Completing Rather Than Competing

Having retired from working in secondary public schools after 34 years of service, and now having completed my fourth year as Headmaster at Grace Academy, I have had the opportunity to watch and participate in developing a new paradigm of Christian cooperation.

Coming into the private school culture I was faced with a new and strange reality. The reality was that local Christian schools did not work together but often acted as heated competitors, evidenced on more than just the athletic field. Coming from the public world where working together was the norm and not the exception, I found this lack of trust and cooperation anti-thematic to our Christian tenets. So, I set out to change that.

I sent a letter out to all the neighboring Christian schools inviting them to a meeting where the major topic would be finding ways of “working together.” At the initial meeting we had nine schools represented. Today, I am happy to report that four schools have formed a steady nucleus for the group which has been marching forward since that initial meeting. All it took was courage to call the first meeting.

The first collaborative act was to get our “business managers” together to discuss common points where we could join forces. We found many points of collaboration where, by sharing and pooling our efforts, significant savings have occurred. We are working together on such simple tasks as common ordering of janitorial supplies and seriously looking at the possibility of consortium insurance policies. The collegiality has led to many discussions that are ongoing.

The second action we took as a collaborating community was to offer our first large group professional development activity. Our first theme was “unity within our community.” Our focus was technology and the potential “dark side” it poses to our families and communities. It was an overwhelming success. We shared all the costs, which made the training affordable for all. This year we are bringing in an author to work with our faculty on the topic of “teaching how to learn in a what to learn culture.” These professional seminars have reaped significant benefit to make us more competitive with our public school neighbors.

Another initiative that has jump started with our consortium is the connection to international students and programming. We are partnering with a Christian school in Korea who is sending middle school aged students to us for a one year experiential program. We have shared this connection with our collaborating schools with the hope of hosting 200 students when the program is fully initiated. This has widened our horizon of influence and increased our cultural diversity, plus it helps us maintain fiscal stability and grow our academic programs both in rigor and scope.

We have connected our students through shared chapel speakers and off-site retreats. Through fostering a “common brethren” attitude where similarities are seen and not the differences, we are significantly growing our students.

What’s next? Two of our schools have decided to jointly hire a high school principal. The goal is to help to bring our schools closer together and save a substantial amount of money.

This is a work in progress. It is far from finished but we clearly see God is directing us by opening doors of opportunity.The dialog and trust we have developed is worth more than money.

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 it is written that a three strand cord is not easily broken. We are seeing that collaboration, collegiality and commonality gives great worth to our efforts. There are significant cost savings to working together. They are most easily realized through bulk purchases and sharing resources and professional expertise. However, the largest benefit is that we are advancing the work God has given us to equip and train the next generation. This is a road not to be traveled alone. It is not about competing, but rather about completing each other.

By Jack Appleby