Making Plans

I have benefited tremendously by having Dr. Daugherty continue to carry most of the day-to-day management responsibilities.  That has allowed me to focus on meeting the team, improving the web site and drafting a plan for the future.  Drafting that plan and meeting the team has better enabled me to answer interested parties question about what are our strengths and opportunities.  Additionally, in the last Board meeting, I shared with the Board my initial thoughts on this plan.  These ideas and initiatives are based on Board perspective, interviews with faculty and staff, discussions with Dr. Daugherty and the leadership team, training from experts in the field of education, and conversations with parents, vendors and other stakeholders.  I am excited about what would happen in this ministry if God would provide the resources to accomplish this plan.

However, as I have been giving a lot of brain time to considering these plans, God has been faithful in reminding me that I should hold any plans I, we, make loosely.  He directs us to plan Luke 14:28 and know the times I Chronicles 12:32, but He also says that the plans we make should be held loosely due to His sovereignty Proverbs 16:9.  We can be more confident in our plans if we make them in concert with His expressed will from His Word, if we bathe them in prayer, and if we make our plans based on where His is already working.

That is where you come in.

  1. Will you be intentional over the next 90 days to help me and the leadership team, as we work on documenting a plan that is based on the three principles above?  Specifically, will you pray that the Lord will give us wisdom.  That He will help us resist the urge to rely solely on man’s intellect and perspective.
  2. Additionally will you share with me where you see God working today in or around our school so that we can make sure our plans intentionally seek to join Him in that work?

I am excited about where God has the school today and the potential for the ministry in the future.  My desire is that we present these plans to the Board for final approval and buy in at the January Board meeting.  Based on their approval, I would like to present to an investment team in February.  The Lord has provided 5 individuals to date who will be at that meeting.  I will be asking others – hopefully another dozen or more – to join that team.  The hope is that the Board and this investment group will serve as the lead givers in funding the strategies expressed in this plan.  I will present the plan as an opportunity for them to be used by God to further His ministry.  Would you prayerfully consider whether God has prepared you financially and in your heart to be part of that group?  If the Lord provides these lead gifts, I will then seek various means of communicating that plan to faculty, staff, parents and other interested stakeholders.

I covet your prayers!

Work Day

Ever since I joined the Maranatha Family when my daughter started 5th grade, I have seen the great giving spirit of so many in the Family.  It has been a joy to work alongside many of you.  When we built the garage/shed at the North Campus, I got to meet a lot of wonderful people, learn of their hearts for Maranatha, and see their hearts in action as they labored in love.  Many times that volunteer spirit happens on the spur of the moment.  I have seen it numerous times after basketball games as parents and students step up to help clean up the gym.  Of course there are the tireless volunteers that show up at school on a regular basis to bless our teachers and staff in a wide variety of ways of service.

This Saturday starting at 8:30am and then again on Monday after the MAP meeting (approximately 10:00am), we are going to have work days focused on optimizing our storage space.  When so many people use the same limited space to store items, the space can become cluttered quite quickly.  Then items start spilling over into publicly viewable areas and making those spaces appear cluttered.  So, before we look for more space to store things, we are going to work on better utilization of the space we have.

On Saturday, I need helpers who can help carry items, sort items, mark items, clean, and re-organize.  We will be starting with the garage/shed at the North Campus.  We will pull everything out.  Throw away what will not be used.  Then we will organize the rest of the items back in the garage.  We will then attempt to do the same with the storage room above the West end of the Gym.  Next up will be a storage area in the basement of the North Campus and then a storage closet/room at the South Campus.  Whatever we don’t complete on Saturday will be tackled on Monday.

I will be there as will other members of the staff to help sort, decide on the disposition of items and how to re-organize items.  Please come help.  It will be fun and maybe you will meet another member of the Maranatha Family that you have not had the privilege of doing so yet.

Dollars and Sense

When you are close to a situation, you often take for granted that everyone has the same perspective and level of information that you have.  That tendency has been emphasized for me as I have visited with various people around the school.  For example, do you realize that 95% of our expenses are covered by tuition?  The balance is covered by fundraising such as our 12:44 Auction, Corporate Sponsors and the generosity of donors.

Several points concerning this equation: 1) as I talk with other schools and non-profits, they are amazed at what we have been able to accomplish the level of our tuition rates without having an endowment.  It is surprising to me to hear what other schools are charging until I hear what they are able to accomplish.  They are able to pay very competitive salaries, they are able to have more staff, and more resources to reach more kids.  2) Being so reliant on tuition and since almost all of our families are on a monthly payment plan, we are heavily dependent on the timely and complete payment of tuition to meet our obligations for operations .

So what are the outcomes you see and hear because of this situation?  Well, any actions, processes, etc that we put in place to encourage timely payment are designed to help Maranatha keep a good reputation with our vendors and to be faithful to those who work here by providing timely payroll payment.  Any growth – that includes pay raises, new programs, new anything – has no other source of income other than raising tuition, adding more students or increasing our reliance on donations.  As I presented to the Board last night, I am working on some additional ideas that could relieve this pressure.  However until that time you can help us be effective in this ministry by doing the following:

  1. Pay tuition on time and completely
  2. Give generously to the scholarship fund or to operations as the Lord provides
  3. Encourage other families to consider Maranatha
  4. Be actively engaged in opportunities that don’t cost you anything but raise funds for Maranatha: Scrip, cell phone recycling, selling gold jewelry, etc

We are working on improving that tuition to fund growth equation.  We are improving our marketability and our marketing to attract and retain students.  We are optimizing our preschool so that profits from this business helps with cost of the other schools.  I am building a Leadership Action Plan that, with the Board’s buy-in, will present a vision for growth that a team of investors would be willing to invest in.

Most of all pray that God will be working in the hearts and lives of people(including yourself) to prepare them to give in support of the ministry.  I am confident and excited about the ministry of Maranatha and what He wants to accomplish here to bring Him glory.

Depth vs Breadth

In my last post, I mentioned that I had visited with a potential new family about their interest in our school and answered several questions from them.  One thing that I stated as a belief of mine in response to their question about classes that their student could take in the high school was that we are a school that excels in the depth that we teach a subject, and do not focus at keeping up with other schools in the breadth of offerings.

This belief was reinforced as I listen to other parents as they explore their school choices and mention that some private schools and most public schools offer a wider variety of subjects: multiple languages, performing arts, more college courses, etc.  Of course as a competitor and wanting to offer the best, my initial reaction to this realization is that I have got to find money, teachers and facilities to compete on breadth.  We want more families to come here, right?  But a dear friend and counselor of mine reminded me that we have a different opportunity.  Let’s make our position be that we compete and excel at the depth and richness that we teach the subjects we can offer.

That position appeals to me even if money and space were not an issue.  I would like to go to a competition, if there were such a thing, and line up the character of our teachers, their commitment to excellence, their engagement and care for our students, and their effectiveness of communicating concepts and methods of reasoning and problem solving against any other school and be at the top of the charts in the subjects we teach.  We would not be able to compete in every category but we should walk away with a plethora of blue ribbons.  I would like the proof of our excellence to be in the quality of our students and their positive impact on our world both as they attend Maranatha and as they go on to college and the working world.

So teachers and coaches, how would you fare in such a competition?  Leaders, are we enabling and motivating our faculty to win in this respect?  Staff, are we doing all that we can to encourage this level of excellence?  Where is our proof?  Would an outsider walking our halls see that proof on any given day?  Parents, are you bought into this philosophy and approach or you really wishing that we offered a wider variety of subjects?

In talking with some of our students and teachers, I believe we would do well in such a competition in some areas.  I also believe that this is niche which would appeal to parents if we would truly be doing this across all subjects.  Lets each of us strive to do so in all our areas and facets of our instruction.  I believe our Lord would be honored in such an effort.

In Search of Excellence

I had the privilege of joining our Registrar, Linda Jennings, as she escorted a couple who is considering sending their children to Maranatha next year.  This couple happened to be dear friends of mine, and therefore, I was able to have some frank conversations about their impressions of our school and talk about our desires for the school.

One topic that we discussed sprang from a question from the couple, “What is the biggest opportunity for improvement in the school.”  My answer came from my observations both as a former chairman of the board and from the conversations that I have had with 50+ staff, faculty, and parents over the last 38 days.  The biggest opportunity to me is the belief that we can really be a much more significant ministry than we are now. 

What do I mean by that?  First let me say that we have by and large a team (leadership, faculty and staff) that have been clearly called by God to Maranatha.  They strive to do well and based on the quality of the students that graduate from here, they are doing an incredible job.  However, I believe that too many people on the front line have lived with the idea that we shouldn’t think too big and we certainly should not ask for anything that would help us achieve something big because we know the answer is no even before we ask.  That is in spite of Dr. Daugherty’s encouragement to ask because I know from first hand experience he dreams big.  But since they don’t ask, they don’t receive and that creates a culture of “make do” and incremental improvement.  Both qualities are not bad in and of themselves.  In fact, they are necessary.  But if you believe you can not make break through improvements, it limits your creativity.  It stymies your energy.  The excitement and optimism that should dwell in lives of Christians soon becomes resignation to the status quo.

So, as a servant leader at this school, I want to unleash all that creativity, talent and optimism so that we do all we can with what God has provided and be willing to ask Him for what is needed.  So I have been reinforcing the message directly to teachers as I have visited with them.  If they need something that will sharpen the appearance of the atmosphere in their classroom, extend their effectiveness in teaching, or create a more attractive school for our current and prospective students, I want to hear about it.  If they have a creative new way for us to excel in anything that we choose to continue to do, let’s hear it.

So that is where you come in.  I promise to be creative in finding ways to provide the principals, faculty and staff with resources to believe we can break through to a new level of excellence.  However, I know there will be ideas that we just can’t fund in our current budgets or avenues.  So I am forming an investment team of people who believe in Maranatha.  I plan to share with them in early February a Leadership Action Plan – a vision and strategy – for how we can create this environment of optimism and aggressive pursuit of excellence.  As I have visited with the first few members, I firmly believe our God is a God that is bigger than our economy and even now He is preparing hearts of people to join this team and then for them to help us fund this Plan.

If you want to have more information as you consider being part of this Team, I would love to meet with you individually and share some early thoughts with you.  You can help shape the plan and then decide if you want to be part of the Team.

I am confident God will multiply the ministry of Maranatha.  Who will link arms with the school in a big way and let God use you as an instrument to further His kingdom?

Getting the Word Out

Every where I look and everyone I listen to says the two most important ways to market your school is 1) word of mouth and 2) web site.  We want to do everything that we can to make evangelists out of everyone who is part of the Maranatha family.  That starts by doing what we can to make sure your expectations are being met.  That is why I am spending time getting to know our faculty and staff.  If we don’t have the right team, rightly rewarded and motivated, we will be limited in our success.  As I begin to pull together my Action Plan to present to the Board, I find many of the components are centered around investing time and resources to increase depth and richness in all that we do.  We want to pursue, actively and aggressively pursue, excellence.  As a good friend reminded me yesterday, we may not be able to compete on breadth of offerings in the classroom or in co-curricular activities, but we should outshine them in the depth and quality.  I say all of this to stress the point that we must make sure our quality is top notch before we can go enthusiastically recruit new families.  I think we are in a good place, but I want to challenge to strive for several degrees higher quality.

We are also working on our web site.  We have a good foundation, but we know that the experience and quality of information is not what it needs to be.  My commitment is that you should see continual improvement through the rest of this calendar year around content, usability and accessibility.  Please let us know what challenges you have with the site.

So those are the two main priorities we are focusing on, but I believe we have a strong lineup of other tactics we will use to get our name, reputation and capabilities in front of potential new families and to remind current families of what they have here at Maranatha.  Here is a list of a few of those tactics:

  • A kindergarten recruitment plan for our preschool families
  • Connecting with churches: ask them to link from their web site to ours
  • Modernizing our billboard
  • Rotate radio ads through Bott, KLJC and KLove
  • Enrollment banners on Lackman in front of South Campus
  • Maximize Maranatha’s exposure at Upwards – involve students, teachers, leadership; integrate with sports programs
  • Upgrade our Step Up programs at natural breaks: K to 1st, 3rd when move to South Campus at 4th grade, 6th to 7th, 8th to 9th
  • Video contests to post on Maranatha web site telling the story of Maranatha