What Will 2020 Bring?

What will this new year hold in store?  Will the economy be good or bad?  Will there be peace or war?  Will the Packers win or lose?  Who knows?

I would like to make the following predictions:

  • Optimists will enjoy 2020
  • Pessimists will hate it
  • Healthy people will become healthier
  • Couch potatoes will feel sluggish
  • Servant leaders will find plenty of ways to help people
  • Selfish people will become more self-absorbed

We tend to become who we already are, but who we are is not fixed.  Jesus empowers us to see ourselves differently and break through old molds formed by sin.

Our culture and unhealthy relationships pin identities on us that we may not question.  People may say we are fat, lazy, stupid, slow, awkward, unpopular, etc.  But when we are in Christ, we have the right to reject these identities and believe we are who He has made us to be.

What would happen if we lived out these identities in Christ?

  • Being loved, I love more
  • Being forgiven, I forgive more
  • Being encouraged, I encourage more
  • Being blessed, I bless more
  • Being given much, I give much more

You get the idea.  The question we should ask ourselves is, “Who will I be this year?”  Will I let my identity in Christ take such a hold on me that I become more like Christ?  Or will I focus on my shortcomings, handicaps, bad habits, stereotypes, and bad luck?  Am I a conqueror or defeated?  Am I eternally blessed or constantly short-changed?  You can’t change the economy, stop war, or make the Packers win, but you can choose to be who You are in Christ.  You will love the result!

Christmas = Emotions Squared

Christmas was one week away.  My wife and I, still newlyweds, were gathered with her family as her mother, who had been battling cancer, was about to die.  While keeping a vigil late in the evening, we heard the carol O Holy Night begin to play on the radio.  It was on that holy night, during that song, that Donna Wood left us to be with Jesus.

The family gathered a week later – the saddest holiday I have ever experienced.  There was comfort knowing that Gaylene’s mom was in heaven, spared from the torment she had been experiencing.  But that did not ease the pain of knowing the family would never be together again.

A pastor at our church recently shared this strange formula: Christmas equals emotions squared.  In other words, Christmas can make things seem exponentially better or worse, depending on the circumstances.  When we experience joy at Christmas, it is great joy.  When we experience loneliness at Christmas, it is extreme loneliness.  There is no middle ground.

How do we manage the roller coaster of emotions at Christmas, especially when those feelings are heightened due to the behavior of family members?  Maybe we need to take an inward pilgrimage to that familiar place where Jesus was born.  Who was this baby, and what difference does He make in this cruel world?

We can embrace the sure hope that only Jesus gives – we will see those deceased loved ones someday.  Because of Christmas, God is here with us.  He walks with us and shares our sorrows.  Jesus comes to fill our emptiness and give us peace.  We are loved and not alone.  I pray God will give you the grace to find and share the life-changing joy of Christmas this year!

Impressive Classroom Observations

Every week I try to observe teachers in their classrooms on both campuses.  Each time I do it, I am impressed with the quality of the people we have teaching our students!

On Tuesday of this week, I joined MSHS Principal Mark MacKay on a couple of observations.  We began in Dr. Roger Olson’s classroom.  Roger joined our faculty this year after previously serving as a Bible teacher, associate pastor, and chaplain for Tyson Foods.  He was having his 8th Grade Bible class think through the overarching story of the Bible by using several key verses as guides.  Each student was writing their own narrative, which helped them process not only what God was doing for the whole world, but for them as well.

I enjoyed hearing Dr. Olson tell the class about a recent conversation he had with an atheist.  He recounted how he listened to the man’s arguments against Christianity, but then gracefully responded with ideas that left the atheist rethinking his position.  It was a beautiful picture of how Christians can engage other people thoughtfully in a loving manner.

Our next visit was to Carrie Taylor’s Honors 9th Grade English class, where we found groups of students actively discussing Romeo and Juliet in small groups.  Their job was to find out what was motivating each major character in the book.  Then Mrs. Taylor facilitated an engaging discussion with the class, doing a masterful job of getting them to present their findings.

Her classroom rules:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

This is just a microcosm of what goes on every day in every class at Heritage.  Our teachers love their students while growing in their craft as outstanding educators!

Don’t forget to give a gift towards Worthy Servants.  This is a tangible and very meaningful way to express your appreciation to our dedicated staff.  

Exceeding Expectations

Today’s blog was written by Liz Hoek, HCS Curriculum Director

The school year is off to a wonderful start—growing in unity through community in Christ.  As a learning community, we are continually looking to improve the academic programs at Heritage Christian Schools. One source we use to reflect on our strengths and areas for improvement is student performance data.  Each spring, students in grades 3-8 have the opportunity to show what they know and can do through the Wisconsin Forward Exam, a statewide performance assessment that challenges students to demonstrate proficiency in knowledge and skills through analysis and critical thinking.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) uses the Wisconsin Forward exam to generate an Accountability Report Card, which combines achievement and growth data to give a more complete picture of student performance. The report highlights four priority areas: student achievement, growth, closing gaps, and post secondary readiness (more detail can be found here).

Heritage is exceeding expectations in these areas. Student engagement, teacher intentionality, and standards based alignment of academic programs help us equip students to think critically about complex problems, while using reasoning and evidence to support their solutions.  Emphasis on application of knowledge and skills results in significant growth in student achievement.  The number of students categorized as Advanced or Proficient, showing a thorough understanding of content area knowledge and skills, grew by 43 students from the 2018 to the 2019 report card—that’s a remarkable increase!

DPI’s growth score is based on the pace that students are gaining knowledge and skills year to year. Heritage’s growth score increased by 13.2 points from 2017-2018, meaning students are rapidly gaining knowledge and confidence.

We are honored to partner with you in educating your children, and encouraged by the state’s report affirming our students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, while being trained and inspired to impact the world for Christ.

The Next Big Step for Heritage Facilities

A last second free throw to win a rivalry game.  The wisdom shared by a coach during a grueling practice.  Wonderful school spirit roaring from excited fans.  Many beautiful things can happen in a gym.

For almost a decade, Heritage athletes have been without their own varsity gym.  The school can carry out its mission by renting facilities, but our goal is to own our school buildings where we can grow our  exceptional, Christ-centered programs.  Now we can take a step forward!

Recently the school board met to weigh out options.  About a year ago, we could see the door closing on our hopes for a one-campus solution as costs for our proposed high school wing soared beyond reach.  We then considered the possibility of buying a building that could house our elementary school, but no adequate opportunities arose.  It seems clear that a varsity gym, built on the MSHS campus, is our best move.

This comes at a time when we have already raised over $2.1M in cash and another $200K in outstanding pledges toward a future facility.  The next step will be to design a facility that can meet our athletic needs, and then estimate the costs to complete it.  Other factors would include the likely requirement to upgrade the current MSHS facility with a fire sprinkler system (likely over $800K), along with site work to manage water run-off and the expansion of the parking lot.  We also want to plan future phases that can include the addition of fine arts spaces and other classrooms.

We will present plans at our Town Hall Meeting on January 24th.  Please think and pray about how God can use your gifts to further this exciting step into the future of Heritage!

Striving to Be a Flourishing School

Last year many school constituents filled out a survey that was actually part of a data-driven research project established by the Association of Christian Schools International.  Heritage was one of 65 key schools that submitted data, which was used to determine what it means to be a flourishing school.  We have the results and they are encouraging!

The survey was part of a research tool called the Flourishing School Culture Instrument.  It tested 1,445 discrete variables across a variety of constituent groups.  Questions were generated from extensive research, which enabled the instrument to be a predictive (versus correlative) measure.

The research analysis found over 40 validated constructs that are predictive of flourishing.  Benchmarks were established for each construct.  These constructs were clustered into five domains: Purpose, Relationships, Learning Orientation, Expertise & Resources, and Well-Being.

Heritage performed well in each of these categories.  In four of the five categories, we averaged within four percentage points of the benchmarks set for flourishing.  In one category, we met the benchmark.

From the school report, Heritage received five meaningful strengths, as well as five key growth areas.  Strengths:

  • Responsibility – personnel feel a sense of shared ownership
  • Holistic Teaching – teachers believe they must help students spiritually and emotionally
  • God’s Story – students believe they are a part of God’s bigger plan
  • Supportive Leadership – teachers and staff feel empowered to make decisions
  • Resource Planning – the board exercises strong strategic and financial planning

Growth areas:

  • Questioning – many students facing spiritual disengagement or doubt
  • Outcomes Focus – leaders need to focus more on outcomes
  • Individualized Instruction – must resist one-size-fits-all instruction
  • Resource Constraints – feeling that school lacks resources to make changes
  • Stress – educators feel stressed or overwhelmed

We will use these results to encourage us and spur us on to new levels of flourishing!

The Gala Auction – Taking our CommUNITY to the community

We are excited to invite you to our first-ever Gala Auction.  This exciting event will play an important role as we strategically seek to move Heritage forward.  Let me explain the why behind this tremendous opportunity.

Outside of the classroom, it takes a lot of prayer, resources, and relationships to accomplish our mission.  We believe the more people know about who we are and what good work God is doing in the lives of our students, the more likely they will rally behind to support us.

The Gala Auction gives us the chance to invite others to join us for a night of fun, which will not only raise money through the auction, but will also allow us to introduce many to what God is doing at Heritage.

Throughout the fall, dozens of people have been working to assemble the pieces of what will be a great event.  A team of volunteers are going to businesses seeking auction items.  Plans for the theme, decorations, entertainment, food, technology, etc. are going full steam ahead.  One of the most important pieces will be the way we share our heart and soul at this event.

You may be wondering what role you could play in this endeavor.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Attend and participate in the event
  • Invite others to come
  • Volunteer to help with event-related tasks
  • Donate high-quality items for auction, including gift cards

I encourage everyone to pray and support this endeavor.  Click here to see more details or to reserve your seat!  If you have any questions, please contact Gala Coordinator Kim Miller at kmiller@hcsmail.org.  The greatest win will not be the money raised that night, but rather the long-term support we gain from people outside of the Heritage community!

The Elephant That Will Enter the Room

Think about events that can cause a focused church to get derailed.  One such event could be when the pastor leaves.  If the position transitions well, the church might be poised to go to greater levels of ministry effectiveness.  A bad hand-off can cause a multitude of problems.  The same is true of a Christian school.

The truth is no one holds a position forever.  All employees are temporary workers.  Even if we stay in a job for 30 or more years, the day will come when someone will replace us.  The higher the level of leadership associated with a position, the greater impact a transition in that position will have on the organization.

Our current strategic plan calls for us to develop a leadership succession plan.  The plan is actually bigger than just my position as president of the school.  We need to be thinking about the day that our principals and other key leaders will move on.  For example, just in the last year we transitioned to a new elementary principal and a new athletic director.

I believe the best transitions come from within.  If the school is headed in a good direction (and it is our job to make sure that is happening), then we don’t need someone coming in from the outside seeking to set a new course while possibly dismantling effective processes.  While we need to stay innovative, we do not have to start from scratch with each personnel change.

This mandate for succession planning also applies to our board of directors.  At every level, we will be evaluating the talented and dedicated people we currently have along with those joining us through hiring.  We know our next generation of leaders is in our midst!

Invested in Christian Education

My life was at a crossroads.  In my early 20’s, after studying engineering, I was taking classes to become a pastor.  As I really began to understand Christian schooling, I was intrigued.  I saw the potential impact Christ-centered PK-12 schools could have in the lives of young people.  I changed my career choice and never looked back.  I have no regret.

It turns out that my intuition was correct.  A few years ago, a research company called Cardus did an extensive study of graduates from all types of PK-12 schools, both private and public.  When they compared the results from schools accredited through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) to other types of schools, they found our graduates were much more likely to exemplify:

  • Praying and reading Scripture
  • Attending church services and respecting church leadership
  • Attending college
  • Scoring higher on national tests
  • Exceeding SAT College & Career Readiness Benchmarks
  • Donating money to churches and other charitable causes
  • Giving of their time to volunteer

Cardus stated, “Christian education is worth the effort, and it truly offers a unique impact on students, more than any other form of education.”

We are passionate about becoming an exceptional Christ-centered school.  One thing we realize is that we cannot do this alone.  That is why we collaborate with ACSI for membership, networking, professional development, accreditation, and student activities.

Personally, I am an unpaid ACSI district representative for Wisconsin.  Each year our school hosts several gatherings of Christian school administrators throughout the state.  This week I am in Indiana to participate in the ACSI Mid-America Regional Council Meeting, which helps plan key services to ACSI schools.

Christian schools make a positive, eternal impact on the lives of their students.  That is why we do what we do.

Safety Key Topic at Annual Meeting Tonight

The safety of our children is a chief concern for all of us.  While physical safety is not the only type of security we care about, no one wants to see our students endangered by people with evil intent getting access to our school space.

Because of these concerns, Heritage has worked closely with the New Berlin Police Department to make sure we are following the best strategies and procedures.  Sergeant Dan Hanlon has gone beyond the call of duty to help us, and it is our pleasure to have him join us tonight for our Annual Meeting.

Sergeant Hanlon will discuss the concepts behind ALICE – an intruder response system that puts teachers and students in the best position to respond properly during a crisis.  Unlike early plans that left students sitting in classrooms waiting helplessly as a shooter came through the building, ALICE brings a greater level of pro-activity and wisdom that increases the odds of thwarting evil intent.

To practice these procedures, administrators conduct lock down drills on both campuses.  The school has purchased walkie-talkies for each teacher, and everyone is keenly aware of what they will do if a real emergency were to occur.

The Annual Meeting will also include a brief presentation informing parents about how the school is doing in performing its duties.  We want you to hold us accountable for how we manage our finances, programs, and academics.  We will share the results and upcoming goals of our strategic plan, along with the latest news regarding the future facilities of the school.

I hope you can join us at 7:00pm in the MSHS Library for this important meeting.  It is one more way we can build CommUNITY in Christ!