Thursday, January 31st, 2019 marked the time once again for our annual Williamsburg Christian Academy State of the School address. The yearly event, which also kicks off the pre- and re-enrollment drive for the 2019-2020 school year, is an opportunity for the WCA Board of Directors and leadership team to share exactly what the name implies: the current state of the school, which includes plans for the following school year and special additional news and programs.
In this year, WCA’s 40th anniversary, the event theme was clear from every speaker that arrived behind the microphone. That WCA is God’s school, and that our identity and focus is what it has been for 40 years, seeking God in everything we do, and letting the Holy Spirit guide us as He has through thick and thin throughout the many years.
The address was kicked off by Dr. Doug Kinder, Vice President of the Board, with a prayer to guide the conversation for the day. “Father, forty years ago a group of people came together to form a Christian school here in Williamsburg. They didn’t have a facility, they didn’t have a faculty or a staff, and they had very little in the way of financial resources, but they had the trust and confidence that You had called them to take this enormous project on, ” Kinder prayed. “And we know when You call You also enable and at the end we find that the result is that this school, Williamsburg Christian Academy has impacted countless young children for the last forty years for Jesus Christ.”
Kinder continued by reading our vision aloud and emphasized that our mission states that in the end, we are aiming to graduate Christ-centered leaders. This focus, according to Dr. Kinder is our DNA as a school and represents our non-negotiable core values. That the excellence of the academics that we offer are certainly important, as they are in any school (public or private), but that WCA takes that one step further by our emphasis on moving our students towards spiritual maturity, so they live Christ-centered lives. This never happens, Kinder asserted, without a faculty and staff that not only teach the Word, but live the Word as well and serve as Christian examples to their students. Dr. Kinder lauded our faculty on being precisely that example to our students.
In closing his portion of the night’s presentation, Dr. Kinder gave a brief update on the Head of School search. Initially, when the Board‘s search committee started, there were over 50 resumes submitted that were solicited through sources like ASCI and job listing sites, which was whittled down to approximately a dozen candidates. The specially appointed search committee includes board members Kinder, Jane Vaught and Bill Wright and former upper school teacher and current faculty development advisor Dr. Dianna Lindsay. These candidates were narrowed down by the board, and eventually, one candidate emerged as a front runner who was asked to visit the school. There were a few things to work out with that candidate, but it appeared as though those things could be worked out, and the board felt strongly they’d be naming a new head of school, maybe even as soon as the second semester. Although the board was ready to appoint the candidate as our new head of school, the true Head of our school decided this was not the person to lead us forward. The sides could not come to a consensus on the points of division, so the board has reopened the search and is ramping up the tempo through use of a firm that specializes in finding Head of School candidates. The board will continue to update our school community as developments continue in that process, which is genuinely on His schedule, not ours! The good news, though, Kinder stated, was that despite the lack of a person sitting in that Head of School chair, that the school year was running as smoothly as any in recent memory, and that is all due to the incredible team of leaders we have in Head of Administration Rob Campbell, Upper School Principal Beth Fletcher, and Lower School Principal Michelle Flanagan.
Mr. Kinder was followed by both Fletcher and Flanagan, who echoed Doug’s sentiments on the fact that the school year has been amazing and a full demonstration by God that He is in charge. Fletcher pointed to the fact that this year, in the wake of some challenges in past years, was started a focus on two primary goals: to reintroduce service to the upper school to thank God and honor Him and to elevate the rigor of the academic curriculum and coursework. “Our 6th through 12th graders have already served at Williamsburg Landing, Housing Partnerships, Dreamcatchers, Grove Christian Outreach, in addition to the many hours that those students have spent disciplining to our younger students in our prayer buddies program,” Fletcher explained. “Academically, we are pleased. Our middle schoolers are describing their writing assignments, and our high schoolers are describing their AP classes as more rigorous….actually what they are saying is ‘They are SOOOO hard!’. We realize that asking students to read difficult pieces of literature and to write in a cohesive, well-structured way is hard. We also know these are not necessarily fun for them but are vital for their academic growth and preparation for college.” Fletcher also pointed out several upcoming Upper School events, such as Spiritual Emphasis week, which will occur the week prior to Easter and will culminate in Flowering of the Cross, as well as the mission trip that will bring our juniors and seniors to Jamaica to build a classroom at the school for the deaf and visit orphans.
Michelle Flanagan echoed the unity that has existed in the leadership team this year as a significant factor in how smoothly the year has gone, and that unity has extended to the team of Lower School as well. She also pointed to the emphasis for the lower grades on spiritual growth and development. “If you were to peer into the classroom you would see daily reading and opening of the Word of God,” Flanagan related,”And that being said, if our teachers are not growing spiritually themselves that won’t be a priority, so we need to carve that time for our Lower School teachers to study the Bible together.” Flanagan also set two dates to circle on your calendar, as she will be holding two coffees to have your questions answered on February 21st and 28th at 8 AM in the library. She was quick to point out that if you cannot make either of those dates, however, she is always available by personal appointment.
The discussion continued as Head of Administration Rob Campbell stepped forward to bring good news that we will see just a modest increase in tuition rates, while fees are remaining unchanged for the 2019-2020 school year, news he credited to our many donors, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who regularly bridge the gap between collected tuition and actual operating costs. “For those that are giving, it is a tremendous honor they tell me all the time do that,” said Campbell. “They believe that it is absolutely critical that the next generation has every opportunity to hear the Word of God and to experience Christian community in their everyday life. And that’s why these very beloved donors do that.”
Our donors have supported us so faithfully, that Campbell unveiled one of the most ambitious school growth initiatives in the history of WCA. The launch of the new Student Referral Plan allows parents of students at WCA to partner with our donors to grow our classrooms and the resultant diversity and strengthening of all of our programs by giving a gift to families that they have always felt strongly would benefit from the Christ-centered education that is our ministry. Effective immediately, currently enrolled families from WCA can refer new students in specifically targeted grades in which WCA is seeking to grow, and upon enrollment, those families will receive a 25% tuition credit. This credit is not exclusive, either, so it is applied to net tuition after other scholarships and discounts, such as the military discount, are applied, putting a WCA education in reach of more students than ever before. Campbell explained the significance of this program, “This is a phenomenal way to introduce WCA to your friends and your relatives, to give them the opportunity to share in what is happening at WCA, to share the love of Christ and open that door.”
The implications for growth in such a plan are tremendous, but the great news doesn’t end there. Campbell explained that in addition to this substantial discount for these new families, for every student enrolled as a result of a WCA family referral, that family will ALSO receive 25% off their own student’s tuition for EVERY new student referred who subsequently enrolls. If that weren’t enough of a reason to get out there and share your WCA success stories to families that would be a fantastic addition to our school, the discount stays in place year after year until one or the other student unenrolls or graduates, saving both families thousands of dollars in tuition yearly.
There are a few nuances, and terms and conditions concerning the program, so full packages on the program were handed out at the event, and are available for pickup at the front desk. There is also a dedicated website for WCA parents to visit that completely describes the parameters of the program, provides an online mechanism for referring to new families and contains an extensive list of frequently asked questions.
Wrapping up the event’s presenters was new Admissions Officer and WCA alum Cassie Bradshaw (’02), who followed Campbell’s description with a call to action to share this wonderful school with all those who would benefit from our ministry, as she benefited when she attended, and as her children now do in the Lower School. Cassie also placed a significant emphasis on getting out this month and re-enrolling. “If you are like me, you are looking at the calendar and wondering why do I need to worry about this now when school starts in August,” quipped Bradshaw. “But it is important that we start to plan for next year. Those decisions to make our programs as great as possible and to hire the teachers we need to hire need to happen now, and your early enrollment allows us to make those decisions in confidence heading into the summer.” Getting all students re-enrolled now also shows great strength to prospective students, as the admissions department has the ambitious goal of adding seventy-five new students or more to WCA for 2019-2020.
The final act of the evening was a new addition to this year’s event, the choosing of the winners of a lottery entered by all attendees for the prize of four $150 re-enrollment processing fee waiver certificates. Congratulations to Diane Woodside-Johnson and Deborah Giese who won the morning session prizes, and to Myrlene Davis and Eric and Nicole Reed who won in the evening session.