HULL—The lockdown and shake-up COVID-19 forced schools to re-imagine their educational methods.
The 2019-20 academic year also was the first with Brian Verwolf at the helm as head administrator for Western Christian High School in Hull.
With so much turnover happening at once, it is an opportune time to take stock of what the future looks like and what steps the school needs to make in the years ahead.
“2020 came like a tsunami, and as school leaders, we had to set aside confidence in our current playbook and rewrite a new one,” Verwolf said. “And now, even amid the global pandemic, our board thought it was the right time to make the most of our community assets.”
The school just kicked off the process this winter, what it’s calling “strategic road mapping.”
Verwolf said it will seek input from a diverse group of voices to get the fullest possible vision of the future.
Western Christian recently brought on the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education to help with the initiative.
The Center for the Advancement of Christian Education facilitated a series of focus group discussions in early February with prospective families, current parents, staff and students.
Verwolf said the school also has reached out to former employees and local leaders as the school embarks on this big-picture review.
“At the end of this, our hope is that Western Christian can be a place that becomes the most inviting school in our community,” the administrator said.
He went on to give some examples of what he would like to see in that more amiable future.
“Oftentimes, finances can be a barrier to Christ-centered education,” Verwolf said. “Our hope that we can think creatively about making this type of education more accessible to a broader variety of people.”
Western Christian identified five areas to explore during this process:
School board president John Vander Haag said the categories will help clarify what is needed for growth.
“We’re still peeling back the layers and understanding the market that’s around us,” he said.
Vander Haag also said the review process will show “what students we’ll be blessed with” in the future as students are the ultimate center of the school’s focus.
“It all comes back to the student,” he said. “We want to be capable of providing students with what they need.”
Verwolf stressed the importance of getting a wide variety of groups involved.
He said that by talking to every stakeholder it can Western Christian can build its best possible future.
“One of our goals is to plan for the school that doesn’t exist,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to consider what Christ-centered education needs to look like for students who are in preschool right now. It can be really tempting to get caught up in day-to-day, what’s happening this year, only. But what that doesn’t do is set our students up well for the next generation.”
The pandemic has altered just about every aspect of education over the last 11 months, but with vaccinations and a new normal on the horizon, Western Christian is taking advantage of the tool it’s gained over the arduous year.
As the new head of the school, Verwolf did not have a lot of time to get used to the school before COVID-19 took over everyone’s plans. He said that he welcomes this opportunity for a fresh start.
“When I was hired and going through the interview process, one of the reasons I felt called to come here is because I really did feel like the faculty, staff and board were asking the right questions. The big question is ‘How are we going to get there?’” he said. “This is ultimately what I’m responsible for.”