The late Ed Koch, Mayor of New York City from 1977 to 1989, was famous for asking his constituents, the residents of the five boroughs, “How’m I doing?”
During the recent annual meeting of the Eastern Christian School, our members gathered to approve Eastern Christian’s 2014-15 budget and to consider the question, “How are we doing?”
To this end, I would like to share with you information as to how Eastern Christian is:
- Engaging the minds of its students, preparing competent young Christians who are able to articulate a Christian worldview in today’s society
- Nurturing their spirits, preparing young men and women who model the character and compassion of our Lord
- Impacting the lives of the young people entrusted to us
- Enabling the mission of engaging, nurturing and transforming
Engaging the Mind
The Eastern Christian school community has provided us with an incredible opportunity to partner with parents and Christian churches in engaging the minds of our young people in a society which is competing for their thoughts and attention. So it is really important that we ensure that the teaching taking place in our classrooms is effective. To this end, we have been engaged in three major initiatives throughout this year.
The first of these initiatives is a comprehensive curriculum review and revision. This process began three years ago with a review of our Preschool – 12 Bible curriculum which resulted in a map of what we taught our students about the Bible over the course of the entire span of years that we have the privilege of serving them. In this process we saw certain gaps and certain overlaps, which enabled us to revise and update our Bible courses into a unified curriculum. This year, every teacher in Eastern Christian is engaged in the process of mapping the curriculum that they teach, with particular emphasis on language arts and mathematics, and over the next several years we will complete the massive task of mapping, revising and updating the curriculum in every discipline that we teach.
This year we have begun a series of school-wide investments in instructional technology to ensure that our students are prepared for their continuing educational and working lives in a world in which technological literacy is an absolute requirement. This year we have established a group of 20 teachers who have committed significant time and effort to becoming experts in the use of instructional technology in their classrooms, and next year will become the teachers and coaches for their colleagues. Next year we will be embarking on a significant investment in providing our students with greater access to technology in their classrooms – i-Pads at the Elementary School, additional classroom sets of Chromebooks for our 5th and 6th graders, a 1-to-1 Chromebook initiative in 7th and 8th grade, and a “bring your own device” initiative at the high school.
And we have continued to work on enhancing an already excellent early childhood program by continuing to work with one of the nation’s foremost experts in early childhood education who has been coaching our teachers and periodically sharing his perspectives with our parents.
Working with the students you have entrusted to us truly is an incredible opportunity and we are doing everything possible to communicate a culture of excellence in our classrooms.
Nurturing the Spirit
Make no mistake about it, there is a battle going on for the hearts and minds of our students. That is why it is more critically important than ever before that we partner together to nurture the spirits of our students and engage them in God’s plan of restoration. Eastern Christian works to accomplish this part of its mission in numerous ways, but three in particular come to mind.
Faith is integrated into every discipline that we teach. We want our students to understand the world’s big issues and to understand the role that Christians are called to play in addressing these issues. That’s why students in our Elementary School come alongside children with cancer at St. Jude’s Hospital, collect coats, hats and gloves for our poor and homeless brothers and sisters served by Madison Avenue Crossroads Ministries, and collect food for the hungry. That’s why our Middle School students engage in year-long “Make a Difference” projects to learn about issues like homelessness, illiteracy, and disability concerns and to partner with local organizations in very practical ways to serve our brothers and sisters who face these challenges. That’s why our high school students participate in mission trips around the nation and around the world, and initiate and lead efforts to learn and inform others about tough issues like human trafficking.
Nurturing the spirit is encouraged by the adoption of a set of core values that we have accepted as a school and which you will see displayed on all three of our campuses. Core values such as Seeking Truth, Serving Others, Embracing Community, Exhibiting Compassion, Developing Responsibility, Striving for Excellence. We are very grateful that our school’s efforts in character education were recognized last month by way of our designation as a New Jersey State School of Character. We are one of only 48 schools and one of only 4 school districts nationwide to be so recognized.
Lastly, nurturing the spirit is encouraged by establishing an atmosphere of worship throughout our school. This sense of reverence for our Creator and Redeemer is encouraged through our community worship each week on all of our campuses, by small group meetings and classroom devotions.
Preparing young men and women of character – truly an awesome responsibility.
Transforming the World!
Our goal is to partner with our school community to prepare the young people entrusted to us to transform the world, to make a difference in the service of God’s Kingdom.
To measure the effectiveness of these efforts, we look at our graduate profile which establishes the goal for each of our graduates on the June evening on which they leave our school. Our graduate profile states that goal as follows:
“The Eastern Christian graduate is prepared to be a person of Christian vision and influence and seeks to contribute cooperatively and responsibly to God’s mission of renewing all of creation.”
When we look more closely at the college and career choices made by our graduates, we believe that the work of this school is being blessed. Each year, about 95% of our graduates go onto college, many continue onto graduate and professional education thereafter, and then onto productive careers that afford them the opportunity to lead lives of service to the Kingdom.
Truly, a cause for thanksgiving.
Enabling the mission
On a very practical level, what are we doing to enable this mission of transformation? I want to briefly touch on four areas as we consider the way in which this mission is enabled.
There are few endeavors that are more intensely personal than education, and we believe that the people who have the greatest influence on our young people, besides their parents, are their teachers. And so we are continually investing in our faculty and staff to enable them to make a career of working in Christian education.
Within the last year, we have established new professional development pathways for them. The budget approved for the 2014-15 school year includes an increase in salary so that teachers and staff members are can afford to continue to work at Eastern Christian and support their families. Within the last year we have established a working relationship with benefits firm ADP Total Source so that we are able to provide a competitive, comprehensive benefit package to our employees on a basis that is cost effective for our school.
In the admissions and marketing area, we have been working on numerous ways of more effectively telling Eastern Christian’s story and communicating our vision for the impact of an excellent Christian education. We are in the midst of a re-branding effort and are building a re-designed website to help better serve our current families and those who are searching for an excellent Christian education for their children.
We continue to invest in our facilities to make them safe, attractive and functional learning environments. Two years ago, the early childhood wing of Eastern Christian Elementary School was extensively re-decorated. Last summer, renovations were completed on the Elementary School playground, the Middle School Media Center, the High School computer network, and in thirteen student and faculty restrooms on all three campuses. In the summer of 2014, we plan to extensively renovate the original wing of the Elementary School with new doors, windows, ceilings, floors, heating and electrical systems so that our students will be welcomed back to a practically new school building when they return to school in September.
We continue to work hard to keep Christian education affordable for the families that we serve. We are thankful for God’s incredible blessings on our supporting businesses and activities and the work of our Foundation which combine to provide more than 20% of the funding for the operation of our school, thereby reducing the need for further tuition increases.
So, “How are we doing?” We are incredibly blessed by a loving God who has continued to provide for Eastern Christian School in more ways than we can count throughout the last year as we have pursued the mission of.
Engaging the mind – preparing Christian leaders of competence.
Nurturing the spirit – preparing Christian leaders of character.
Transforming the world – making a difference in the service of the Kingdom.
Enabling the mission – making investments in the next generation of Christian leaders!