Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Compromise Nothing?

I am the father of a soon-to-be-school-aged son. Like many parents in our position my wife and I have been investigating preschools. Both of us attended Christian grade schools, and the Grand Rapids Christian Schools seemed a natural for the short list. While we are still considering GRCS, I have become increasingly uneasy with the way GRCS has chosen to promote itself. Granted promotional campaigns only scrape the surface of the entity they are representing, but ideally they should capture the entity’s most unique, desirable attributes.

I was particularly disappointed to open the GRCS website and see the slogan “Compromise Nothing”—a statement that seems to be in contradiction to the Christianity I know. Jesus asked his followers to do more than compromise. He asked them to sacrifice their comfort, their safety, their families and their finances for the sake of the Kingdom. Why would I, as a Christian, want to send my child to a school that seems to advocate otherwise?

I wanted to make sure I understood this correctly so I posed this question along with my concerns to GRCS leadership. They were kind enough to reply. Basically what they said was that the Compromise Nothing message was really a call-to-action to Christian parents who might consider choosing public schools over GRCS schools. According to their research many of these Christian parents choose their local public school because the program offerings are perceived as being broader than what a private school could offer. It was explained that Compromise Nothing communicated that at GRCS you could have as strong an education as any public school and in addition have a have Christ-centered approach.

To me, this explanation of Compromise Nothing seems to present GRCS as a cake - that is just as academically good as the public school’s cake - but with the Christ-centered approach as icing. What I would have liked to hear is how faith infuses and changes the cake itself. How is a Christian education something different at GRCS, something unique—something worthy of making a compromise, or even a sacrifice for?

I also question whether GRCS’s research is reaching all potential voices. Are the majority of Christian parents in Grand Rapids sending their kids to the public schools because of better programs or extracurricular activities? More often I have heard about the burden of tuition and more notably a perception that the GRCS schools are not significantly different than the public or charter schools. My concern is that by positioning itself as just-as-academically-good-as-the-public-schools, GRCS will inadvertently play into this perception.

I am very grateful to my parents for sending me to Christian schools. They compromised their time, finances, and lifestyle to make it possible. And we did make compromises at the school too. We did not “have it all.” But these sacrifices made it possible for more people to attend. The value of Christian education was worth it. My hope is that GRCS can present itself as being equally worthy of sacrifice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amendments to the Amendments: A Brief Update

A reminder that the full membership of the Grand Rapids Christian Schools is voting on the Amended Articles and Bylaws put forward by the Board of Trustees at the annual meeting, March 15, 7pm, in the CAW. Those who are unable to attend can submit an absentee ballot by mail, fax, or in person. Note that absentee ballots are due to the GRCS administrative offices by 4pm on Monday, March 15.

It should be noted that, in response to the sorts of concerns voiced here, the Board of Trustees actually revisited one key issue in the time between the town hall meetings and their BOT meeting before the documents were distributed to the membership. In particular, they revisited the suggested amendment that would have concentrated the power to amend the articles and bylaws exclusively to the BOT. In the final version distributed to the membership, they add the following qualification and procedural step:

"The power to initiate amendments to the Restated Bylaws, other than the doctrinal basis set forth therein, is reserved exclusively to the Board of Trustees. Any such amendment that is approved by the Board of Trustees is subject to final approval by an affirmative vote of a majority of members present in person, by proxy, or by absentee ballot at a regular or special meeting of the members."
I appreciate the responsiveness of the BOT in this way. I don't think it allays all of our concerns, particularly given how the membership has been largely disenfranchised over the past decade. But I do want to go on record in recognizing this instance of responsiveness to some of our concerns.

Other concerns (articulated earlier) remain. Whatever the outcome of this process, it's very important that a wide representation of the membership take the time to vote on or by Monday, March 15 in order to take ownership of GRCS as, in Kuyperian terms, a "parent-run" society for Christian education (or, as the GRCS Bylaws articulates it: "The authority and responsibility for educating children resides in the parents or guardians of the children and not in the state or the church.").