Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Ahead, to 2012 and Beyond

Happy New Year!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

 I don't want to take this verse out of its context.  God is speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to his people Israel, giving them a promise for their future following the seventy years of captivity they spend in Babylon.  Once that was over, they were allowed to return home.  It was a new generation, given a  new start and it wasn't easy.  They had to contend with a lot of problems, starting with rebuilding a destroyed city with broken down walls and few resources.  But they had one great advantage.  God was on their side. 


Christian schools are becoming increasingly important to the future of the church in America, and thus, to the future of the country as well.  The public education system is becoming less and less effective in delivering a quality academic education in a safe environment for its students.  An increasing number of families are seeking alternatives for their students, although there are few places they can go for both a quality education and a safe environment. 


As Portersville Christian School looks ahead to 2012, and faces the future, we are committed to offering a distinctively Christian education with quality academics in a safe, Christ-centered environment.  And the upcoming year provides us with a great opportunity to look ahead at the future.  As we do so, it is very important for us to keep the focus on God's plans for us, and make sure that our plans are His plans.  The only way I know how to do that is to pray.  And I would like to ask you to join me as we pray for Portersville Christian School, looking ahead to the future.

We will be applying for renewal of our ACSI and Middle States accreditation sometime in February, and initiating the accreditation process shortly thereafter.  Eventually, this process will lead to a visiting team coming in to evaluate our school's administration, faculty, curriculum, operating procedures and it's Christian mission and ministry, and will make recommendations for improvement.  From there, we can expect to be accredited for eight more years of operation.  That's the first big step to look at as far as the future is concerned.  But I think it is important to look a little further down the road than that.

It's time for us to start looking at the future, and making plans which will carry Portersville Christian School forward for many years to come.  We've weathered a deep recession fairly well, we are in good shape financially, with two positive years in a row, and a strong enrollment.  Our facilities are in good shape, and we have some good assets, all of which will help us build a plan for future development that will carry the school many years into a productive future.  We are at a point where we will need to make some decisions about what we want to do, and steps that we need to take to make sure the legacy of Portersville Christian School lasts into the future to serve as many generations of students as it has already served in the past.

The area around us is seeing increasing population growth and prosperity as Pittsburgh's suburbs press further north into Butler County.  It is important for PCS to be in a position to offer families a distinctively Christian, quality, affordable education for their students.  Please join me in prayer as we seek to remain in the center of God's will, and expand the ministry of our school so that it continues to serve for many years to come.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How do you explain it?

Merry Christmas to you, and may the peace of God bless you and fill your heart and your house in 2012!

We're in between our elementary and high school Christmas music programs.  The elementary did a great job with theirs last Thursday night, and now it is the high school's turn. 

When I was in school, and I went to public school in a small town in Arizona back in the 60's and 70's, we also produced and performed a Christmas program for our parents and friends.  Each class learned a song or two, the chorus classes did some special stuff, the band played carols and everyone had a great time.  The auditorium would be packed with parents, friends, and people from the community who came.  No one would have thought of having a Christmas season at the school without it.

Christmas was the word that was used, and we sang the carols about Jesus' coming along with some of the seasonal favorites.  One of the elementary classes would act out the nativity, and other students would read the Christmas story from the Bible.  Our school personnel did a great job of helping the kids who came from families that didn't celebrate Christmas feel included and not isolated.

So how do you celebrate Christmas without Christ?

How do you explain a "season" of giving, and greeting, decorating and shopping, without acknowledging why it is taking place?  If Christ had not come, and we did not celebrate his birth on December 25, what explanation do we give to children who are bound to have questions about it?  Is it just a time of year when everyone needs a break from school and work?  Is it that businesses needed something to help boost their sales toward the end of the year?  Is it that we are celebrating the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, which brings along cold weather to the northern hemisphere and summer to the southern hemisphere?  And if that is what we are doing, then what does all the symbolism mean? 

If you take Christ out of Christmas, there is no Christmas.  And there is also no need for any of the traditions that go along with it.  We might as well go about our regular business, since everything that goes along with the "holidays" has some kind of symbolic attachment or reminder about the birth of Christ.  I'm sure that retailers could invent some kind of marketing gimmick to get people to spend a couple hundred dollars on merchandise at a time of the year when it is not nearly so cold, and easier to get out.  Schools could move their "winter break" to a point where it actually divides the two semesters.  Radio stations could continue with their regular programming, and television could get to the reruns a month earlier, since they would not have to take the time for special programming presentations. 

Aren't you glad we don't do that? 

I'm glad that, here at PCS, we not only celebrate the holiday, but we are able to integrate and incorporate everything about it, including the celebration of the birth of Christ, and the Biblical words about his coming, right into the middle of everything we do.  I am glad we have a CHRISTMAS vacation, instead of a winter break, and that we sing songs about the birth of Christ as we gather in corporate worship of God together as a school community.  I am glad that the things we put up on our walls, and the things we teach in our classroom tell our students the whole story of the birth of Jesus and everything that goes along with it. 

So MERRY CHRISTMAS.  I hope you encounter the Holy Spirit in your worship of God and your celebration of what he did for you through his son, Jesus, who came to us at Christmas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Between the Holidays

It seems that this school year has moved very fast, and we are already moving toward the middle of the second grading period.  Basketball season is here, the varsity boys face their first game this Friday on the road and there is a full slate of games on the 6th, at home, sandwiched in between the high school and elementary chorus concerts.  It's a busy time at school, and somewhere in there is some time to take care of getting ready for the holidays at home.  With all of that going on, just remember that Jesus is the reason for the season, and our main purpose in life is to glorify God for this gift that was given to us.  Steven Curtis Chapman has a new song out, "Do Everything," about this very thought. 

As far as the school is concerned, there are plenty of opportunities to serve and give.  Let me share a few needs with you.

We are still collecting for our faculty Christmas bonuses.  The teachers deeply appreciate the generosity of the school community at this time of the year.  If you've been a little bit blessed this year, anything you can share will be deeply appreciated.

Some volunteers are needed to help decorate the gym, and then undecorate the gym, for the elementary and high school Christmas musicals.  Oh, and by the way, the high school program will be Monday at 7, and the elementary program on Thursday at 7.  You don't want to miss either of those.

Our elementary staff was making good use of a copier at their end of the hall, saving them trips down the hall as well as providing some relief for our main copy machine.  But it has developed some issues that either need repair, or the copier needs to be replaced.  There isn't a service contract on it.  If you know of a company or business that wants to get rid of one of theirs, or someone who might help service ours, we'd appreciate knowing about it.

The Skills for Living eighth grade class is in the process of redecorating the main hallway inside the main entrance and where the offices are located.  They are color coordinating picture frames, re-arranging plaques, trophys and furniture, and doing a good job of brightening the appearance of the entrance to the school.  There may be a few small items they could use.  Watch the Weekly Transfer for a list of things they may need or contact the school office.  

Thank you in advance for watching out for the needs of our school.  Merry Christmas!  May God abundantly bless you in the coming new year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Update on Senate Bill #1, the School Choice Proposal

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a scaled down version of Senate Bill 1, left over from last year's legislative session, otherwise known as the "voucher proposal" or the "school choice bill."  It is now being considered by the house.  It has Governor Corbett's full support. 

This is a scaled-down version of the original proposal.  The limits on income levels were raised, and the qualifications for underperforming schools dropped.  The best estimates now are that the bill will provide educational alternatives to about 70,000 students in poor performing schools in Pennsylvania, mainly in the inner cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  However, on the bright side, there was a substantial increase in EITC allowance.  That makes our effort to increase our EITC participation even more important, since the limits have been raised and more companies will be allowed to participate.

If you haven't already done so, please contact your representative and voice your support for this bill.  At the present time, the EITC provisions are most important to us, but as the voucher program grows, the time will come within a four year period when PCS families may qualify either on a limited basis, or fully, depending on their income level and size of family.

As you might expect, the opposition to this is sizeable, and well-funded.  Unions and other vested interests who benefit from the gigantic infusion of capital into the public education system are fighting this with a media campaign of distortion and inaccuracy, and are mobilizing their resources to discourage legislators from voting for this by creating the impression that support for it may cost them their position at the polls.  It is important for us to counter that misinformation with the truth.  The fact is that educational choice, where it is being offered, is producing positive results from an academic perspective, which is the interest claimed by the state. Placing a call to your state representative would go a long way toward helping move this bill closer to the Governor's signature.

Government interference and regulation in the education business is one of the reasons why public schools do not generally achieve the level of success that parents want to see.  This bill will not increase any government regulation on the schools that receive the students who get state vouchers because their is no direct exchange of funding.  We would, of course, not support any legislation which would come with increased government interference in what we do.

We have several businesses which have expressed an interest in EITC support for PCS, and the increased allowances under this legislation would make it possible for their applications to be processed and approved.  So we have every reason to be supportive of this legislation.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting Priorities in Order

There's a commercial on the radio that starts out with a young voice talking about his difficult experience balancing his school work with his desire to get better at hockey.  His Dad also talks about the apparent struggle, how the grades just didn't seem to improve and the time constraints imposed by school interfered with this young man's desire to be successful at something.  Then, of course, the solution to the whole problem is introduced, in this case it's a cyber educational alternative, and everyone is happy in the end, especially the young man who has now been able to arrange his priorities so that his education no longer interferes with his ability to get better at hockey. 

If I were trying to promote an educational alternative, I'm not sure that would be the best way to go about it.  Trying to convince people that education is not important enough to encourage them to try your alternative will only attract those who don't have their priorities straight.  It may generate revenue, but it won't generate success. 

I thought about writing a commercial to promote what we do here at PCS, ending it with something like, "If you want to be good at hockey, try the educational alternative.  If you want to get a good education, come to Portersville Christian School."  Part of getting that good education is getting your priorities in order, and what we hope to teach with regard to priorities is that God's will matters most.

When he was calling the Corinthian believers to account for some things they had said about him, the Apostle Paul writes, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  That's a good definition of success.  Being able to allow God to work through you, and set aside whatever it is that you can do well, or that you want to do, demonstrates a clear understanding of knowing and doing the will of God.  If that's your first priority, everything else will fall into place, including your own success and the ability to handle it.

That's one of the reasons we go well beyond the classroom to teach students how to order their priorities.  This is a small school and we have a lot of students who are involved in a lot of activities.  In addition to classwork, students have to balance participation in sports, drama, church life and perhaps even work, if they are old enough and responsible enough.  Even paying more attention to school and academic performance can be motivated by "me" and not "Him."  It is all in the way we look at it and go about it.

And that, in a nutshell, is Christian education.  So if you want to get better at hockey, or soccer, or even academics, get your priorities straight, and learn how God's power can be made perfect in your weakness.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Christian Schools and Accreditation

The issue of school accreditation can be complicated and confusing.  Many parents aren't aware of the importance or meaning of accreditation when it comes to sending their children to school.  Like anything else, it is possible to place too much, or too little importance and emphasis on accreditation.  It is important to the overall picture of a child's education from kindergarten to 12th grade to understand what it means and what effect that might have on your children.

Portersville Christian School's educational program is fully accredited from kindergarten through 12th grade.  What that means is that the school meets or exceeds standards set by the accrediting agency in virtually every area of school operation, from academics and classroom content to school operations and procedures.  The practical aspect of accreditation means that if a student transfers from here to another school, the work that has been done here counts, and will transfer directly to the new school.  It also means that when our students graduate and apply for admission to a college or university of their choice, the school to which they apply recognizes that the work they did here meets their admission requirements and they can expect that our graduates have all of the necessary prerequisites they need to succeed in college. 

We are accredited by two agencies recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to set standards and approve schools.  One is the Association of Christian Schools International.  ACSI accreditation commissions are made up of Christian educators who have a clear, concise understanding of a Christian philosophy of education.  Some Christian schools avoid applying for accreditation because they fear that secular state standards will be imposed on them as a result.  However, ACSI makes sure that does not occur for schools that seek their accreditation.  The other agency that provides accreditation for us is the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges.  This is the main agency that provides accreditation to the public school system.  We receive a certificate of accreditation from MSASC as a result of our ACSI accreditation, which is more rigorous.

The main points related to accreditation have to do with the academic standards of the school.  We maintain written curriculum guides for every course that is taught.  A curriculum guide is the list of objectives and requirements for each subject area.  This insures that the content that is being taught in our classroom meets the standards expected of students on that particular grade level.  Another requirement of accreditation is that all of our teachers have proper credentials which certify that they are qualified to teach on the grade level or in the subject area they are assigned.  In addition to meeting the minimum standards set by the state for teacher certification, ACSI requires teachers to be certified through their agency, which includes the requirement that they have the equivalent of six semester hours in Biblical studies in addition to the core subject areas and educational methods courses.  In addition to that, to be certified by ACSI, teachers must complete a course requirement in Philosophy of Christian School education, and sign a doctrinal statement of faith. 

Our school procedures and policies must also meet standards set by the accreditation commission.  The course objectives must be rigorous enough to prepare the students for the next level of subject matter.  Students must receive a specific amount of academic instruction in the course of both their school day, and over the course of each semester in which they are enrolled.  Grading standards and assignment weights must be designed to provide an accurate assessment of the work that students are doing.  The length of the school day and the amount of time students spend in class must meet standards.  Scores on standardized tests must demonstrate that the school is meeting or exceeding expected outcomes.  Class sizes must fall within the expected limits.  Facilities must meet space and safety requirements. 

Accreditation does mean something.  Not only is it important to making sure that you are getting what you expect, and what you are paying for, it tells you that your children are getting the kind of education you expect them to receive.  If you have doubts, check it out.  There are some schools which will tell you they are accredited, but the commission or agency that did the work is not approved by the Department of Education.  It is important to know which agencies are recognized, and who you can call if you have a question.

The work we do at Portersville Christian School is not only confirmed by our accreditation.  It is confirmed by the accomplishments of our students and alumni over the years.  Our graduates, for the most part, are accepted at virtually any college they choose to attend, including some of those with the most competitive admissions standards.  Our senior classes have achieved the county's highest SAT scores on a regular basis, and having a national merit scholar or two has become a regular occurrence.  On the elementary level, our students place in the top third in percentile rank against the national norms.  But our students and graduates are also leaders in their churches, and involved in ministry.  Those are results that accreditation can't measure.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Few Odds and Ends

Thank you for reading this blog.  Since our school doesn't really produce a monthly newsletter, or promotion piece, this forum is a good place for discussing the broader issues of Christian school education, or specific things happening around PCS. 

In the absence of an administrative assistant, for about five weeks, the process of getting ready for school slowed to a crawl, and was extremely stressful.  Around here, we do the best with what we have, or at least, we try to, so the administrator had to do the data entry for Smart Student and load it into Grade Quick.  Grade Quick/Edline is now operating, grades should be there by Monday, September 26, and you should be able to access them. 

Our chapel speaker reminded us on Wednesday, in quite an interesting way, that our tongue can be a world of evil among all of the parts of the body, not in the way it functions as an organ, but in the way we use it to form words and thoughts.  We're starting into fall, we've been in school for a few weeks, and all of the things that happen in our daily business here that bring people together also have the potential to divide us, because we can get irritated about just about anything, and yield to the temptation to say something selfish.  I know that, because I have done it myself.  Prayer, at the very time of the temptation, is a big help, even if it is only a whispered prayer, because it keeps your lips and tongue busy for a few moments.  I highly recommend it.

We have 231 students on our campus this fall, and every single one of them is here because of God's providence and provision.  The enemy would like to see us fail, and will do whatever it takes to make that happen.  So please keep us, our school, and our campus in your prayers for protection.  Also, from time to time, we hear of hardships that occur in families who are enrolled in our school.  These can come in the form of illnesses, job loss, financial loss, or other issues.  Sometimes, there are people within our school community who may have resources that can help.  If that's the case, please let us know.  We'd like to help connect the resources with the need in our own school community.  Also, we have some families who need prayer right now because of health concerns.  Prayer is one place where we can be generous to a fault, and expect more in return than we are giving. 

Watch your Butler Eagle on Friday, and your Cranberry Eagle next Wednesday for an article featuring our latest National Merit Scholar, Michelle Slater! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New to Improve for 2011-12

Change is sometimes hard to do, but it can be good, especially if it is based on hard facts and you know it will improve things.  We've made some changes for 2011-12 here at PCS, and here's the what and why about them.

Team Teaching for Grades 3 and 6
Having double homerooms at these grade levels gave us the opportunity to team teach in the core subject areas.  The list of benefits to students when this can be done at this particular level is a long one.  Teachers get to teach in their strongest academic subject area. The students receive instruction from two teachers with a higher liklihood of having more classroom time being taught according to their own learning style.  Changing classes gets them up off their seat more frequently during the day, and the transition helps their focus.  The opportunity for "block" periods, to spend extra time in English or Math, is enhanced.  And of course, there is always the advantage of having two classes on the same grade level, which means smaller class sizes. 

We are looking for great results from making this change this year. 

Elimination of the High School Activity Period
The plan was to go to an eight period day for the high school, with no activity period.  However, adding an additional ninth grade homeroom meant that we needed ninth period as an academic class time.  The schedule is spread out a little more than it would have been otherwise, and there are some students with an extra study hall or two during the week.  However, we are making much better use of our time than we were with the activity period. 

Classes like choir and band that needed the activity period to get all of their members together now have them on Wednesday after lunch.  In addition to this, study halls are considered extensions of guided and independent practice time, and will be monitored as such.  Your student should have less of a homework load as a result of this.  They are expected to use their study hall time for independent practice (homework), or guided practice (getting help). 

We will monitor both the effectiveness of study hall and the schedule, and make adjustments we feel will help us make maximum use of the time we have during the school day. 

Consistent Weighting Standards
The Education Committee approved a standard for weighting tests that will begin with this school year.  A "test" is any assessment which measures student progress against the objectives of a particular course.  Obviously, in providing students with a measurement of their progress, test grades are important.  Previously, there was not a consistent standard used to weigh test grades as part of the student's overall grade.  If tests are not weighed enough, a student's grade may not be an accurate reflection of their progress in any given class. 

PCS will require tests in middle school, which is 7th and 8th grade, to be weighed at a minimum of 50% of the total grade for the class, with a recommendation that 55% be the minimum standard for assessments.  For students in grades 9-12, 55% is the minimum, with a recommendation that teachers use 60% as the standard for weighting tests. 

This will provide a more accurate picture of the actual mastery of objectives of a course by individual students, and will also provide us with consistency in our expectations.  It can be confusing, and frustrating, for students who see their grades go up quickly with a test in one class, while a top grade on a test in another class barely affects the bottom line. 

Continuous School Improvement
Known as CSI, this concept is pretty simple.  A school must continue to improve, and that usually involves changing something you are doing.  We have a real blessing here at PCS when it comes to operating a school with an academic edge, a spiritual environment, and some great personnel resources.  We want this ministry to continue to be viable and effective for years to come.  That involves taking a look at where we are, evaluating it, and finding ways to improve it.  Some of the changes that have been made this year were done to accomplish improvement, and there will likely be more to come.  Your feedback is welcome.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Christian Education's Future in Pennsylvania

http://www.paschoolchoice.org/reach/cwp/view.asp?a=1367&q=568487

The link above will take you to the PA school choice website which references REACH, the E.I.T.C. (Educational Improvement Tax Credit) program for private schools.  EITC allows corporate contributors to receive a tax deduction credit of 75% for contributions of up to $300,000 made to the scholarship and financial aid programs of private schools.  The tax credit increases to 90% for those businesses who make a commitment for a two-year contribution. 

The EITC program is the best way private, Christian schools in Pennsylvania currently have to assist families who want to enroll their children in an alternative to the public education system.  Though many Christian families would like to send their children to a school that supports and teaches the values they are trying to instill at home, most cannot afford to do so, because their income will not allow them to pay the additional tuition and fees required to enroll, while they are still paying taxes to support the public education system at the same time.  Some surveys show that as many as 80% of families who are active in their local church would be unable to provide the tuition and fees necessary to send two children to a private, Christian school with an average tuition of just $6,000 per year. 

What that means is that a lot of families in our churches are trapped into an undesireable situation regarding the education of their children.  The Exodus Mandate, a group of Christian parents and educators who are committed to pointing out the detrimental effects of secular, public education on the future generations of the church, have discovered that up to 88% of young adults who were active in their churches during their childhood and teenage years leave the church altogether between ages 22 and 30.  While nearly half of all adult Americans today are affiliated with, or are members of a church, by 2020, only 6% of adults under 35 years of age will be considered "churched," that is, able to identify a specific congregation to which they belong.  The Exodus Mandate believes that the content and atmosphere of the public education system is largely responsible for this erosion of belief and values. 

The good news is that God has raised up Christian businessmen and women who are willing to provide financial assistance to families who want to send their children to Christian schools where they will be taught the precepts and moral values that are consistent with their faith.  "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."  (Luke 12:48, ESV)  The EITC program in Pennsylvania makes it possible for us to work toward levelling the playing field when it comes to financing a Christian school education for your children.

So at this point, I hope you are asking, "What can I do?" 

First of all, if you own a business, and you are in a financial position to make a contribution, this is an excellent way to get a tax deduction.  A direct contribution to the school certainly helps, but a designated contribution to the EITC program will mean that the money will come back to the school, but it will also be applied to the tuition of a student from a qualified family.  You would be investing in both the school, and the future of one or more of its students. 

If you don't own a business, why not contact your employer and ask if they are interested in making a contribution through EITC designated to PCS?  Many employers are looking for ways to contribute to causes that are advanced by their employees, and a tax deduction sweetens the pot just a bit.  It might also be a nice way to find out how much your contribution at work is appreciated. 

You may also be aware of individuals in your church or community who might be supportive of Christian education, and appreciate being asked to participate in an opportunity like EITC.  Awareness is sometimes all it takes for someone to see an opportunity to be a blessing.  There are a lot of Christians in the business world who have a very clear and mature understanding of the gifts they have been given, and they have a sense of calling when it comes to financial support of various Christian ministries, including Christian education.  You may be the voice that God will use to point them in the direction they need to go.

It now appears that EITC may represent the best opportunity Christian schools in Pennsylvania will have to open the doors of Christian education to the full constituency of families who want what their children learn at school to be compatible with what they learn at church.  And it appears that the only limits on the potential of this program are those we put on it ourselves by not taking advantage of every opportunity we have.  Almost 20% of our school's budget will be provided through the financial aid to families given through EITC and Pennsylvania Foundation, all of which is applied to tuition and fees of students from families who qualified, many of whom would not be able to have the choice of a private Christian school if this funding were not available.  Every additional dollar represents the possibility of providing Christian school education to more people. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Whatever it takes...to keep my kids in Christian school"

"Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save."  Psalm 143:6

God sometimes speaks to us by allowing us to observe the way other people handle circumstances or events in their lives.  The circumstances are similar, and God allows us to see the faith of three or four people handle them in a manner that we can conclude is pleasing to him, because we know what his word says about it. 

During the course of our re-enrollment, and our registration of new students, I have encountered several families whose commitment to Christian education is inspiring to observe.  While there are many families involved in private Christian schools for whom financing the cost of the education does not affect their bottom line, I've been in this business long enough to know that it is a major consideration for many others.  I certainly believe that God provides for his children and their needs, but I have been in Christian school education long enough to know the realities of paying the bills means that many families make a lot of personal sacrifices to keep their children in Christian school, and PCS is no different in that regard. 

In recent years, several studies have shown that, depending on the cost of tuition and fees, a Christian school education is financially out of reach for anywhere between 50% and 80% of the families in a typical, middle class, evangelical church.  In spite of those figures, many families simply put their dependence on God to provide something they know will require sacrifice.  Repeatedly, over the course of the past weeks since school has been out, I have observed families commit their need to the Lord, and depend on him to provide.  I can't even tell you how many parents I've heard say that they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their kids at Portersville Christian School. 

This system works because there is sacrifice at both ends.  While school families may be "eating grass", as a parent of a former student of mine used to say, to keep their kids in Christian school, the school employees and staff are also making sacrifices to keep the cost of attending school as low as possible.  The salaries and benefits we pay to our teachers and staff are most definitely sacrificial in nature, earning less than half of what their colleagues in the public school system make.  Our buildings are plain, not fancy, but functional in terms of keeping the rain and snow out, warm in winter, and somehow our maintenance man manages to work miracles with a few tools and a paint brush on a shoestring budget.  An army of volunteers provide services that keep costs low.  We're good stewards of what we have and with help from God, the system works. 

Within our school community, and in the Christian community at large, there are people who have been blessed with a lot of material wealth who quietly carry out their Biblical obligation, "...to whom much has been given, much is required."  Many of our families are able to keep their children at PCS because the EITC program, and Pennsylvania Foundation, allow tax deductible contributions to be made to provide financial aid to qualified families.  The percentage of families at PCS who are able to keep their children here because of this blessing is somewhat higher than the estimated 35% of families in private Christian schools who benefit from this statewide. 

And so now, I'm going to drop the other shoe.

All of our families, in addition to bearing the expense of the education of their children at PCS, are subsidizing the public education system with their tax dollars.  The discussion of whether or not this system is fair and equitable has resulted in proposals across the country in several states to come up with a voucher system allowing parents who choose to put their children in an educational alternative to the public school monopoly to use their tax money to pay for it.  Without going into a long explanation, it has been demonstrated that a voucher program would not violate church-state separation, nor would it cost the state more money.  Several states have approved modified voucher programs, and they've had a measure of success in seeing educational progress improve. 

In Pennsylvania, not only did the legislature fail to follow through with a voucher program promised by many politicians at the time of the last election, but it also failed to follow through with a promised expansion of the EITC program, by simply allowing the amount covered by tax deductions to be increased.  I believe this occurred because those of us involved in Christian school education did not hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.  I've been involved in voucher lobbying efforts before, in another state, with similar results, and so I had my doubts this time around..  However, I did do more this time than I have ever done before, including spending a day in Harrisburg visiting with several state senators in their offices.  But I don't think they heard from enough people to push them forward.  The opposition was loud and fierce. 

We are hearing that the effort to get a voucher bill passed will be renewed in the fall.  We are also hearing that, in those states where vouchers have passed recently, considerable effort had to be made from the Christian schooling community to convince legislators that failure to deliver might end in an unfavorable result for them at the ballot box the next time they were up for re-election.  That may put you out of your comfort zone.  But considering the result, it may well be one of those "whatever it takes" efforts.

If you would like more information on the voucher proposal, and what is involved, you can visit http://acsipa.org/ or http://pacape.org/.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Help Needed!

The Development Committee is sponsoring a booth during the upcoming Horse Trading Days celebration in Zelienople.  There are some times when volunteers are needed just to man the booth, which will be a relatively simple task, mainly passing out candy, balloons, and information about PCS.  Even if you can give an hour, that would be great.  You can get in touch with Chris Woods or call the school office in the morning and they will get word to him.  The festival starts Thursday and runs through the weekend. 

JoAnn and I are back in Pennsylvania after a ten-day mission trip to Missouri, which was a great experience.  The travelling staff that helped us at the mission project is working in New York this week, at a World Changers project in Buffalo, and we're going up there to worship with them on Tuesday evening, and to enjoy a visit with my stepmom.  We have pictures, video and lots of great stories to share about lives that were changed, along with our having a close call with a tornado. 

Later this week, I want to share some things about our school and school community that have come from people who have found their way through our doors this summer, looking for a place to bring their children to school.  It will sure make you feel good about being part of this ministry, at this place and this time. 

Call if you can help at the Horse Trading Days!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

So, Did You Have a Good Year?

School's been out for a week, and that's probably been the most common question people have asked me since then.  Here's my answer.

No.  I didn't have a good year.  I had a great year!

I've been involved with Christian schools since the fall semester of 1983 when I was hired to teach history and journalism at Broadway Baptist School in Houston, Texas.  I know how things can go, and I've observed situations that I'm sure gave administrators some more gray hair, and caused a lot of stress.  I know that PCS has seen some situations like that.  This year, from my perspective, turned out to be more of a learning experience, and I'm glad it did.

One of the benefits I had all through the school year was the prayer support of two local pastors, both of whom are involved with, and love, PCS.  Most Wednesday mornings after chapel, I spend some time with Pastor Frye in his office in the basement of the Portersville Alliance Church and we prayed together, sometimes for personal things, but mostly for the students and staff of the school.  And most Friday mornings, before school began, I got to do the same with Pastor Charles of the Portersville Bible Church, before his 10th grade Bible class.  My most frequent prayer request is always for wisdom and discernment, especially as far as my leadership of the school is concerned.  That's why it was a great year, I'm sure.

Self evaluation is important to me.  Most people don't like change, mainly, I think, because what makes it hard is that when it happens, it makes us uncomfortable because our job and surroundings are no longer familiar and we make a lot of mistakes figuring out what we're supposed to do.  Part of what made this a great year was that people anticipated change, and for the most part were willing to accept what came with it, including the provision of a nice blanket to cover the mistakes I made and the patience to live with them for a while.  My self-evaluation includes knowing where the resources are found, where the limits are located, and accepting change which is needed for improvement. 

My Dad always used to say that he wouldn't demand any more of me than he was willing to do himself.  That always kept me on my toes, because he was willing to do an awful lot, and he always wanted to improve.  His goal was for his son and daughter to have better lives than he did, and he worked hard to make that happen.  Continued self-evaluation means that you are moving in the direction of continued improvement.  Next year will be better, in part because of what has been learned this year.  We will change those things that need to be changed in order to improve.  Our students deserve no less.

So I'll ask this question back.  Did you have a good year?  Through the eyes of a parent, did your children have a good year?  Did you learn some things which will lead to improvement of yourself and your relationship with Christ?  And if not, are you willing to share your experiences with me, in order to increase the insight that is necessary to make improvements?  It's summer.  Call me up and we'll find a place to sit, have a cup of coffee, and chat.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We're Still Investing in our Students, not Cutting our Budget

Yeah, so I borrowed this thought from the Pittsburgh Christian School consortium to which our school belongs, but I thought it was a good line. 

The recent round of budget cuts proposed by Governor Corbett and debated by the Pennsylvania legislature includes some deep cuts into education expenditures.  I'm certainly not arguing that the budget shouldn't be cut, nor that public education should be fairly included in the cuts, but there are a few things about the way it is being done that make me wonder about it just a little bit.  It seems that most school districts are going to balance their budgets by cutting services to students, laying off teachers and  increasing class sizes, charging participation fees for sports, fine arts, band, or just dropping the program altogether.  In every instance, it is students who will feel the effect of the cuts the most.  Teacher unions are making sure that layoffs are kept at a minimum and salaries and benefits stay in place.  I'm not hearing much at all about cuts in administrative bureaucracy.  Students have the least amount of political clout, so they will suffer the most.

But at Portersville Christian School, that will not be the case.  We're still committed to investing in our students.  The careful stewardship of our resources allows us to provide a quality education to our students for less than half of what it costs the state to provide a year of education to students in the public school system.  We don't have a teacher's union, yet we are able to staff our classrooms with some of the most dedicated professionals you will find anywhere, who understand that the sacrifice they are making in pay is going to be made up in blessings that are too numerous to count.  Our staff does their job well because they see the need for their work, not because they are getting wealthy by it. 

Our facility is a plain, cinder block building, nothing fancy when it comes to either architecture or function.  But inside, our students are getting a high quality education in a Christian environment that can openly acknowledge God as our creator and as the sovereign sustainer of life.  They are receiving high quality instruction in academic subjects which are integrated with the principles of God's word.  The building protects the students from the elements and organizes the space it encloses in a practical way.  That's all we need.  What takes place inside depends on the students, their families, the teachers and the staff, and results from a commitment to Christ-centeredness, small class sizes, removal of distractions, good stewarship of resources, and a hundred other things. 

Maybe these budget cuts are a wake up call.  Downsizing, cutting back on resources, larger class sizes, fewer class and activity choices, and a host of other issues related to budget cuts will most definitely affect the quality of the education children in the public school system are receiving.  Maybe it is time to consider what your child could be getting in Christian school, and particularly in Portersville Christian School.  We're going to continue to invest in our students.  Come over and join us. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Stanford Achievement Test

Standardized testing should be put in its perspective.  1.  It is one of many indicators of the academic progress of an individual student.  2.  It helps the school evaluate its curriculum and make changes and adjustments where it is necessary.  3.  It is one of many indicators of the academic strength of the curriculum.  4.  It is not the "end product" of the work of the faculty and staff.  If you think about it, a student spends almost eight months in a classroom setting covering literally hundreds of specific objectives.  No test, especially not one given almost eight months down the road, will be able to determine if every student learned every objective.  What we learn from the Stanford test is whether or not the students are functioning on a skill level that is appropriate for students on their grade level, and whether or not our curriculum is covering the objectives expected on each grade level. 

Our Stanford 2011 scores arrived this week.  A detailed analysis will be done, and will reflect in curriculum adjustments and approaches to teaching.  In the meantime, there are some conclusions that can be drawn from the analysis that has been done so far.  I'll share a few of those things with you. 

First of all, 76% of the students at PCS who took the test, from first to eighth grade, finished with an overall score that was higher than the state and national norms.  That's exciting.  That means that our "norm", or middle point, is 26% higher than the national average.  Most ACSI schools use the Stanford Test, which means that the norms are higher than those on state based standardized tests.  Our percentile ranks indicate that our students overall did better than 70% of the students nationwide who took the Stanford test in 2011.  About half of our students placed in the top quartile nationally.  What that means to our parents and students is that they are getting a much higher quality education that they would receive in the public, charter and cyber schools.  It also means that the academics at PCS on the elementary level are excellent and strong.

There are a lot of different ways of analyzing the data, including stanine scores, raw scores, scaled scores and a lot of other terms.  Reading and math scores get the first scrutiny.  Our students did well in both areas, compared to national norms and grade level expectations.  We can look at specific sections of questions, dealing with a particular kind of math problem, or a specific area of reading, and see what we need to improve.  We can also look at individual student scores in order to identify specific areas of difficulty and provide differentiated instruction so that they can improve.  Almost all of our students either meet, or exceed grade level expectations in these subject areas, according to the test results. 

The Stanford results we see are consistent with the PSAT and SAT results we see in the high school, with PCS students performing well above the national and state norms.  But once again, putting these things in their proper perspective, the test scores are not the "product" of the school.  The students are.  What they do when they graduate, not only in academic pursuits, but in the world at large, is the product of PCS.  We're small, and we don't send a lot of alumni out into the world every year.  But the impact of what we produce will occur in and around each graduate, where they live, and who they come into contact with.  That's our product.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

End of the Year Stuff

Tomorrow, 21 seniors, some of whom have been walking this campus since kindergarten, will receive their diplomas and close out their high school education.  Most of them are moving on to college, and most of them were able to qualify for admission to the college of their choice.  They are moving on to a different world, a different stage of their education, and I am confident that most of them have been well prepared for what they will face.  I wish them well.  The hole that they will leave behind in terms of leadership and accomplishment will be tough to fill, though next year's senior class seems to be doing very well as they start out to assume that role.

This class will always be memorable to me, not only because they are quite accomplished and because they have done well with responsibility and leadership, but because they are the first graduating class for whom I've signed and will hand them their diploma as head administrator of the school.  They will always represent my first year at Portersville Christian School, and as a result of that, they will always represent what Portersville Christian School stands for.  I wish them well as they move on, and hope that what they now represent will be something that goes with them for the rest of their lives. 

At this point, with the weather finally turning nice, the trees and grass greened up, and summer just around the corner, everyone is excited about what they are going to be doing.  Looking back, this has been a great school year in many ways, and it has also been a tremendous learning experience.  I spent a lot of time observing, watching, seeing how this organization operates, and how things work.  When I came here last summer, I had a vision and a plan based on what I knew then, and that has been greatly expanded and enhanced during this school year.  Let me share a few things with you.

One, it is my desire to lead our school to become distinctively Christian.  There is a substantial difference between the educational philosophy of the public school system and a school that is distinctively Christian, and it is a noticeable difference.  It is the difference between educating children in the belief that God exists, that he created the universe and he created humanity, and he is sovereign, and education which operates on the philosophical principle that humanity is the highest level of intelligence in the universe, and it can rely on education to solve all of its problems.  I sometimes hear parents say that they want their kids to go to public school for a few years so that they can "be exposed to the real world."  I would not only disagree that public school is representative of the "real world," I would contend that to do so would contribute to an erosion of the values and ideals that have been instilled in the student in Christian school.  I would like to see PCS become so distinctively Christian that thinking with the "mind of Christ" becomes a natural part of our students' lives. 

Two, I would like to keep raising the bar of excellence in all that we do.  If we have "the mind of Christ," then what we do is done for his glory.  Academically, our school is sound and solid, and we have a strong foundation on which to build.  But we need to continue to improve, because our students deserve the best we can give and they respond to challenges by doing better.  Our fine arts program has set the standard for excellence around here, with the quality and calibre of the musical productions that it puts on, so other school organizations can follow their example.  A winning athletic program is not always measured in terms of the score at the end of the game, but what the students learned from the experience and how that can help them in their life, as well as the way they played the game.  Athletics helps us teach our students about doing their best for God, and going the extra mile in other areas of life.  For the sake of our students, each year must show improvement in each of these areas.

Third, I would like to be able to offer this balance of distinctively Christian education to as many people in our area as possible.  Operating a school costs money, and does not generate a profit.  As an increasing number of Christian families come together and find PCS is the place to put their children for an excellent education, more resources become available to the students.  Over the next school year, I would like to see our enrolment increase to the point where we are "maxing out" our current facility.  As each succeeding senior class graduates, they multiply the impact of what they've learned here out there.  Keeping a good balance between class size and efficient use of resources, our enrolment needs to increase in steps, with measureable goals. 

I hope, as you are reading this, that you are looking forward to another year at PCS as much as I am.  I am praying for God's blessing on his work here, and I hope you will join me in doing that.  I also hope that you will step up, step in, send your children here and help us in this work. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Pennsylvania Will Benefit from Senate Bill 1

The debate over Senate Bill 1, the school voucher plan that is scheduled to be voted on in the Pennsylvania Senate sometime in the near future, perhaps this week, comes down to the fundamental difference between the philosophy of the public education system and a Christian view of education that is derived from Biblical principles.  Opposition is based on the belief that the state has supreme authority over the education of students, and can therefore direct taxpayer support into its own educational monopoly.  Constitutionally, it cannot mandate that parents sent their children to the schools it controls, but it can make it next to impossible for most families to choose an alternative.

In Christian education, the belief that parents are responsible for their children's education, and accountable to God for it, is a fundamental principle.  That's where the conflict comes in.  The state has usurped the authority of parents, and manipulates the process of education through a system of schools in which the curriculum outcomes and learning objectives as well as the qualifications and philosophical views of the teachers and administrators are carefully controlled by a thick layer of government oversight and regulation.  In such a short blog, I couldn't even begin to expound on how unAmerican, unconstitutional and Anti-Christian that is. 

Voucher bills similar to the one on the table in Pennsylvania now have been increasingly proposed as alternative means to both financing the education of children, which the state seems to think is it's own responsibility, and allowing parents to chose the means by which that education is delivered to their own children, which is their God-given, inalienable, constitutional right.  Basically, what a "voucher" does is allow tax money that is designated to pay for the education of each student, and distribute it based on where parents have chosen to enroll their children.  The current senate bill in Pennsylvania is proposed to take effect in stages, designed more to "level the playing field" by moving resources where they seem to be most needed, primarily families who reside in areas where the educational monopoly is not performing according to the standards set by the state, and who do not have the means to choose an alternative.  Eventually, in its fourth stage, it will provide a voucher to any student who comes from a family which meets the income requirements. 

The bill is likely to be voted on in a week or so, and a few senators need some convincing that this is what they need to do.  It's relatively easy to pick up your phone, call your senator and tell them you'd appreciate their vote for this bill.  There are some standard objections and some standard responses.  There are a couple of websites, http://acsipa.org/ and http://pacape.org/ which will provide you with plenty of accurate information. 

This is a violation of the separation of church and state.

No, it's not.

The federal government, along with many state governments, have been handing out billions of dollars in grant programs for college students for years, such as Pell Grants, BEOG's (Basic Educational Opportunity Grants), and others.  The purpose of these grants is to level the playing field and make it economically feasible for students to attend college.  A large number of these grants are given to students attending colleges with Christian affiliation, including schools with an exclusively Christian purpose, such as training missionaries, pastors and church leaders.  There is no church-state conflict,because the money is granted to the individual student, based on their qualifications, and not to the specific school.  Vouchers are exactly the same thing. Check, and I believe you'll find that the Supreme Court has already ruled on the constitutionality of this.

Private schools are not accountable to the state for the way the money is used, or for the quality of education provided.

No, we are not.  And hopefully, we never will be. 

If you compare the academic achievement of students in private schools, particularly private, Christian schools with their counterparts in the public school system, you will notice a difference right away.  In Pennsylvania, at least, the students in the Christian schools do much better on the state's acceptable measures of progress, mainly achievement tests and college entrance exams, than those in the public system.  In most cases, significantly better.  On the SAT, the average score of seniors in ACSI accredited schools in Pennsylvania is more than 10% higher than the state average.  Personally, I believe that's because we are not accountable to the state, and do not suffocate under a layer of cumbersome regulations.  We are accountable to God first, and then to our parents, and if we do not do a good job academically, we're out of business.

This won't improve the overall quality of public education in the state.

I think the jury is still out on that.  Voucher programs in many places are relatively new, and there's not been enough research done to show the overall progress of students in states where some kind of limited program has been working.  But there are some indications that this is certainly within the realm of possibility. 

Our neighbors in Ohio have had a program in effect for a few years now, and one benefit that has become clear is that students who have enrolled in private, Christian schools have seen their academic achievement levels rise.  The same is true for students involved in the Opportunity Scholarship program in the District of Columbia, at least, for those who enrolled in private schools. 

There hasn't been a noticeable change overall, across the whole educational spectrum.  But in D.C., for example, the program only involved 1,700 students.  The idea is that, by lowering the numbers in overcrowded classrooms, teachers there will have the opportunity to improve their class academics.  In Ohio, the test results include students enrolled in cyber and charter schools, who don't do as well on standardized tests. 

This will cost more money and raise taxes.

You mean, more than they are going to go up now, under the current budget reductions in education?

No.  It won't.

Vouchers are limited to the approximately $12,000 it now costs the state of Pennsylvania to put one student through school in one year.  Private schools, however, will only be able to receive the amount of their highest tuition figure, a dollar amount that, among ACSI's Christian schools, averages less than $6,000 per year.  Therefore, every student who selects a voucher to attend a private, Christian school saves the state more than $6,000 a year.  If ACSI's schools have enough seats to accomodate 10,000 students, that's a savings of $60 million a year. 

In theory, every student who takes a voucher and goes elsewhere will reduce that school's revenue by $12,000.  But they should also reduce their expenses by $12,000.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why is Your School Successful?

One of the parents who came to one of our recent open houses asked me, "What do you think is the reason that your school is successful in academic achievement?"  I believe there is actually more than one reason, and I am always glad to share this with anyone who asks.  Some reasons are unique to Portersville Christian School and its environment, while others are characteristic of Christian schools in general.  I've never really understood where the myth developed that Christian schools are not necessarily good schools in terms of academic achievement, because that's just not the case. 

1.  We are successful because we are committed to providing education that is distinctively Christian, in an environment that stives to follow Biblical principles.  One of those principles says that parents are responsible for the education of their children and so we enter into a partnership with parents when they send their children to us.  Another principle requires us to do everything as if we are doing it "unto the Lord."  Teaching children to always do their best produces an environment in which success is celebrated and considered the result of serving God. 

2.  We are successful because we are free from cumbersome, entangling regulations imposed by government on the public education system.  In our system, the trained and called educators are in charge of the educational program of the school, accountable first to God, and then to the parents who send their children here.  In the public system, educators are accountable to a bureaucracy that is largely controlled by politicians, and they are pushed to produce results that distract from the school's ability to deliver an education.  The focus is on the product, the test score and the result, not on the student and what he is learning.

Even the alternatives, such as charter schools or cyber education, are bogged down with over-regulation, and in most cases, aren't even producing results equal to the public school system.  As long as Christian schools are free from government interference, they will continue to be successful.

3.  We are successful because we remove the distractions that keep students from focusing on their educational objectives.  If you've ever wondered why Christian schools are "strict" when it comes to rules about everything from dress and hair styles to piercings and make-up, that's why.  Students are easily distracted when the focus moves away from education, and on to their appearance, or their "coolness" based on their appearance.  Students do a lot better when their focus is directed toward academic pursuits rather than toward their outward appearance. 

4.  We are successful because there is a level of sacrifice involved for both parents of students, and for the school's staff.  Those who teach here aren't doing it because of the money.  What would it tell you about the interest of your teachers if, in the middle of your senior year, they decided to walk out for more money and benefits, and caused your graduation date to be pushed to the end of July?  In spite of our modest tuition rate, parents are also making a financial sacrifice for their children to be here, in most cases giving up some material things they might enjoy in order to make it possible. 

5.  We are successful because character development and teaching by example are core components of our curriculum, beyond just imparting knowledge in a set of core subjects.  The goal is not limited to test scores alone, but to the complete development of the individual, in preparation for life, career, and service in the Kingdom of God.  Success is measured by whether or not each student who graduates from here is ready to move to the next step of their education and development. 

Collectively, we never say "mission accomplished."  But each year, as we say goodbye to our graduating class, and we look at their goals, plans and desires, we can evaluate where we've done well, and where we need to improve.  With the school having been in existence since 1963, we are also seeing the children, and in some cases the grandchildren, of graduates and former students come to the campus for their education.  That's a great compliment, and a great measurement of success. 

The assumption that Christian schools do not do well academically is proven wrong by the students and graduates of Portersville Christian School whose achievement in academic measurements sits well above average in virtually every category.  And while what we call success might not be observed in every student who has graduated from here, we know that they've seen what it looks like and have had it modeled for them here. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Critical Week for Christian Schools in Pennsylvania

There are some powerful lobbying interests in Harrisburg who are working very hard to defeat Senate Bill 1, which is the current school choice bill being considered in the Pennsylvania legislature.  Teachers unions see this bill as an additional threat to their revenue stream that has already been cut back considerably.  This is a bill that provides benefits which would improve the educational quality for Pennsylvania's students, but as with most educational issues that become politicized, money becomes the bottom line. 

The fact of the matter is that the provisions of this bill would lead to both improvement in the quality of education offered to students, and would involve a reduction in the cost of that education to the state.  How does that work? 

First of all, the cost per student in tax dollars for a year of schooling in the public system in Pennsylvania is over $10,000.  But the value of a voucher that would be given to students to attend a private, parochial school is limited to the amount of the highest rate of tuition and fees at whatever school accepts it.  At PCS, the highest tuition rate for 2011-12 is $5,200, which would result in a savings to the state, per student, of almost $5,000 per year.  Estimates statewide are that the state would save approximately $3,000 per student per year on each student who entered the program. 

Second, students in private, parochial schools perform significantly better than those in the public system on the standardized tests used to measure progress.  In our own case, here at PCS, we take the Stanford test, which is nationally "normed."  Our average scores are at or in the top 25% nationally.  On the Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is the standard college entrance exam, our students consistently average 200 or more points higher than the state and national averages.  So, any student who came our way with a voucher would be in both a spiritual and educational environment that would contribute to their success in school. 

It's hard to compare apples to oranges.  A great deal of our success is directly related to the fact that we operate under Christian principles, guided by the Bible and the Holy Spirit.  Christian schools are often accused of not being "accountable" to anyone.  That's not true.  We are accountable, first to God, and then to the parents who send their children to us.  The public education system is accountable to the state, and as a result, is entangled in a web of over-regulation, cross purposes and bureacracy that substantially increases the cost of providing education and interferes with its progress. 

Education at PCS involves an element of sacrifice on the part of everyone involved.  Our culture teaches that the only way to get people to produce at a level of which they are capable is to offer them money.  But our teachers and staff have a vested interest in the progress that our students make precisely because they are making sacrifices to accomplish it.  So are our parents.  There's a balance that happens in a partnership that works, and works well.  The level of interest of parents in their children's education helps generate the success we see.  The public education system doesn't have that balance, and the system doesn't encourage or facilitate the sacrificial involvement of parents.  Until that changes, all the money in the world won't help achieve success. 

Take a moment this week to call your state senator's office and encourage their support for Senate Bill 1.  If it passes the Senate, it will go to the house, so it is probably time to call your state representative as well. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Wizard of Oz, Part 2

There may not be an event during the school year that shows the character and commitment of our students and families that is quite like the spring musical.  Today, our students performed for about two hours, in front of their fellow students, and about 200 senior adults from several assisted living and nursing facilities in the area.  Though it was their first performance, technically a dress rehearsal, and there were a few rough spots, it was excellent. 

Just looking at the stage and set in the gym tells you that a lot of people have spent long hours working to put together sets and scenes.  There are people working behind the scenes to make sure everything happens like it is supposed to.  The costumes are fantastic.  There is a lot of dialogue and a lot of singing which all had to be memorized, along with the blocking.  And these are students who are also doing homework, earning (for the most part) good grades, and just finished a long and successful basketball season.  Some of them are worship leaders for chapel.  A whole group of them spent their spring break in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip, ministering to people in Christ's name. 

That sounds like a lot.  It is.  But it is the character of the students and families that make up Portersville Christian School.  It is excellence on display, doing their best because they are doing it unto the Lord.  It is at times like this that I am honored to be part of the whole experience. 

And it is very likely a rare experience, at least, as far as educational experiences go.  Most students simply show up for school, do as little as they need to do to get by, and pursue other interests elsewhere.  To be sure, there are some students at PCS who are not certain enough of who they are, or whose they are, to immerse themselves in this kind of experience.  But they are close enough to have a chance.  And all of that is worth thinking about, praying about, and considering at this particular time of year as families make decisions about where their children will attend school in the fall.  This is a special place, and at times like this, it shows.

Thank you, students, parents, teachers, and eveyone who commited themselves to make this event happen.  You've said more about our school through your work than I could say in a thousand words.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Wizard of Oz

The PCS spring musical, The Wizard of Oz, will be performed several times during this coming week at Portersville Christian School.  The gym is being transformed into a theater, students, over 50 of them to be exact, are rehearsing, parents and students are volunteering time to build and paint sets, the lights are up and there is excitement in the air. 

Our school has a reputation for performing excellent musicals and plays.  Many of our students pursue fine arts in college.  As a school activity, putting on a musical is a great way to practically apply our belief and philosophy that in all things that we do, we do our best, because we are doing it unto the Lord.  This is a combined effort of students, parents, faculty and staff.  Tickets are available in advance or at the door.  There is a matinee performance on Wednesday for the elementary students, and evening performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Break Missions Involves 18 Students in the Dominican Republic

A week of service as missionaries in the Dominican Republic was the way 18 PCS students chose to spend their spring break.  This has been a regular event for several years now, under the direction of Mike and Lauren McDonald.  The team accompanies several doctors and nurses who go to the Dominican Republic using medical mission work as a means of sharing the gospel of Jesus with people who live there. 

The group returned this past weekend and came back to school on Monday, contagious with excitement and enthsiasm resulting from their experiences.  It is one of the things we want to teach our students here at PCS.  When you put your life in God's hands, and you are open to the moving and working of his Holy Spirit, you can expect that he will use you, and you will be changed by the experience.  The change combines with other similar experiences to produce spiritual growth within, and as I Peter 3:15 says, causes people to ask about the hope you have within.  The campus has been brightened this week by smiles that come from the hearts of students whose lives were lifted up by an encounter with God. 

Good work, students!  May God continue to bless you, and use your enthusiasm to light a fire in others.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Re-Registration for 2011-12

You will be receiving information about re-registration for the 2011-12 school year shortly.  When it comes down to bottom lines, this is a decision that is a matter of God's will.  If you sense that this is where He wants your children to be, then you need to proceed with steps to make that happen.  If not, you need to begin preparing for what it is He wants you to do.  From a Christian perspective, education is part of the process of discipleship and everything we do here, from academics to fine arts to athletics, focuses on equipping students for kingdom citizenship.  As Christians, our hope is that all of the decisions they make in life will be directed by God as a result of their faith in Jesus.

This has been a transitional year, but from my perspective it has been a smooth one.  Our students have enjoyed some accomplishments in academics, athletics and fine arts.  Most of our staff has indicated that they are planning to return, and indications point to a high percentage of students and families coming back as well.  Our two open houses to date have shown that there are also a lot of families interested in sending their children here next year.  We are preparing for spring achievement tests, students are testing for placement in college-level classes and the last nine weeks grading period is approaching quickly.  Our on-line grade reporting system is about to roll out.  From an academic perspective, our students are at the top of their game, and demonstrating that the quality of classroom instruction here is as high as it is anywhere in the area, and in the state.

We just experienced a great missions week, in which the service of some of our students in the Dominican Republic last year was highlighted.  Some students have already participated in missions experiences this year, and in a week or so, another group will be headed to the Dominican Republic.  Our elementary students raised money for an AWANA project benefitting prisoners and their children at the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana.  We have students ministering on a regular basis once a month at the Passavant nursing home in Zelienople, and students honoring our agreement to keep the two mile stretch of Portersville Road from the center of town to just beyond our school clear of trash.  Workathon is coming in May.  And although just being busy doesn't measure spiritual commitment, it is very pleasing to see our students so involved. 

Above all, we want to follow God's direction in the decisions we make here, in order to continue to make sure we do everything possible for this ministry.  Join us in that prayer. 

Senate Bill 1: School Choice Hearing in Pittsburgh March 23

The word coming back from supporters of Senate Bill #1, which is the Pennsylvania School Choice bill, is that they are not hearing from very many supporters when it comes to the places where contact with the public is being made.  There may be several reasons for this, including the fact that public legislative hearings are often not held during times or at places where it is convenient for people to attend.  I am posting a link here to hearings that will be held in the Pittsburgh area from ACSIPA's website, and encourage your attendance.  I've been told that the area of the campus where the meeting room is located is not easy to access, and parking is a problem, but your support may be worth the effort. 

http://acsipa.org/node/45

Monday, February 28, 2011

Edline/Grade Quick is almost ready

It appears that the technical adjustments that needed to be made in our school's server have been made, the equipment that needed to be upgraded has been put in place, and our long awaited, anticipated, and delayed on-line grading system is about to be brought on line.  The staff must still go through a period of training before the account will be activated, but once that occurs, parents can have almost immediate access to the grades of their children.  

This will be relatively easy to use.  You will have a web address to go to in order to enter your personalized login and password to view a page that has your child's grades on it, each subject, along with any notes from the teacher, their attendance, and other information.  No one else can see this information.  The last date grades were entered will appear on the page so you will be able to know how up to date it is. 

Because this is a technical "toy," we expect some glitches, problems, and issues with the "learning curve" at first.  Please do not call the office if you are having a problem.  We will have an email address set up for you to register your problems. 

We thank you for your patience with this.  We had some technical diffiulties that had to be resolved, due to the age and condition of some of our computer equipment.  Most of that has been resolved.  Also, we have received a number of contributions toward the purchase of the program and its operating costs over the next three years.  If you would like to help with that, the opportunity is still available. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

CONGRATULATIONS!

Friday night was senior night as PCS honored four senior girls and four senior boys during their last home basketball games of the season.  A large, raucous crowd gathered to watch as both teams provided some of their best play of the season, and defeated their friendly rivals from Eden Christian Academy. 

This week, both teams will be involved in playoff games, moving toward the championship trophies of the SWCAC, an athletic conference of Christian schools in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.  It is a small conference, the schools that are members are all small, Christian schools, and their total combined enrollment probably doesn't come to much more than 800 students.  But it is important to them, and to the athletes who made the commitment to play, and by playing, to learn and improve. 

Our boys varsity plays Tuesday night against Eden again in the gym at Wilson Christian Academy in West Mifflin at 5:30.  The girls play at home on Wednesday night in the second round.  The support they received on Friday night boosted their efforts.  They deserve all the support we can give them. 

More on Senate Bill #1

The debate in the Pennsylvania senate over Senate Bill #1, the educational voucher bill, is continuing.  As with most bills of this nature, there is a lot of misinformation being put out about what the bill will or won't do.  Basically, the provisions are pretty simple.  At the beginning, only low income families from poor performing schools will be eligible.  Each succeeding year, new provisions will be added until vouchers become available to low income families and to students in poor performing school districts.  There is an increase in the EITC allowance as well.

While this is not a comprehensive educational choice bill, one that would allow any family in the state to take their voucher wherever they want their child to go, it is a step in the right direction.  Legislators need to hear from you if you are supportive, since we are getting reports, through those in the Christian school movement who are active in Harrisburg as advocates for this bill, that the opposition is telling legislators if they vote to pass this bill, there will be organized efforts to unseat them at the next election cycle.  The public education lobby is strong in the state, and has a lot of money behind it. 

The misinformation that is being spread consists of the claim that this bill will lead to increased state spending in education.  The fact is that it won't.  At the moment, the state is paying approximately $10,000 per year to provide education for one student for one year in the public school system.  That dollar amount won't change if they transfer to another public school.  Private schools are limited by the bill to receiving only the amount of their highest tuition and fees, which, statewide, will average about $1,800 less than that figure.  Of course, the public schools which lose the money will try to make a case that they can't cut their expenses proportionately, but I think the common sense question that needs to be asked is, "Why not?"  If they are not providing services for those students, then their cost should drop. 

There is also a fear, on the part of opponents, that the lack of accountability of most private schools will lead to abuse of the system.  I have to smile at that one.  The fact that private, Christian schools are free from cumbersome government oversight and regulation is one of several key reasons why their measureable standards exceed those of the public education system by a substantial margin.  As a private, Christian school, we are accountable directly to the parents who send their children to us.  If we don't provide the best education they can receive anywhere, then we're out of business, and out of a job.  The partnership that exists between parents, teachers and administration of private, Christian schools is the key to our success, and that is a foundational, Biblical principle that we cannot compromise. 

A voucher program simply gives parents a choice.  It is not state funding for private schools, it is an equalizer that makes the best education available accessible to families who seek it.  They are the taxpayers, it is their money, and most of them will pay far more money in state and local taxes over a lifetime that go to education than they will ever receive in services from the school system.  They should not be told where they have to spend that money.

For more information you can visit websites for ACSIPA and PACAPE which contain all kinds of information on Senate Bill #1. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Show Your Warrior Spirit

Thursday, February 10, the PCS Warrior JV girls, Varsity Girls and Varsity Boys Baskebtall teams will be hosting Wilson Christian from Pittsburgh, beginning at 4:00 p.m.  The "Little Warriors" cheerleaders, a group of elementary students who were recently trained by our varsity cheerleading squad, will be performing. 

This is the perfect night to come out and watch some great basketball, and cheer on our athletes.  This is an important conference game for our varsity boys and their seeding in the upcoming SWCAC tournament, and our girls have a chance to remain unbeaten in conference play and strengthen their hold on first place.  Games begin at 4:00. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

School Choice in Pennsylvania: Senate Bill 1

http://acsipa.org

This link will take you to a website where you can find out information about Senate Bill 1, a school choice/voucher bill which is scheduled to be introduced in the state senate this Friday.  Though this is not a comprehensive school choice bill, it does include several stages which move education in Pennsylvania closer to parents being able to have complete freedom to choose the school their child will attend. 

Please become informed about the content of the bill, and if it seems favorable to you, contact your state senator and urge them to help sponsor the legislation.  There is also a rally scheduled to take place in Harrisburg on January 25, and the ACSIPA website also has information on that. 

This very well could be the first step in a process which will eventually end up bringing true school choice to Pennsylvania.  It will be of interest to parents of students in Christian schools, and to the schools themselves.  ACSIPA is a great place to keep informed about what it going on, and to find ways to become involved. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolved for 2011

The Christmas holiday and the approach of the new year gave me some down time for reflection on the past year, how things developed for me personally and professionally, and what the new year might hold in store.  The past week and a half was actually the first "vacation" time I've had since last Christmas, since I more or less stepped out of one job and right into this one with just a couple of days in between for getting the house in order and moving from Texas to Pennsylvania.  Now that I have had some time to catch my breath, and see how things work around here, it is easy to look ahead and see where the Lord is leading us.

A Continuing Commitment to Distinctively Christian Education
This may mean different things to different people, so I'll clarify what I mean by it.  Christian education is more than just school with Bible class, chapel services and praying in class added in.  It means that the educational process is aligned with the core values of the Christian faith as they are presented in the Bible.  Outside the home, it is the only kind of educational experience that fully supports the values of the Christian faith that you want to teach your children at home, and what they learn from their church experience.  Our goal is to support you in the obligation that God has given you to train your children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."  The Christian school is the only educational institution that can do this, and our goal is to continually improve ourselves in the way we go about this.

Reflecting the values of the Christian faith happens more when they are caught than when they are simply taught.  Our goal is to reflect Christ to our students in everything we do, love them and their families, and model what it means to be a committed Christian.  The educational setting is a great place to practice balancing judgement, responsibility, commitment, mercy and grace.

A Continuing Commitment to Academic Excellence
Having been in Christian education since 1983, I have observed that a students' ability to excel in academic work is directly related to their faith experience and commitment.  That's not to say that every student who is a professing, practicing Christian will be an A student, but it does generally mean that students who are growing in their relationship with Christ, and learning more about themselves and the God they worship are more inclined to put greater effort into their academic pursuits, and for lack of a better way to describe it, "overachieve."  Our goal is to develop a curriculum that challenges and stretches students from an academic perspective, and train and develop teachers who can motivate and encourage them to do this.  The test scores on the achievement tests and college entrance exams our students take tell us, in fairly simple language, that we are doing a good job in this area, and where we need to improve.

Increase the Stability of the School by Increasing Enrollment
PCS is sometimes described as one of Western Pennsylvania's "well kept secrets."  God has provided a whole list of blessings which have allowed the school to offer an excellent Christian education since 1963 on this hill behind Lake Arthur.  Given an improving economy and job picture in the area, the fact that we will have more financial aid to offer next year, and the effectiveness of improvements that the school continues to implement, our enrollment goal for 2011-12 should be 250.  In the five months since I arrived here, I've been left with the impression that almost all of our families are pleased with their experience at PCS (given a few bumps here and there, of course).  If that's the case, why not speak to your close friends, family members, and fellow church members about it?  Word of mouth is probably our best advertising.  You're the best billboard we have.  Will you make it your new year's resolution to speak to those in your circle of friends, family and in your church about your experience at PCS?  We want to keep our school heading in a good direction, improving, and continuing to become a place where parents want to send their children.

Building and Becoming a Christian Community
There is no way around the fact that the education provided in a Christian school is functioning as a discipleship ministry of the local church.  There is a distinct advantage to an education which undergirds and supports your Christian faith while teaching you the basic, essential skills around which you will build your family and your career.  You learn skills in the classroom, but you should also learn about living the Christian life as well, from everyone who touches your life here.  On at least two occasions, the Apostle Paul makes note of the fact that, as believers, we need each other, and that he needed the fellowship of those he preached to and taught as much as they needed his teaching and fellowship.  The world has a strong pull, and all the advantages of influence in the lives of our students.  They need to see that, when Christians die to self and live to Christ, those influences can be overcome.

The wise parent, according to scripture, is the one who discerns what is best for their child (which is not necessarily always what they think they want) and then prays and seeks the leadership of the spirit in order to accomplish this.  You wouldn't hand your checkbook over to your child and ask him or her to decide the wisest financial course for your family, based on their experience up to that point.  Likewise, you wouldn't ask your child to use their current frame of reference, personal preferences and maturity level to determine what is best for them from an educational perspective.  This is part of the maturing process that takes place as they learn from experience.  Our goal is to work toward making this experience the best one for those children and families that God sends our way.  To do this, we need to form relationships with each other, around our common Christian experience.

What Does This Look Like?
1.  Make an early decision, and commit to re-enroll your children at PCS.
2.  Pray for the school, its staff, families and students.  Prayer is not the least you can do, it is one of the foundation stones of the Christian faith.
3.  Be honorable in your speech.  If you have good things to say about your experience here, say them.  If you have an issue or a problem, my door is always open to anyone who is willing to come in and express themselves with Biblical guidance and Christlike humility.
4.  If the Lord has blessed you, we would certainly appreciate any gift that comes our way, whether it is money, time or personal expertise.