Going, Coming, and Shifting

For over a decade, Mary Orlando has been the rock of our Kindergarten program.  It’s hard to picture the Heritage Kindergarten without her, but today was her last school day before retiring.

One of the greatest blessings we experience at Heritage is getting to know and appreciate outstanding people like Mary, who are far more than employees – they are our dear brothers, sisters, and good friends.  The end of the school year always brings transitions that stir our emotions.  Retirement is not the only reason people leave.  Some are changing careers, moving across the country, or simply accepting job offers elsewhere.

Just as we are sad to say goodbye to people we love and respect, God is in the process of bringing new people to us as we keep going forward.  I’ve been very excited about the quality of people we have been hiring this spring.  However, we still have a few more slots to fill.

Another category of change is taking place internally.  We have a number of current teachers taking on new roles next year.  Some of these changes come from the fact that we have opened three sections of Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade.  Other adjustments are due to teachers leaving or the move we are making with the 5th and 6th grades to our new campus at St. Luke Catholic Church.

Today we had a meeting to recognize all of the people leaving and shifting positions (see list below).  We celebrated the contribution of those leaving, with special tributes from other teachers.  We also recognized those who were receiving longevity awards (five, ten, and 20 years).

Please join us in paying tribute to the 2021-22 faculty and staff who have made a significant difference in the lives of our students!

We say goodbye and wish God’s blessings on these staff members who are leaving HCS: Nathan Wood, Christina Chang, Aimee Bainbridge, Angela Roosien, Valerie Poser, Mary Orlando, and Dana Towberman.

Some familiar faces will be serving the Lord in different roles at HCS next year: Dan Campbell to Middle/High School Physical Education; Nancy Terrian to Elementary Library; Helen Abadeer to Patriot Pack Science; Chris Couillard to Patriot Pack Social Studies; Heidi Kaiser to 1st grade; and Sarah Schneider to Kindergarten.  

We are thrilled to announce that Ron Nickell, Jodi Swanson, and Holli O’Keefe will be joining our Elementary team in 2022-23.

What I Love Most about Heritage

Senior Chapel.  I’ve watched a lot of these ceremonies at the different schools I’ve worked at through the years.  Yesterday, as our seniors prayed, sang, performed, and shared their thoughts, I thought about why I love Heritage so much.

Many senior chapels, while they pay tribute to Jesus, are mostly about the seniors themselves.  We saw a humble selflessness yesterday.  These young men and women, during their last day of school, focused all of their songs, comments, and videos on the faithfulness of God.  No one coerced them to pick this theme or required them to stay so committed to it.  It thrills my heart to see seniors who are prepared to succeed in this world with hearts fully committed to Christ.

Our seniors have helped build a beautiful culture in the hallways and classrooms.  Though not perfect, I sense we are behaving more like a loving family than a group of strangers gathered to receive an education.  We strive to honor one another, knowing we are made in God’s image – we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  In Him we are worthy of each other’s respect.

Another thing I love about Heritage are the teachers who model Christ-like behavior for our students, which goes a long way toward creating this unique kind of culture.  When students rub shoulders everyday with adults who joyfully embrace their relationships with God, it makes a positive difference in how everyone gets along with each other.

So when do I smile the most?  It might be at a concert when a student is performing well.  It might be at graduation, when I hand a diploma to a student who has grown in his or her faith.  I take joy whenever our students are connecting with God and reaching their highest potential!

The Crowd and the Finish Line

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…
– Hebrews 12:1-2

Heritage has graduated approximately 2,000 students in its 49-year history.  Both last week and this week, we had alumni speaking in our chapels, challenging and encouraging our students.  As we prepare to launch another group of grads into the world, I’m imagining what the crowd of our alumni would want to say collectively to the class of 2022.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Take a step back – reflect on all of the things you have seen and heard while a student at Heritage. What have you learned?  What is important?  What is worth committing your life to?
  • Say thank you – your teachers, though not perfect, love you and have made great sacrifices to serve you. They want the best for you – don’t miss the opportunity to express your appreciation.
  • Finish strong – don’t just eke across the finish line. Honor God by doing your best to the very end, even if it seems like your GPA won’t matter much at this point.  Write a good record until the very end.
  • Celebrate – you are getting your diploma after years of hard work. Throw your hat high in the air and rejoice with family and friends.  We are all proud of you!
  • Live for God – life will come at you sooner and faster than you can imagine, and only what you do for God will matter in the end.

Class of 2022 – I hope you hear the enthusiastic cheers of those who have gone before you.  Welcome to the crowd!

Going the Extra Mile

Over the last seven days, I’ve watched some of our employees go above and beyond the call of duty in remarkable ways.  Here’s what I witnessed:

  • Last week, I had the privilege of joining MSHS Teacher Caleb Conn on an accreditation visit to Christian Life School in Kenosha. I was impressed by the way Mr. Conn prepared for the visit, and for the excellence he sought to deliver while on the trip.  The last night he stayed up very late completing his section of the report, and then he was up early the next morning taking care of team details.  He was a great team player!
  • While a number of parents helped us clear the stage of equipment after the Elementary Spring Concert last Friday, I saw a team of teachers, staff, and administrators stay much later to take down tech, vacuum floors, and clean toilets. They didn’t leave till it was all done well.
  • Music Teacher Danielle Matthews not only stayed late after the concert Friday, but she also came running on Saturday night when there was trouble with the sound system at the Junior/Senior Banquet. She saved the night!
  • Also at the banquet, I saw class sponsors, who had worked tirelessly all week, put in long hours before, during, and after the event to make it a special night for the students. Some got very little sleep afterwards.

This is just a snippet of the kind of dedication we see from our people all year round.  They believe in what they do.  Due to their desire to please God and serve their students well, they are self-motivated to constantly pursue excellence, which inspires students to follow their example.  I am honored to work alongside such loving, Christ-centered, servant leaders!


Accreditation – Widening Perspective

Heritage teachers and staff are busy preparing for our re-accreditation that will come in April 2023.  Our goal is to use this process to help us reach for higher standards – doing much more than just meeting the bare minimum requirements needed to keep our accreditation in place.

While all of this has been taking place at Heritage, I have been preparing to join a team of educators who will conduct a re-accreditation visit to Christian Life School (CLS) in Kenosha.  Our visit began on Monday and finished today (I wrote this on Monday).

The people working with me are sharp, including Heritage Teacher Caleb Conn, two curriculum directors, and two superintendents.  Our job for three-and-a-half days will be to verify whether CLS meets the eight major standards and the dozens of indicators that support those standards as established by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).  We will be working long hours, visiting every classroom, and meeting with every employee.  In the course of a few days we will assemble a comprehensive report with a recommendation to ACSI as to whether CLS should be allowed to have their accreditation status renewed.

And why would my fellow team members and I subject ourselves to such a rigorous process while receiving no compensation? Serving on an accreditation team helps us see what we are doing from a different viewpoint.  There are great things to we can learn from every Christian school that strives for higher levels of excellence.  So on top of helping CLS get better, we’ll hope to find strategies to help Heritage be more exceptional.  In the end, it will be a win for everyone.

Someone Who Made a Difference

A leadership change that took place on our board last month.  But first, some history.

About 13 years ago, Heritage was facing one the greatest financial challenges in its 49 years of existence.  Months before, Dave Cotteleer, a dad in the school and executive at Harley Davidson, joined the school board.  Soon he became the president of the board, just as he and his colleagues began to realize the extent of the trouble the school faced.  The task of righting the ship was daunting to say the least!

The school board wrestled with budgets and financial decisions for the next few years.  The board often put in an extra 40 hours of work at the school after members left their day jobs, just trying to find ways to keep the doors open.  Through it all, Dave was confident that God would save the school to see better days ahead.

Fast forward to last month, and the situation at Heritage was extremely different.  Budgets had been balanced for over a decade, enrollment dramatically increased, and the outlook was bright.  One thing remained: Dave was still board president.

Dave would be the first to tell you that it is not healthy for one person to serve that long as board president.  At the end of the last board meeting, Dave stepped down and Cindy Ellis was unanimously elected as the interim board president.  We congratulate Cindy as Dave steps off the board this summer.

Dave Cotteleer’s leadership throughout those difficult days followed by years of successful mission accomplishment deserve our appreciation.  I have often benefitted from his wise advice and watched him rally board members around important decisions.  We all long to make a difference in this world, and Dave has accomplished that at Heritage!

Nickell Returns as Heritage Elementary Principal

We are excited to announce our new principal – someone we know and love.  Ron Nickell, who served as the HCS elementary principal from 2013-19, will be back in that role again next year.

Ron dynamically led our elementary program, gaining the trust of teachers and his fellow administrators while raising the bar of excellence for both faculty and students.  He helped shape the Leadership Trek, which seeks to help all students become our vision of a Heritage graduate: relational, honorable, godly, and prepared.  Student test scores and parent satisfaction rose during his leadership.

In 2019, Ron felt God calling him to go back to the classroom.  At that same time, his brother-in-law was starting a church in Raleigh, North Carolina, assisted by Ron’s in-laws, former Heritage employees David and Sondra Price.  He accepted a teaching position in Raleigh.

Ron continued growing in his role as a teacher, while experiencing many challenges as COVID-19 dramatically changed the shape of education for almost two years.  Through the interview process, Ron shared a number of important insights he learned that he believes will make him a better administrator.

Being away from Heritage for a few years helped Ron realize, now more than ever, what a special place this is. He found himself longing for the unique, close-knit community we have. With the blessing of his family, and the recognition that the Lord has gifted him in administration, it became clear that there was nowhere he wanted to serve more than Heritage.

While we were very sad to see Ron leave in 2019, the faculty, staff and administration are overjoyed to see him coming home.  Mr. Couillard has done a tremendous job as elementary principal, but as Chris steps back into the classroom, we welcome the return of Ron to the principal’s office!

Worthy of Honor and Respect

When we gather one day in heaven, those who will receive the greatest praise from Jesus will probably not be those we would expect.  It will not likely be the pastors in the spotlight or the evangelists in the news.  We get a clue from Matthew 23:11, “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”

We overlook some of the greatest people at Heritage.  We might miss the kitchen worker who prepares fresh food hours in advance of lunch, the janitor who cleans a toilet where a student threw up, or the bus driver who battles work-traffic during a snowstorm.  They are heroes, for real heroes don’t get the appreciation they deserve.

God brought this disparity to my attention a few weeks ago.  I was a addressing a group of people and made a comment that was not accurate about our lunch program.  In the course of discovering my error, I reflected on how extremely difficult it has been to keep a first-rate lunch program going ever since COVID-19 hit.  You may have noticed our appeals in the Hotline seeking help in the lunchroom.  This lack of workers has put a lot of pressure on our employees and volunteers.  Through many sicknesses and setbacks, this group of servants have persevered to meet the needs of our students.  Their nutritious meals provide necessary fuel for academic achievement!

A similar case can be made for our maintenance staff and bus drivers.  Their efforts make our school clean and accessible.  We couldn’t succeed without their help.

Please join me on Thursday, April 28 in honoring these heroes as we celebrate Service Staff Day.  Please consider how you can show your gratitude for our hardworking servants.

Classic Benefits of Fiction

A few weeks ago, I tipped my hat to my love of nonfiction books by pointing out the many benefits of reading biographies.  As I become engrossed in my latest book, The Count of Monte Cristo, I would love to inspire students and families to read more fiction, especially as found in many books considered classics.

Rewards derived from great fiction books include:

  • Truth lived out – if a story models real life, we see characters ultimately rewarded or punished for the decisions they make. This reminds us the same will be true for us.
  • Relational lessons – we can reflect how relationships between characters in the story affect their lives. We can ask how our own self-perception, along with the way we choose to interact with others, make life either better or worse for us.
  • Biblical worldview exercise – every author writes based on the way they see the world. Fiction gives us the opportunity to take the lens of Scripture and see what passes muster and what does not.
  • Inspiration – great stories will have one or more characters who will stir us to be more courageous, honest, loving, patient, diligent, caring, or hopeful.
  • Enjoyment – there is something very pleasing about a story well told!

I love the power of a great tale.  Jesus, who could have chosen any method He wanted, but often wrapped the most profound messages in simple parables.  These life metaphors can point us in the right direction, provided we are willing to think deeply about what we are hearing.

If you are the parent of a younger student, you can get many of the classics abridged and adapted for children.  My wife and I read many of those books to our kids – an investment that helped them far more than any video game or TV show.

Your Input is Strategically Important

“Stop!  Help!”  If I were shouting these words when you were dropping off your students, I’m guessing you might get out of your car and ask if there is a problem.  I’ll spare you the drama, but there is a problem.  Parent input is vitally important to us!

Every year we send out a key school-wide survey, which is critical for how we make decisions in advancing the mission of the school.  Our current survey, issued by Independent School Management (ISM), was set to close yesterday, but we were far behind the mark we needed for parent participation.  We have extended the survey deadline until Thursday, April 13 to provide more opportunity to respond.

Let me share the why behind this survey.  Every four years, our board invests significant time, money, and effort into putting together a strategic plan the guides the future excellence and growth of the school.  Many of the major decisions they make hinge on the information that we receive through this survey.  The results correlate to 18 stability markers identified by ISM relating to the school’s ability to sustain excellence over time.

You might notice that we don’t use the same survey every year.  Every-other year we use a survey instrument from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) called Flourishing School Culture, which corresponds to 35 constructs associated with key aspects of thriving Christian schools.  ACSI processes our results showing how we perform in each construct, and how our results compare to other ACSI Christian schools.

Just as we want your students to become the best version of who God made them to be, we want to be the best school we can be to accomplish our God-given mission.  Thanks for responding and giving us the blessing of your input!