Monday, August 30, 2010

And They're Off!!

The 32nd academic year at Faith Lutheran is off to a great start. Despite the shaky local economy, we have about the same number of students that we began with last year. I am humbled by the sacrifices families make to provide their children with a quality, Christian education.
Our administrators have done an excellent job of setting the right tone for the new school year. Helping students understand that discipline is in place because we love kids, not just to uncover more "gotcha" moments. Students should anticipate stricter adherence to rules about dress code, hallway traffic and gum chewing.
I am excited about our ever expanding use of technology. Several classrooms have been outfitted with interactive whiteboards. Now more than half of our high school students have a personal Macbook to use. Several teachers got the year off early with two intensive days of training in using technology to improve student learning. Many parents will begin to see changes in the kinds of homework and projects students are asked to do.
Of course the new school year means students have a new set of teachers to contend with. The first school day was not complete when we got our first request to change teachers. We start the year with as good a group of teachers we have ever had at Faith. If your first impression has not been good, please give it some time. On Thursday, September 2 beginning at 6:15 you have the opportunity to meet your students' teacher face-to-face at Back-to-School Night. Come early for the best parking spots.
Kudos to Facilities Manager Gary Daning and his crew. The campus, as always, looks spectacular. Fencing is now complete. New carpeting graces several hallways. More grass and the gaga pit have been added to the west side of the classroom/admin building. Signs marking visitor parking are easy to see. Coming soon will be campus directories about the facility.
At opening chapel I told our students I wanted this to be the best year of high school in the history of high schools. If parents, students, teachers and staff work together, that lofty goal is certainly within reach.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Looking for a Few Good....Parents

As it turns out, we have a lot of really good parents and I am hoping they will rally to our need. We are in the process of redesigning, tweaking, and refreshing our marketing efforts. I am looking for some good stories, ways in which choosing Faith Lutheran made an impact, both on your student, but also on your family. If you don't have a story, tell me why Faith Lutheran was the right choice for your child's education. You can post to this blog or send me an email. Thanks in advance for your help.

Parents can also play a helpful role in quashing a rumor that is in circulation. Faith is not on the verge of closing school due to student illness. Yesterday we had a larger number of students out (12%), but they were not all sick. Right now we are seeing flu (regular and a few cases of H1N1), bronchitis and some other respiratory ailments. Our faculty is relatively healthy. We continue to take precautions.

Seven weeks into our 1st season of 4A athletic competition is way too early to draw any lasting conclusions, but the early signs are encouraging. Volleyball and girls golf are in 1st place, cross country has outpaced a number of their competitors. Girls soccer has been dominant in their interesting season. Only football, where larger numbers provide some insurance against the inevitable injuries, has yet to break into the win column. We have reasons to be proud of all our teams for their efforts thus far. Some concerns have been raised by parents, particularly about football, and we will take some time to gather input at the close of the fall season. But it's worth remembering that the decision to move to 4A was deliberate, with many opportunities for discussing the pros and cons. The future of the NIAA's classification system is the subject of considerable debate, and through our athletic director Bret Walter, we are active participants in those discussions.

One last thing about sports. Often we get complaints about a team being overlooked in the Crusader newsletter. Each coach is responsible for getting results and season summaries to Susan Gentry, who puts the publication together. She begs and pleads. Coaches are busy. If you want to help and have the skills, volunteer to help your coach put an article together. That way everyone wins.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Link to the President's Speech

The President's Speech to American Students

President Obama's Speech

We have initiated random drug testing; changed admissions standards; dropped skirts from the dress code; and moved the school to the 4A level of athletic competition -- but none of those issues generated the parental response as a speech to school kids by the President of the United States.  In the last 72 hours I have about 50 emails on the subject.  When I get three emails on the same subject I think the sky is falling!
This forum provides the opportunity to explain a bit more in depth why the school chose the route it did.  I have no illusions that it will make everyone happy, but I hope it will clear some misconceptions.
While the text of the President's speech is not yet available, I have absolute faith that the message he will deliver on Tuesday will be non partisan and wholly appropriate.  Encouraging students to stay in school, work hard, and set high goals (tasks mastered by an overwhelming percentage of our students) is admirable.  President Obama, as the nation's 1st African-American President, is also uniquely positioned to influence groups of students who have not  embraced education as a way out of poverty.  The President has a responsibility to all America's people and the fact that he is choosing to address the nation's future, both literally and figuratively, is laudable.  Given his skills as a speaker, there is even a better chance that his message might have some impact.
Schools should be actively involved in civics education.  Whether public or private, schools have a responsibility to educate students about our history and government.  President Obama's speech is a teachable moment.  It provides teachers with a real world opportunity to see how the curriculum interfaces with actual events.  The controversy about the speech itself provides further grist for discussion. Good teachers ask challenging questions.  They make sure students are exposed to all the facets of controversial issues.  Schools are absolutely the place for these kinds of discussions; but that does not imply that these discussions aren't also important for the family dinner table, on the way home from practice or in the casual moments between parents and students.
Faith is not a subsidiary of the Republican Party.  There is no doubt that the demographic makeup of our parents leans more conservatively.  And where matters of faith and politics interact (e.g., abortion, same-sex marriage, creationism) there is also little doubt that the platform of the GOP is more aligned with Lutheran (LCMS) theology.  But there are no edicts from the church or from the administration at school dictating political stances.  To the best of my recollection, the rare conversations I have with school personnel about politics are generally with non-teachers on our staff.  Except on those places where politics and theology interface, the school takes no position, officially or unofficially, on political matters.
Tuesday is a unique day at Faith.  It is an unscheduled minimum day so we can say goodbye to our friend and colleague, Eva Cruz.  It means class time will be reduced significantly, with relatively short notice to teachers. It would be imprudent for me to make the decision about the use of class time for nearly 100 teachers who are charged with getting students through the curriculum. If I was still a U.S. History or American Government teacher, I'd make time for it.  But the decisions I would make as a teacher are not the same as I make as an administrator.  I have to see the big picture.
There's no damage here.  Anyone who wants to see the President's speech will have ample opportunity to do so.  It will be on the White House website.  I expect there will be more than one opportunity to see it on CSPAN. I'm pretty certain it will be posted to YouTube moments after he's finished.  If you're unhappy your student did not have the opportunity to see it at school, what a great time to watch it with them, to take advantage of a teachable moment at home.
Finally, this episode illustrates a huge problem in our country, one I have as a student of politics seen develop over the last two decades.  Here is one of the fifty emails I received:  What a shame!  So, some of the teachers have strong political views, too, and I am sure that is not a factor------------Or his race.  Think about it from a perspective which mirrors the demographics of the families who send students and it make sense that this behavior by teachers would be tolerated.  How are the students ever going to be exposed to countervailing political and racial views?  Isn't it a shame we cannot disagree about something without disparaging the character of those on the other side?  We need a return to a more civil discourse. Little gets accomplished when all that is heard are raised voices and name-calling. 
I hope everyone who took the time to write or call will also take the time to listen to the speech tomorrow.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I have spent five of the last eleven days at two different conferences.  BLC'09 is a gathering of teachers, administrators, consultants and educational leaders who are committed to changing the ways students  are taught, largely but not exclusively, through the use of technology.  November Learning, the creation of educational consultant Alan November, puts together the conference which offers some cutting edge thinking on what schools should be doing.  
My favorite session however, had nothing to do with technology. Angela Maiers reminded those who attended her workshop about the important role schools play in the development of character.  Her theme dovetailed nicely with what I took away from The Leadership Summit, sponsored by the Willow Creek Association and hosted by Canyon Ridge Church.  Our faculty administrative team attended the two-day event in lieu of a retreat we hold this time of year.  It was time well spent.
A chunk of my time this summer has been spent in discussions about money.  Despite increasing financial aid by a third for next year, our funds are nearly exhausted.  Parents are still losing jobs on an almost daily basis, and students who have spent more than a third of their life at Faith face the prospect of not finishing at our school.  It is heartbreaking.  I have had families whose homes are in foreclosure say they would rather lose their house than give up a Faith education and I touched on that in March.
But over the last two days, the needs of other people were brought into sharp focus. There remain too many places where people live on about a dollar a day; there are too many places (one is too many) where children die from starvation; too many places where a simple $0.20 injection would prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child; too many places where the lack of clean water, mosquito netting or basic medical care shortens the lives of entire villages.
Even in the worst economic crisis many of us have ever seen, the Faith community is blessed beyond belief.  And while it is important that we attend to the needs of those hurting within driving distance of our school, we are doing our world a disservice if we don't engage our students with calamity facing peoples in Africa, Asia, South America and in the core of America's industrial centers.
One of my goals for our school is that our community (students, faculty, parents, churches) makes a difference in the world.  The issue is not resources, but will.  We see pockets now: MS servant event; food drives; Pennies for Patients, etc.  In eleven years here nothing made me prouder than our response to the Asian tsunami and the Gulf hurricanes three years ago. But I believe we can make a bigger impact through a sustained commitment to learning about the world around us, finding out where there is need, and developing (or joining) strategies to address the need.
I am not naive. I don't hope to end a world problem.  I just want Faith to be part of the solution.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Three weeks back from one of the best trips ever, it is good to get refocused on what is happening at Faith.  And a lot is happening.  The track looks brand new after a resurfacing. By the time school starts, our entire campus should be enclosed with fencing, which includes some security upgrades to the gates. Work has begun on the outdoor court areas to make them suitable for tennis practices.  The front office has new carpeting (which some people like and others think belongs in a casino). We are providing an outdoor set construction area for the drama department.  The art patio has been made more secure.  New lighting has been installed in the gym, library and cafeteria.

(At the forum in Pompeii)

We are working diligently on readying our roll-out of Apple Macs to the class of 2013.  Please check the school's website for details. Next week Mr. Orr and I will be traveling to Boston for the Building Learning Communities Conference sponsored by November Learning, one of the premier organizations in the country that supports transitioning to student centered, project-based schools that teacher higher order thinking skills.  Not surprisingly, technology plays a critical role in accomplishing that transition.

Hiring is complete.  We are excited to say hello to nine new teachers who bring a varied set of experiences to our school.

We have changed drug testing companies.  We are now working with American Toxicological Inc., a local company that will provide us with faster results at less expense.  That last point means we will be able to add 1-2 more rounds of random testing.

(At the entrance to the ancient Olympic Village)

Enrollment continues to look positive for the fall.  Currently over 1330 student are registered.  With the economy in the state it is in, that number is likely to go down.  While we have long waiting lists in grades 7 & 8.  Space may be available in other grades.  Contact Mrs. Carol Neal if you need specific information about enrolling a student.

Monday, April 27, 2009

White Flag Time

We are just a few days away from May, typically the busiest month of the school year.  The calendar is populated by awards ceremonies, concerts, plays, state athletic competitions and AP exams, just to list a few things.  There will abundant opportunities to support your children by showing up at events.  And while kids may pass off your non-attendance as no big deal, in reality, it is the opportunity to make a memory that may not present itself again.
In the past few days I threw away a t-shirt from the 1999 field day (it made for a great pajama top, although that may be TMI).  We don't have field days anymore, a victim of a growing school size.  Another tradition is being changed this year as we have done away with a separate event honoring our Faith Faithful, the group of students who have spent all seven years (six for FGS students).  Last year that event went on for three hours and we had a few more FFs this year.  We will honor them at a chapel and at graduation, but this separate ceremony was a victim of our growth.  
Bigger is not necessarily better and we are working hard to make sure that Faith does not lose its personal touch in spite of having more people to reach out and touch.  Bigger does mean opportunities that are not present for smaller schools, so as in many things, we take the good with the bad.