Monday, January 17, 2011

School Choice in Pennsylvania: Senate Bill 1

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.