Greetings Berks Christian School Community,
In our state of the school address last spring, I announced that we would be clarifying our discipline policy to enhance communication and clarify our procedures. After a period of six months of collaboration between faculty, board, and the administrative team, that process is complete.
First, if you have not already, watch my six-minute video explanation here.
Then, I encourage you as a family to review our policy together. (PDF format)
In brief, we have created what we call the 3CR discipline policy. It is designed to bring our discipline firmly in line with our goals of discipleship and mentoring and to make our system clear for all stakeholders. This new policy is for all students K-12, we no longer have a separate system for elementary and secondary students.
Finally, we have differentiated between regular discipline, which will follow the systems discussed above and procedural discipline. Procedural discipline includes regulations on cell phone use, dress code, technology use, tardiness, and homework.
Again, for all of the details, please watch my video and read the full policy. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
I am thankful for all of the people that contributed to this project for the benefit of our student body. Discipline is not always a pleasant topic, but a necessary one. Our goal at BCS is not merely obedience, which of course we do desire, but flourishing. Flourishing is much more than only following the rules: it is experiencing the freedom we have as we mature in Christ.
GK Chesterton wrote, “The more I found that while Christianity had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” It is our heart’s desire that our students would do much more than obey to avoid punishment, but that they would find abundant and flourishing life as the obediently follow Christ.
Grace and Peace,
Greetings Berks Christian Family!
I hope you are all enjoying summer. We are busy here at the school getting ready for a new school year while still taking some time to relax. A few weeks ago I took my family to the beach, it was fun to watch my young children discover the joys of a new part of God’s creation.
Our major focus continues to be our ongoing work in curriculum and accreditation to ensure that the education provided here at BCS is excellent and constantly improving. I want to publically thank my teachers and our school board for the focused work they continue to invest in this project. We often talk about the phrase “educating the whole child.” This concept of ensuring our education reaches mind, body, and soul is a helpful paradigm for Christian education. Recently, one our staff members suggested that an even more helpful version of this concept might be “providing the child with a whole education.” This is the heart of Christian education and what drives us as a school. We strive to give our students a complete view of truth, understanding of God’s world and word, and their place in His story and His kingdom.
Let me also express an overdue thank you. This past spring, I celebrated the end of my tenth year at Berks Christian School. The school community provided a gracious gift, and the students a basket full of cards. I was surprised and honored. I can not express what a privilege it is to serve this community. Thank you for consistently demonstrating the love of Christ to me and to each other. It is by this the world will know and see the truth of Christ.
I often try and leave some recommendations for reading, and today I’ll leave you with two.
The first is a book, Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. This is a short little book useful to any of you looking on a Christian perspective on business. Mr. DeYong’s approach to the topic is practical and pastoral, and you will leave the book challenged and with practical information. Highly self-reflective and worth the read.
The second is an online article. Providing Direction to Young Men: 5 steps to take. by Tim Elmore. I recommend this article to anyone who has a young man in their house or under their influence. Tim Elmore is a leading expert on engaging millennials in the workplace, in education, and in the home. If you like this article, I recommend subscribing to this blog - it is always worth the read.
As always, our team is here to support you. If you have any questions about the start of the new school year, please just give us a call or send an email.
Grace and Peace,
Greetings Berks Christian Family,
Seven school days have been successfully completed, and the 13-14 school year is underway at BCS. It is a great joy to have students back in the classrooms, and to see the enthusiasm of our community come around our mission. I am personally excited to get to know our new families and to deepen connections with our returning ones. There are three things I would like to communicate today:
1. We had an excellent turn out at our Back to School night this year. Thank you for taking the time to attend and make sure we are all connected. If you weren't able to make it, please take the time to review the packet we sent home carefully and contact us with any questions you might have.
2. Pray for our school on a consistent basis. When we stay connected to our Father through prayer, we will be able to stay on course as a community. I'm thankful today for the partnerships in Tri-County Christian Schools. Yesterday, our three high schools came together for a wonderful day worshipping together and being challenged on the topic of leadership. Pray our high school students will carry this day with them.
3. Our mission statement for BCS is "BCS partners with families to create a community of learning that educates the whole student and cultivates Christ centered lives." Some of you may wonder what it means to partner with a school. I have enjoyed exploring that topic and I would list four primary ways that we partner as families and schools:
Grace and Peace,
II - Answering your questions.
Greetings BCS family. I’m going to take a few minutes this week to finish answering the questions that came in at the end of last year from a few of our parents for the town hall meeting. If you have other questions, I would love to answer them, simply leave them in the comments section of the blog. If you missed Part I of answering parent questions, please visit my previous post here.
What is this school's approach to student discipline and safety?
Let me discuss student discipline first. As with all aspects of the school, the approach to student discipline flows from our mission and vision. As a school, we desire to partner with families to create an environment of learning that educates the whole student and cultivates a Christ-centered life. This means that our primary goals are all related to discipleship - molding disciples of Christ. It is no coincidence that the word disciple and discipline are nearly the same word.
This mission of discipleship leads us to a relational model for discipline. Our goal is not simply obedience, but rather sanctification. Our desire is that discipline leads to a changed heart. This means that we deal with each student individually and relationally with each instance of discipline. Admittedly, not having a hard and fast system is more messy, and sometimes can appear on the surface level to be unfair. But it is the best way to partner with what is going on at home and give each student what is truly needed for deepening their discipleship.
I would encourage you to go back and read carefully the parent-student handbook on pages 19-21 for a more detailed look at our discipline philosophy and policy.
Student safety incorporates many things: physical, emotional, and social. Our physical safety includes training such as First Aid and CPR for our staff and emergency training drills. It also includes policies like sign in and sign out, door policies, medication procedures, and safety rules for students. These policies are constantly being reviewed and updated to create a continually safer environment for our students. Our mentoring program, Bible classes, discipleship programs, Bible studies, and intentional interactions between students and teachers help build opportunities and relationships for students to grow in their emotional and social lives. Our administration also has an open door to our families so that we can partner in the overall health of our children. I would again refer you to our handbook for more details on many of our safety guidelines.
What are the guidelines for what to expect when I log on to Renweb?
We get a lot of questions about Renweb, especially about assignments and homework. Primarily, Renweb is our database software, we use it to track all of the important information about our school and your student such as grades, homework, attendance, medical records, and contact information. Additionally, the ParentWeb feature gives parents and students the ability to login and see their own information. Ideally, we should see Renweb as an enhancement to communication, not a replacement. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when using the service:
1) Teachers make every effort to keep the homework assignments posted accurate and up to date. However, the primary responsibility falls to the student to write down the assignments each day and track them on their own. In elementary this happens through the Steno; in the secondary students should develop their own system. Renweb should be used as a backup when there is confusion or something has been forgotten, but it should not be the primary method.
2) Renweb can also be a checks and balances system. Teachers input many grades every day. There are sometimes errors or oversights. Renweb gives parents and students the ability to check in and notice if something seems incorrect. A quick communication with the teacher or office can quickly remedy small errors.
3) Generally speaking, our teachers input grades in a two week window. Often large tests or projects will not show up right away.
4) The system does have some bugs and limitations. We monitor the system carefully, but it does contain thousands of pieces of information for each student. With that much data, there are bound to be some flaws. They key is to remember that Renweb is a tool, but does not replace the relationships and community that we share at BCS. Our communication together should be enhanced by Renweb, but not replaced by it.
If you are ever having technical difficulty with the service, please don’t hesitate to call the office. One of our administrative team members will gladly assist you with resetting your password or troubleshooting a question about Renweb. We encourage all parents and secondary students to check in often.
How strong are we as an entity - enrollment, finances, future. Can you share anything as a directive for increased prayer and support?
This is a timely and challenging question. Quite honestly, I could probably write a book in response to this! I’ll do my best to give some details and prayer requests in the three areas mentioned.
Enrollment: Our enrollment is lower this year, however we did meet our projected goal. While we had a number of families choose to leave the school, we also had our largest enrollment of new families in many years. What that means is that God has provided a fresh group of families to work together at BCS. We do need to now grow again as we look to next year. Please pray for new families to join us and for our scholarship programs to grow. You can support enrollment by volunteering on the development team (contact Beth Bromwell) and by talking to other people about the value of Christian Education. Nothing helps the school grow more than a referral from someone who sees the importance in what we do. You will all be receiving more details about our referral program within the coming weeks. Imagine the impact on our community if each family referred one additional family to our school.
Finances: As is no surprise to no one, our finances are tight and we are working hard to be responsible with our limited resources in a challenging economy. However, “limited” and “challenging” do not apply to God. It has been a pure joy to see God provide exactly what we needed for this year. We met our budgetary goals without losing programming in a very challenging year. We should not sugar coat where we currently stand, but we can stand in awe and thankfulness for God’s provision. As we move forward please pray for growth of scholarship funds, increased giving from alumni, and continued provision from God. You can support our finances by talking to business leaders about EITC and OSTC. This is the biggest source of funding we can grow and also allows us to give more financial aid and scholarship to let more families join our community. Join us in prayer by continuing to pray for God’s provision in many different ways.
Future: Our future is strong because God is making us strong. Our focus is on growth because
our mission demands it. And so we plan and push ahead looking for every avenue to fulfill our mission better. We could point to some of our programs as indicators of our future such as ACSI accreditation, new classes in the high school, etc., but we can put our hope in these things. The only thing we can hope in is God’s hand of blessing. Our organization will continue to strengthen as we humbly follow the voice of our Great Shepherd.
Pray for our leadership, our board, administrative team, our teachers. Pray for students to be impacted by the gospel, and to grow deeply in their discipleship. Pray for the reflective nature of BCS, that we would shine God’s love brightly in our community. And pray for each other; we are a community and we must be committed not to the school, but to each other.
Grace and Peace,
And now for something a little bit different. For this blog post, I’ll be answering a few of the questions that were submitted by parents for last week’s town hall meeting. It is my strong desire to keep parents updated and connected to the school, our mission, and our program. I’m glad to engage in some of these questions today and will answer a few more next blog post. If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Can accreditation be explained, and where are we exactly in that process. What are the positives of accreditation, and the negatives for not yet being accredited?
Accreditation can be explained, and I will be more than glad to do so. Accreditation is a tool that challenges us toward self-improvement and creates internal and external accountability so that we fulfill our ministries with excellence. In our case, we are pursuing accreditation with ACSI and Middle States. Of course, even without accreditation, we are constantly self-evaluating and improving our programs. However, accreditation, developed by experienced professionals outside of our organization, serves as a fixed reference point helping us to better facilitate effective self-evaluation.
The ACSI program is a three year program that we began in October with our formal application. We have met with our regional director to outline a plan and a strategy. After a few pieces of preparatory work, we will begin the two year self-study this Spring. The self-study leads us through evaluating and improving 92 indicators of school excellence. After the self-study is complete, an accreditation team visits the school to do a final evaluation.
I will keep the school family updated on the process as we go. The bottom line is this - this significant investment will help to improve our school in a systematically proven way from top to bottom. We appreciate your prayer as we enter into this rigorous program.
The positive points of accreditation are primarily that we have a formalized program for school improvement, have comparison benchmarks outside of our school, and have stronger marketing with broader approval through a recognized organization. It essentially ensures the quality of our program. The major negative of being thus far unaccredited is that some of our credits are not recognized by out of state Boards of Education for transferring students. (They are recognized everywhere in PA.) Once we are accredited, our credits will be recognized everywhere in the US. This only affects students transferring to other high schools, not to colleges..
How does the new model for class selection work for high school students? I would like to know how that can be done more effectively so when students are given options of what they want to take that they are able to then take those classes.
I understand the concern of this parent regarding our new class selection model for the high school. Historically, we did not offer many choices for our high school students. If you were in 10th grade, the schedule was set and all of your classmates took the same classes as you. As we have expanded our options, we have focused on adding both diversity in class offerings and honors level courses.
With more options, students sometimes will need to choose. Certain classes have to be offered at the same time and so students may not be able to take both and will have to decide between two appealing options. We create the schedule carefully so that each student gets the classes they need and has as many options as possible. In many cases, if a class is not available, a student can take the same course in a future year.
Can you provide a curriculum update?
Curriculum is on all of our minds right now as a staff - because it is the first item that we have to tackle on our road to accreditation. Right now, all of our curriculum is being updated and evaluated on all levels and in all subject areas to prepare for the accreditation self-study. (See more on accreditation in the first question.) This directly benefits the classroom as we evaluate the tools and processes we use in each class. Time is also spent on reviewing biblical integration, assessment tools, and instructional materials. This process ensures we are using current resources and the best educational techniques. Once this process is complete, we will enter a cycle where a few curriculums will be evaluated every year so that each area is assessed on a 5 year rotation. Curriculum essentially works as an evaluative tool for teachers in a few areas. It helps us create unit plans, select appropriate textbooks and materials, and provide benchmarks of success for each subject area.
How does this school encourage and monitor students' progress toward meeting grade-level standards?
The most important issue in monitoring student achievement is quality and consistent assessment by the classroom teachers. There is a two-pronged approach to this issue. The first is to ensure that we have the highest quality curriculum in place being taught by qualified and expert teachers. These two items are guided by curriculum review processes and our teacher professional growth and development plans. The second is to carefully assess each student against our curriculum, in a consistent manner, with informal and formal assessments. This gives us the data we need to track each student.
We also use standardized testing scores as an outside source to aid in tracking student progress. BCS gives the Terra-Nova standardized test to most of our grade levels and also uses PSAT and SAT scores as benchmarks for our older students.
What is Berks Christian School?
This is, on some level, a silly question. One could safely say that the answer is found right in the question itself. Or, as my calculus teacher used to be famous for saying, "the answer is intuitively obvious to the casual observer." (as a side note, this was highly irritating to students like myself struggling through his limits and derivatives.)
Of course, Berks Christian is a school. We have teachers, students, books, and bells. Lessons are presented, homework is assigned, and tests are crammed for. (Well, I am a realist after all.) We learn to read, recite, and reason. We practice multiplication, musical scales, and scripture memorization. We create timelines, compile book reports, and code webpages. But for all of this (and much more), it seems a surface definition of who we are. Webster may be happy but my heart finds it wanting.
I think a better description of Berks Christian is a learning community. The word community speaks to some deeper truths of who we are: an interacting population with a shared history, and unified motivations. We are people who have joint ownership and participation, sharing a like goal and fellowship. In this model, we are not just our roles (teachers, students, parents) but we are participants in a shared community centered around what brings us together - Christian education.
But perhaps best of all, we are a learning family. In this model, we are not just a community circled around a common goal, but we are members of a family centered around a common leader - Jesus Christ. And that's what a family is: a group of individuals with a common ancestry, under one head, and unified by our shared characteristics. We don't necessarily always agree (or get along) but we do share a familial bond. This bond is the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit. From this springs our learning, exploring, growing and discipling.
As many times as I can put put pen to paper (er, that is... fingers to keyboard) I will say it: BCS is all about Jesus, because everything is about Jesus! He is the head of our learning community.
Since we are best described as family, I now have a question to pose to you: Do you treat BCS like a hotel or like a home? Are we on vacation, or are we caring for our living space in the rhythms of daily life?
You know how it goes at a hotel. You've paid for the room and you have certain expectations. But the only expectation for yourself is that you've paid, and you are there to enjoy the experience. You don't bother to make the bed or hang up the towels. Someone else will pick up that wrapper on the floor. If something breaks, just dial the front desk. And your food can be brought to the door while you flip through the channels. Any mess isn't your problem and you might even just make one for the fun of it, because we've got no intention of staying past checkout time.
At home of course, it's a different ballgame. Not only do we clean up after ourselves, but we train our children to do the same. We take careful assessment of our home and prioritize projects to take care of. We'll spend some of our spare time making improvements and upgrades because we know this where we spend most of our time and we want it to be nice. We'll even pull out the fridge every once and a while to clean the dust that has accumulated. (Well, some of us do.) The point is, we value our home - we take care of it. There's a sense of ownership and responsibility.
I think the application of the analogy is fairly intuitive. Being part of BCS is an investment, and not just a financial one. We've got common goals and shared responsibilities. If BCS is truly going to be a family, we must choose to treat BCS like our educational home, not educational hotel.
So Berks Christian School family, I challenge you. Will you treat BCS like your educational home? Will you commit your family to be a fully engaged part of the BCS family? For God's glory, will you take ownership in the school that is yours - the families, the stakeholders? Dig in - pick up some towels off the floor, start on that new deck expansion, patch the hole in the wall, or just help to put the dishes away after dinner. Each of us have a part to play, what's yours?
To make sure that I give credit where it is due, I owe the metaphor of "Hotel and Home" to Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.
Grace and Peace my friends! (and welcome home!),
New to the reading recommendations this week (see links above)
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.