Smart and Healthy
Why Being Smart Isn’t Enough
by Ed Noot, SCSBC Executive Director ◊
Christian schools were started out of deep conviction and enduring passion. School founders were convinced that this world belongs to God, that all of life is religious and that parents are responsible for the education of their children. These deep and enduring convictions led our founders to work hard, and give sacrificially to establish many of the schools that form the SCSBC community today. Although these founders will tell you that starting a Christian School was no small task, their eyes will glow as they recall the passion, the effort and unity of purpose.
Over the decades our schools have grown, developed and matured. They have become more organizationally sophisticated. Indeed we have become smarter in how we operate our schools. We have refined our governance models, defined our leadership structures, engaged in professional development and grown in our understanding of how to effectively deliver the product we call Christian education. We have expanded our programs, improved our curriculum planning, varied our pedagogy, enhanced our ability to assess learning, and built shiny new buildings. We have developed strategic plans, marketing strategies, financial sustainability models and technology infrastructures. It is smart to do these things, and the science of management and business has much to teach us in these areas.
All of these developments are exciting and I see God’s hand of blessing in them; however, they also create a degree of complexity that our founders did not experience. These changes may also lead to divergent opinions about what really matters in Christian education. Is the school primarily a business or not? Does the drive for excellence limit our admission to only those students who can achieve high academic results?
Patrick Lencioni, leadership guru, offers sage advice on organizational health in his recent bestseller, The Advantage. He encourages schools to be smart and healthy. He compares the health of an organization to integrity in the sense that strategy, management, operations and culture are consistent and integral. He indicates that evidence of organizational health are factors like minimal politics and confusion, high morale, high productivity and low staff turnover.1
Lencioni states that organizational health is the single greatest advantage to any organization today and even though it is free and simple – not necessarily easy, but simple – he finds leaders resisting it. He encourages leaders to “stoop to greatness” by embracing the four principles of organization health:
- Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
- Create clarity
- Over-communicate clarity
- Reinforce clarity
The book is full of useful strategies and stories and I commend it to you as a critical read for all leaders.
Lencioni concludes his book with the compelling statement, “There is just no escaping the fact that the single biggest factor determining whether an organization is going to get healthier – or not – is the genuine commitment and active involvement of the person in charge.2
- Lencioni, Patrick. The Advantage. Jossey-Bass, 2012.
Organizational Clarity Has Enhanced Organizational Health in Our Schools
Duncan Christian School
Our Duncan Christian School community is stronger having accepted the multi-ethnic diversity within our school as a gift from God that enriches our school community and our children’s educational experiences. Our First Nation students have offered us the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with the Cowichan people, to be enriched by Cowichan culture and language, and to humble ourselves that God might use us towards the good of His Kingdom as students experience acceptance and love in this place.
– Jeremy Tinsley, Principal, Duncan Christian School
Nanaimo Christian School
At Nanaimo Christian School we have adopted a philosophy of “designing programs that match our students, rather than putting students into well designed programs.” This means that the needs of our students take precedence in decisions and program design. This is continually communicated clearly to our community, especially when we implement something new like removing grades from K-8, choosing to have combination grade classes, redesigning our high school program to allow for greater flexibility and inquiry, or even for the “small” changes, like clubs and recess programs.
– James Sijpheer, Principal, Nanaimo Christian School
Unity Christian School
The Unity Christian School community, while denominationally diverse, is very close. There is a sense of family in our ethos that permeates almost all we do. On new family tours, I will often say, “this is a community where we are all working together (home, school, church, grandparents, alumni) to raise our children to recognize God’s sovereignty in all parts of creation”. Families choose Unity largely because they see us as a place where they can be engaged in a tight knit community. Our community culture is drawing new families to our school. Once a family begins at Unity, it is important to all that they feel enfolded and engaged, even after the schooling is complete.
– Mike Campbell, Principal, Unity Christian School