Category Archives: Ministry

ACSI accreditation

November 2012

ACSI-logo

Under the supervision of Stephen Meier, Brazosport Christian School (BCS) recently accomplished something that no other Christian school in the United States has yet to achieve.

Under the supervision of Stephen Meier, Brazosport Christian School (BCS) recently accomplished something that no other Christian school in the United States has yet to achieve.

The school was due to go through the normal accreditation process.  However, Stephen introduced a new concept to be added to the accreditation process.  Instead of striving for simply renewing their current accreditation with ACSI (Association of Christian Schools), they also wanted to become accredited with SACS (also known as Advanced Ed) which is an accreditation program used more often by secular private schools.  Although many Christian schools have achieved accreditation with both ACSI and SACS, this is first time that a Christian school has requested to process both accreditations at the same time with the help of a team from ACSI.

This became possible only recently, because ACSI has partnered with SACS in order to send a team of administrators to process both accreditations at the same time. Stephen’s first few months of the school year were focused on that goal of helping the school complete this dual accreditation process with success.  For several weeks, I would see stacks of binders being brought home as Stephen filled out all the proper paperwork that was needed. He supervised his principals and teachers as they created standards, collected evidence and created master binders that would reflect all the important curriculum and activities of the school.

The accreditation team from ACSI arrived on the afternoon of October 14 and visited the school from October 15-17.  After interviewing teachers, visiting classrooms and looking through countless binders, the team decided that the school was approved to be accredited by both ACSI and SACS.  It is such a new process that no other school has yet attempted to do the same thing.  Stephen was able to become part of a trail blazing effort that produced successful results.

The school was due to go through the normal accreditation process.  However, Stephen introduced a new concept to be added to the accreditation process.  Instead of striving for simply renewing their current accreditation with ACSI (Association of Christian Schools), they also wanted to become accredited with SACS (also known as Advanced Ed) which is an accreditation program used more often by secular private schools.  Although many Christian schools have achieved accreditation with both ACSI and SACS, this is first time that a Christian school has requested to process both accreditations at the same time with the help of a team from ACSI.

This became possible only recently, because ACSI has partnered with SACS in order to send a team of administrators to process both accreditations at the same time. Stephen’s first few months of the school year were focused on that goal of helping the school complete this dual accreditation process with success.  For several weeks, I would see stacks of binders being brought home as Stephen filled out all the proper paperwork that was needed. He supervised his principals and teachers as they created standards, collected evidence and created master binders that would reflect all the important curriculum and activities of the school.

The accreditation team from ACSI arrived on the afternoon of October 14 and visited the school from October 15-17.  After interviewing teachers, visiting classrooms and looking through countless binders, the team decided that the school was approved to be accredited by both ACSI and SACS.  It is such a new process that no other school has yet attempted to do the same thing.  Stephen was able to become part of a trail blazing effort that produced successful results.

A Homecoming Update & Prize Winners

November 2012

At Brazosport Christian School (BCS), their annual homecoming event was supercharged this year by a fund-raising event set to deliver prizes to a few lucky participants who took the time to donate money to the school. To attract donors, the school contacted a local car dealership to provide the school with a brand new vehicle to give away in a raffle at the school’s home coming game.  The only requirement for those who wished to participate would be to buy a raffle ticket worth $20.  For each ticket purchased, the greater the chance the person would have to win the car.  Although the free car was the grand prize, there were various other prizes to be given.

There was a $1000 gift card and a free iPad to be given away.  Tickets were given to each of the students at the school and classes competed against each other to receive a special prize to be enjoyed in the future. Jared was excited to participate even though he didn’t know very many people to whom he could sell the tickets.

The night of the homecoming game in early November, BCS students and their families filled the stands.  Friends and supporters and many who had purchased tickets were also there.

Half way through the homecoming game, the box of raffle tickets was brought to the middle of the field and the winning names were drawn.  /The winners turned out to be perfectly matched to their support of the school.  Each winner had already provided a lot of financial support to the school in the past.  It felt really good to watch them claim their prizes.

BRAZOSPORT CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

BCS is Unstoppable

August 2012 – Struggling economic times and future economic security seem to be topics on a lot of people’s minds in the past few years.  As we quickly approach the election of a new president, each candidate works hard to prove that he would the one to turn the economy around in the next four years.  The past four years have had far reaching effects on people around the world.

Its impact on Brazosport Christian School (BCS) began as a gradual decline in student enrollment.  A school that was incorporated by families in the Lake Jackson community began with an enrollment of 92 students (kindergarten through sixth grade) in 1980.  By 1994, they had increased their staff and student population to include seventh through twelfth grades, as well.  They continued to grow after moving to a new facility that included two buildings.  Their enrollment was reaching 300 students by 2009.  As tough economic times hit the housing market and unemployment began to rise, the enrollment rate at BCS began to fall.  By the time Stephen accepted the position of superintendent, enrollment was half of what it was capable.

However, budget cuts did not enough to keep the school from falling into debt.  It was around the end of the first semester when Stephen realized that the school was hitting a major financial crisis.  They had begun to rely mainly on major donors to get them through the school year.  Half a million dollars was given to the school in the fall, but it was quickly swallowed up by expenses that needed to be paid.

Stephen came to a dawning realization that the school was not going to survive past the current school year if nothing changed in the next few months.  After several months of advising the school board to explain the situation to the school’s community at large, they finally agreed.  Two meetings were held a month before the 2011-2012 school year ended to disclose the financial struggles of the school and to explain what needed to be done in order to insure that there would still be a BCS for students to attend in the 2012-2013 school year.

The main message given to the school’s community was the following: If the school did not raise half a million dollars by the end of the school year, BCS would be forced to close.

The message that was taken away by the BCS community was simply this: We can’t let that happen.

We watched in awe as different people in the community began to step up and offer donations or fund-raising activities.  Several teachers at the school offered to take salary cuts.  Some of them were willing to work for $1.  By the week after graduation, the school had raised a little over $250,000.  After going through the budget once last time, Stephen was able to make up the rest of the costs through budget cuts.

At the same time that all this was taking place, we were starting to see an increase in enrollment.  One of the biggest fears was that we would lose families in the community once they learned of the financial situation of the school.  Although there were some families who withdrew their children, the school greeted the new school year with an overall increase of 40 students which included 70 new students.  Some of the biggest increases were in the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes.  For example, there were only 10 kindergarten students who finished the school year in 2012.  At the beginning of the fall semester, there were 18 students (and one of them was our son, Jared) enrolled.

Over the summer, I had marveled at this miracle turn around in such a small Christian school.  I’ve heard of so many little Christian schools having to close their doors in the past few years, because they can no longer afford to keep operating.  BCS was becoming proof that when faith and community come together, miracles can happen.

One day, I was listening to Chris Tomlin’s song, “Our God (is greater).”  The bridge goes like this:

BRIDGE
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?

I thought about the fact that Stephen is in charge of choosing the school’s theme at the beginning of each school year.  He has to come up with a slogan, theme verse and song.  I asked Stephen if he had been thinking of a theme yet.  When he told me that he hadn’t, I told him that I thought “Unstoppable” would be an encouraging theme slogan after going through such a tough crisis at the end of last year.   Chris Tomlin’s song would fit perfectly, and the theme verse is right in the song.

Stephen presented it to the school board and school staff members and they all liked it.  The school year began with this slogan printed across their announcement board, “BCS is Unstoppable.”

Thanks to God and a community of believers, BCS really has become an unstoppable example of determination and strength in the face of adversity.  It may have been down, but it is certainly not dying out of the community.

We are currently finishing up the fall fund-raising project.  BCS was trying to raise $70,000 with a car give-away.  Every ticket sold would be placed in a drawing for one person to win a car at the Homecoming Game on the evening of November 2.

Although, BCS was only able to reach half of that goal by their deadline of October 26, Stephen is still looking at this event as a great way to advertise the school.  It will be interesting to see who wins the car (and other prizes) on the night of the Homecoming Game.

Those who are interested in giving to the school can visit their donation page on the web:

http://www.1bcs.org/support/index.php

A Trip to Waco

April 2012 – We had been living in Texas for ten months before we made an overnight trip (as a family) to any other location in Texas.  In November 2011, we made a trip to Mississippi.  In March of this year, we made a trip to Mobile, Alabama and to Gainesville and Ocala, Florida to visit family.  But we had not done much traveling around Texas.  We had driven up to Houston several times, Galveston and even New Ulm, but we never traveled so far that we had to spend the night there.

One afternoon, Stephen came home talking about the BCS varsity boys’ baseball team being invited to the state championship games in Waco and Belton, Texas.  Stephen wanted to travel with the team to attend the games and then asked if he might be able to take Jared with him.  I thought about it a while and then asked him why not all of us go up there together.

So, we made our first family trip up to Waco, arriving there just in time to watch the team with their semi-final game. The final game was to be hosted in Belton the following afternoon.  We found ourselves a hotel on the outskirts of Waco, at dinner at a nearby IHOP and then took advantage of swimming in the indoor heated pool (since it was still too cold to swim outdoors).

The following morning, we took our time leaving the hotel and then had a picnic lunch in the park area of a Ranger Museum.  The picnic table was underneath a perfect climbing tree and we all took turns getting up into the tree.

We missed most of the final baseball game because Stephen didn’t realize that Belton was a city about 45 minutes south of Waco.  When we got there, we were there to watch the final innings in which the BCS team won the state championship for the first time in many years.  Everyone was excited about the victory.

We made our way back home that evening after stopping to pick up some dinner.  It was a short trip, but it gave us a chance to see something new in Texas.

Speaking of Conferences

February 2012 – This first year of being a ‘head of school’ (superintendent) of a school has been filled with some familiar experiences and many new experiences for Stephen.  It has been a year of growth and learning in his career that he will be able to use both here and in any school that we might relocate to in the future.

Stephen Meier is ready to give a work shop at the ACSI conference.

One of the things that he has been able to do is attend and speak at conferences.  In early February, Stephen attended an ACSI conference in Galveston in which he gave his own workshop.  He got to talk about a favorite subject of mine: the third culture kid.

Stephen had presented a couple of workshops while being a principal at the Alliance Academy in Quito, Ecuador.  Still, this was the first time that he was able to do a workshop in his new role as the head of school at Brazosport Christian School (BCS).  The conferences lasted two days, in which he traveled back and forth between Galveston and Lake Jackson so that he could still come home each evening.

One important achievement that Stephen reached at the end of his first year at BCS was receiving his ACSI certificate specifically for being a superintendent.  With this certificate, he is becomes a licensed superintendent for the next five years.  During that time, he can work toward getting a permanent certificate in that position which will allow him to be eligible for this position at any ACSI school in the world.

For the time being, he will continue to use his certification and experience at BCS until God opens a door elsewhere.

Deck the Halls

Every new job situation had provided us with the opportunities to learn how the staff celebrates the holiday season at the end of the year.  Although some things are universal, there are many things that make each place unique.

As Stephen becomes more integrated into the culture of Brazosport Christian School, he also learns what they do to make Christmas special around the school.  One tradition they have is a special door decorating contest.  Each teacher and staff will decorate their classroom (or office) door and a special panel of judges gets to decide which door is the best decorated door.  On the day of the Christmas chapel, the winner is announced.  Stephen didn’t decorate his door, but his secretary made sure he didn’t miss out by decorating it for him.

Notice the little running shoe in the bow.

Jared and Luke pose proudly outside of "Daddy's office."

Another tradition is to have a special Christmas chapel on the Wednesday before Christmas break.  Stephen got a chance to speak a few words at the end of the chapel.  So, he decided to read one of the Christmas stories that he had been reading to the kids from the Christmas devotional.  Stephen tells me that the school purposefully avoids mention of the secular figures and symbols of Christmas (Santa Claus, Frosty, etc.) so that they can focus on the story of Jesus coming to earth as a baby to become the Savior of all man-kind.

The message given by the teacher was on the gifts of the Maggi and explaining the spiritual significance of each.

Gift-giving is a big part of the BCS traditions.  Each staff member who wished to be involved could become a “secret angel” and give gifts to each other anonymously until they reveal themselves to each other a few days before Christmas break.  Stephen decided to be involved and I was quickly drafted to find some Christmas gifts around $1 each and then one nice gift to give the person on the final revelation day.

The staff "fireplace" where they hung their stockings for their secret angels to deposit gifts.

Stephen received gifts from his “secret angel” but he also got many gifts from staff, students and parents.  Gift cards appear to be a very popular item this time of year.  Perhaps this is not a new observation to many of my readers, but it is something I had not discovered before in the few years that I had celebrated Christmas within the U.S. borders.

We now have gift cards of various values for Wal-Mart, Chick-fil-a, and other local shopping locations.

My favorite tradition so far is the two week vacation that comes to those who work within the system of education.  Now Stephen doesn’t have to work until the Monday after Christmas and we can enjoy some time together as a family.

A Trip to Chicago

As the weeks of October began to fly by,  Stephen came home announcing that he was planning on attending a conference at the end of the month that would help the school develop a HomeStay Boarding program. He was really excited about this concept, because it was something that he had a vision for since his years working at Shenandoah Valley Christian School in Virginia.  A HomeStay program would open the door for international high school students to attend particular schools in the United States.  The idea was not to use a dormitory to house these students, but to ask local families to take in one or more students into their home.  Each family would be given a certain amount of compensation by the school for room and board and they would be responsible for making sure the student had transportation to and from school.  This would all be included in the tuition charged to the students’ parents.

Stephen used Southwest to find an affordable one-stop flight to Chicago.

Therefore, Stephen was off to Chicago from Monday, October 24 to Wednesday, October 26. The conference was hosted by Wheaton Academy in West Chicago. Stephen was able to attend various workshops concerning all the logistics of bringing international students into a U.S. school system and finding host families to take care of them.  He got to meet some of the international students who attend Wheaton Academy and talk to administrators from schools where the HomeStay Boarding program is working.

The keynote speaker of the symposium was none other than Dan Egler, who had once been a secondary principal and director of the Alliance Academy in Quito, Ecuador.  Stephen had first met Dan Egler at various events held in Quito for ACSI.

Stephen returned to Lake Jackson very excited about starting this program at Brazosport Christian School as soon as possible. He has a vision for 15 international students to start attending the school as early as the second semester of this year. It took a few meetings to convince some of the teachers at BCS, but everyone is on board for this new project. The school currently has a handful of international students, but all of them live at home with their parents who have moved to Lake Jackson, as well. So, the biggest challenge right now would be finding the host families who would be willing to take on one or more students right after the Christmas holidays.

It’s an amibition plan.  But those of you who know Stephen know that he doesn’t every dream little. Keep him in your prayers as he works to make this project a success that will help the school grow.