Over the course of the next few weeks, we want to go back and re-address some of the first blog posts that we published when we started our Christian Education and Worldview Blog. That was close to two years ago now . . . and we have many additional readers added to our list since then.
The following posts, although written a few years ago, are still valuable as we look at the five major issues facing Christian schools today. These issues will, in our opinion, continue to face Christian schools in varying degrees in the future. Mr. Rick Lukianuk, the President and Chief Administrator here at HCA, has shared his thoughts on these issues, based on years of Christian school administration and a keen insight into outside forces on Christian education.
These five issues, which we will be readdressing over the next few days, are of such importance that we want our readers to aware of what we see facing Christian schools both now and in the future.
Written by Mr. Rick Lukianuk
Let me begin by noting that I tell parents and educators that I do not know what our children will need to know in 10 years, never mind 25 years. In fact, I tell parents that if someone does try to convince them they have such foreknowledge, they are lying…or deranged. The current pace of technological and cultural change, coupled with new research, increased access to information and increased media saturation is at never before seen growth rates; and increasing geometrically. However, the scope, rate and scale of change is therefore one of the issues that will require the attention of Christian school leadership over the next 10 plus years.
I have broken down my thoughts into 5 major categories and will briefly address the challenges and opportunities I see in each category. I will separate these out into five different posts, focusing on one category per post.
Effects both within the school and without
This area includes the challenges of a stagnant economy, the national debt, the possibility of inflation, currency devaluation and higher taxation. There is also the continued issue of unemployment, underemployment and the development of a potentially permanent underclass. All of these issues point to the decreasing ability of the middle class to pay for a private school education as income is diminished and other costs (including taxation and health care) increase.
This must be balanced with the need to provide our employees with a livable wage, appropriate benefits and the opportunity to have a successful career. A world-class school must attract the best and brightest staff, develop them, provide them with advancement opportunities and create a collegial, calling focused environment that encourages innovation and a sense of ownership in the institution. The school must also provide a sense of long-term stability, without creating complacency.
Government pressure & our ability to raise additional funds
I also believe there will be more pressure from government to obtain some funds from private schools, whether it be by taxing their property, phasing out the charitable deduction, further minimizing access to public programs, or putting very stringent or unacceptable requirements on grants, programs or the ability of private groups to provide funding to private schools. The solution to the revenue issue resides in leveraging the assets and intellectual capital of the school.
Whether it be by renting building assets, providing adult education, providing year round programming or joint venturing with other quasi educational providers (arts groups, athletic clubs such as swimming, test prep, foreign language or ESL programs). Christian Heritage Academy in Chicago earned over 20% of their revenue by renting out to Willow Creek Church, various start up churches, gym users (the highest demand out there is for gym space) and concert promoters. I have spoken with national Christian arts groups that are eager to partner with Christian schools and help provide an Arts diploma similar to the STEM diploma, but in the performing arts. A consortium around the country could then be set up with other schools capable of similar programming and with college and performing arts academies that can help provide employment for the students as they graduate.
Additional avenues of revenue
The largest potential source of revenue is in the virtual classroom arena. Recording classes, placing them online and then developing relationships with international schools is an idea that often already has an existing infrastructure. Educators from China, Korea and Latin America have expressed interest in developing relationships for the purpose of sharing a virtual classroom environment. Everything from ACT and SAT test prep to entire curricula in English, World History, and the Sciences is up for discussion. Teachers could also be motivated to participate by receiving a portion of the tuition for each student. This would provide additional income to teachers and opportunities for entrepreneurial development of courses by teachers. It also clearly fulfills the Mission statement of the Christian school through equipping and reaching more students for Jesus Christ. In addition this lessens the tuition burden on the existing parent base, while providing capital for new programming.
Local business cooperation
I also believe there is a significant opportunity in working with local businesses. Technology businesses could be approached to help sponsor and guide STEM type programs that focus on their particular research or production activities. Performing arts organizations, advertising, public relations, media and others could be approached about sponsoring and helping to produce curriculum that would involve our students and then give them the first chance to develop relationships with the best and brightest students through college and job search. There may even be some college scholarship money available through companies that want to sponsor high potential students. Parents would welcome such arrangements and companies would have a chance to fill a growing need for trained, competent employees with great character and integrity.
Taking care of staff
I believe there should be a long term, sustainable human resource plan for staff. First, there should be a Master Teacher and an Administrator Track for all teaching staff. Good Administrators must be identified and trained in house. It is less expensive, more successful and provides a consistent pool of talent. There should also be a Master Teacher track that identifies high potential teachers and keeps them in teaching. Salary bands should be utilized. Teachers do not receive automatic raises until they reach the next band, which is done through a formula that includes evaluation, teaching experience, higher education, participation in school development projects and mentoring experience. Master teachers (level 4) are then paid at the level of an Administrator so the best teachers are kept in class, not promoted to become mediocre administrators. A yearly bonus pool is essential. It rewards high performers without salary inflation. It also creates incentive to excel and can be very useful in assisting younger, lower paid teachers to stay and become quite loyal.
The recent online Professional Development tools developed by ACSI also are a harbinger of the type of connectivity that Christian teachers and administrators will have a chance to develop around the world. There is a wealth of expertise and information out there that is virtually free and of great worth.
Who We Are in the Christian School Community:
Heritage Christian Academy is a Pre-K through 12th grade Christian school with campuses in both Olathe and Overland Park, Kansas. We realize that there are many good options in Olathe/Overland Park for Christian school education. But, as the above post articulates, we also believe that we understand the issues that are facing Christian schools today.
You can find our full school website at www.hcakc.org.