonable to ask why those behind the common core choose names for their private and privately funded organizations that give the distinct impression that they are public? Names such as the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers can be misleading. Even those not alarmed should find such action disingenuous.
At Stillwater Christian School we will continue to strive for excellence, academic rigor, and adherence to our mission as an independent (non-public) and Christian School.
Merry Christmas!Posted by Dan Makowski on 12/12/2013 4:30:00 PMWhat a great time of the year. So much going on for all of us and I want to add another event to your calendar. We will be having our Christmas chapel on Wednesday, December 18th at 2:15 p.m. in the gym. Parents, grandparents, visiting relatives, alumni, etc. are all invited.In light of the recent controversy related to the public schools' choirs singing in a church, I am reminded of the great privilege we enjoy of maintaining the integrity of our faith in all of life. How sad that people today are confronted with the false assumption that faith can be a separate part of life. The foolishness of the atheists who think they are religion-free and then attempt to force their religious beliefs on others in the name of freedom from religion.On another level we hear of the separation of church and state. There were several excellent letters to the editor challenging that erroneous belief. Even if it was a true statement, it only works one way. No one who holds a belief in the separation of church and state would believe it wrong for the government to make rules and regulations that require adherence by the church.Finally, and on a more cheerful note, all of us at SCS want to wish each of you a safe, joyful, Christ-centered, time together with family and friends.
Strategic PlanPosted by Dan Makowski on 11/19/2013
By now you are aware that over the course of this school year we are developing a strategic plan for Stillwater Christian School. Currently we are moving into the main work of this year-long process. Over the next few months five committees will think strategically about the areas we have decided to include in the strategic plan.The five areas for study are faculty, finances, facilities, school program, and stakeholder relations. Committees will be comprised of faculty or staff, parents, alumni, and board members. If you have an interest in serving on one of these committees please contact me as soon as possible.Each committee will write a rationale or purpose statement expressing why that area is worth considering. They will then do an assessment of how well we are doing currently - what are the strengths and needed improvements.The final segment of the committees' work will be to think about the next three years and write initiatives. Initiatives are statements of intention. The initiatives will be guided by strategies to accomplish each initiative.As you can see, this is the heart of the strategic process because it involves a group of people thinking about the school and its future.When the committees finish (sometime near the end of January) the administrative team will add objectives related to time frames, resources, and the people responsible. The board of directors will have final input and approval before the plan is published in May.If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions please come and see me. We want this to be an open and inclusive process.
Updated Core ValuesPosted by Dan Makowski on 10/31/2013In previous blogs I indicated that I would be publishing the updated core values. This summer the board of directors reviewed the core values and added two to the list. In recent weeks we held three open parent meetings. One of the purposes was to affirm that the values already written are in line with parents' beliefs. We also wanted to be sure that there is not a value held by parents that we have not included.Core values are those things that unite a school. It is the reason people have their children enrolled. It defines the reasons why people are willing to make the investment in their children's education.In our parent meetings there were three values that were high in priority and most commonly held. Those three values are the:
As you review the list you will see those values as well as others I hope you will find yourself affirming as you do so.Stillwater Christian School is committed to
- Biblical teaching (sometimes expressed as a Christian worldview)
- Shared values
- Strong community (relationships)
Reviewed and amended July 2013
- the trivium as the best structure to equip students to think, write and speak clearly and to be thoroughly grounded with a biblical worldview.
- developing Christian character for life through instruction, in relationships, in work habits and decision making.
- a staff who are role models as followers of Christ and who demonstrate that the Christian faith encompasses all of life.
- a faculty of gifted teachers who are enthusiastic learners and who establish caring relationships with students that transcend the classroom experience.
- honoring family and church as God ordained institutions and to teaching values that reinforce families' efforts to raise their children biblically.
- extracurricular activities that enrich student's learning, development, and maturity.
- the fine arts as a means of praising God in a variety of modes as students learn basic technique and appreciation for the various disciplines of the Fine Arts.
- providing athletic opportunities that develop Christian character, leadership, teambuilding, and preparation for life.
- well-kept buildings and grounds that are designed to meet the educational objectives of the school program.
- maintaining independence as a private, non-denominational educational institution.
- a campus environment that encourages cooperation and modeling among students of all grade levels.
- pursuing and maintaining third party associations and accreditations that assist in advancing our mission.
Washington DCPosted by Dan Makowski on 10/14/2013 9:00:00 PM
Last month I had the opportunity to participate in a legal legislative conference in Washington DC. The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) sponsored the conference.
In the few days I was in Washington DC we heard from a number of groups working to protect some of the freedoms important to institutions like Stillwater Christian School. Among those groups were the Heritage Alliance, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. After the orientation we visited with our representatives and Senators to ask them to support bills that would be favorable to us.
One of the issues important to Christian Schools (as well as other religious non-profits) is comprehensive tax reform. While the tax incentive is important there is an equally important issue embedded in this debate. There is an effort underway to distinguish religious non-profits from churches. In this plan churches would retain tax-exempt status (for now) while other religious groups, such as Christian schools, would not.
The tax credit for donations to charities was created to insulate charitable giving from increasing taxes and to ensure government neutrality toward all charities - religious or otherwise. Today the Congress is beginning to view charitable deductions as federal subsidies for charities. This is a very dangerous shift in thinking and one of which we need to be fully aware.
Core ValuesPosted by Dan Makowski on 10/1/2013 3:00:00 PM
Foundations always effect whatever is built on them. Not only must a foundation be strong but also must align with the structure it supports. In a Christian school a mission statement expresses what the school will do. There is another important set of statements that build a strong foundation and these statements are referred to as the core values.
Core values express those things that unify a diverse group of people and give an institution its identity or ethos. While it is important to have written core values, it is much more important to have a school with a strong sense of identity and purpose where the core values are evident in the life of the school.
How would you answer the question, “Why do you send your child to SCS?” Your answer would hopefully express one of the school’s core values.
Mission statements, core values, and vision – what is the difference and why are they important? Last time we considered the mission of SCS that directs the school and guides decision-making.
Core values define the school and are more qualitative, expressing those things that are at the heart and soul of the school. Core values are written statements, but they should be so much a part of the school that they express what the constituents would say they value about the school - just as the opening paragraph indicates.
Stillwater has written core values but I have chosen not to include them in this article. The reason is that over the next two weeks we are having the first meetings with parents related to our strategic plan. At those meetings we will ask parents what they believe our core values should be. Those responses will be compared with our current written values. We will verify that what parents’ value is expressed correctly in our written statements. When that process is complete, the core values will be published.
Parents are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming strategic planning meetings. Meetings are scheduled for Thursday, October 3 at 8:00 a.m.; Tuesday, October 15, 7:00 p.m.; Thursday, October 17, 1:30 p.m. Call Renee Wynne at 752-4400 if you are able to attend.
A Mission StatementPosted by Dan Makowski on 9/27/2013 9:00:00 PM
A mission statement is one of the important foundational documents a school should have. More accurately, there should be a written statement that is used to direct the decision making for the school.
As we begin the work of strategic planning a first step is to have a strong mission statement. This summer the board of directors reviewed the mission statement for Stillwater Christian School and re affirmed that it accurately describes what we do.
The SCS mission is to equip students with the tools for learning through a Christ-centered, academically enriching education where each discipline is subject to the authority of God’s Word.”
This mission states the two pillars upon which the school program is built. First is the reference to the tools for learning. That phrase is a hallmark phrase from classical schools (taken from Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning”). A graduate from SCS should be equipped with the ability to think clearly and critically, and the ability to communicate effectively in writing and speaking. Those “tools” prepare them for further learning, for work in the trades, for civic and church responsibilities, or for technical work.
The second pillar is our statement that we are a Christian school. Being Christ –centered acknowledges that “in Christ are hidden all the mysteries of wisdom and knowledge”. We also affirm the supremacy of the Scriptures as the final authority – not just for religious thought – but for all learning.
While most of you do not have the mission statement committed to memory, I hope you value what it means as the guiding principle for Stillwater Christian School.
NEXT: Core Values