Pella Christian Integration Activities
This page is designed to capture information around the integration activities of Pella Christian Grade School and Pella Christian High School. These integration activities are aimed at an eventual merger. It is our desire to communicate through integration briefings, town hall meetings, and individual one-on-one meetings. Three tools can be found below. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Page has been created and is linked. We will be adding to this list periodically. We also have a link to an electronic form where constituents can submit questions to the administrative leadership team. All submissions must include a name and valid email address. Finally, we will archive all integration briefings on this page. Thanks again for your ongoing support of Pella Christian Schools, and we look forward to sharing more information in the weeks and months ahead.
Pella Christian Schools Constituents,
The content of this week’s Integration briefings is a compilation of some of the questions we have received in the last several weeks, particularly in the Town Hall Meetings this past Tuesday. We are incredibly grateful for all the input we have received to date and ask that you continue to keep us informed with any questions and concerns.
The following list of questions and answers is not a complete list of feedback we received. It is a starting point. In addition to information in Integration Briefings, we will be compiling a Frequently Asked Questions document and placing it on the PCGS and PCHS websites. This FAQ page will allow easy access to ongoing information throughout this process.
As stated at the beginning of the Town Hall Meetings, we cannot answer all the questions being asked because it is so early in this four-year process and some things are unknown at this time. The administrative team recognizes that this may cause us to appear to be avoiding questions or dancing around answers. Avoiding questions is not the intent. We’d rather risk not answering every question than hold onto helpful information too long while taking necessary steps to answer them all. The hope is that this is a helpful starting point in our desire to share integration efforts transparently with all constituencies. The Administrative Leadership Team plans to continue to follow this communication pattern throughout this four-year process.
Thanks again for your ongoing support of Pella Christian Schools, and we look forward to sharing more information as in the weeks and months ahead.
Grace and Peace,
The Administrative Leadership at Pella Christian Schools
There’s a feeling out there that the merger is a done deal rather than the fact that this is a process. It would help if you emphasized that it’s not a done deal.
The process of further integration between PCGS and PCHS that is aimed at a merger is a four-year process. That process is in its earliest stages. There is no deal already done, and there remains a sizable amount of work to be done before any final decisions about a merger would be made.
One of the roadblocks to the enrollment piece at Pella Christian with my peers is that Pella Community is perceived as a Christian school. How do we overcome that?
Pella Community Schools are excellent schools, and there are faithful Christian leaders and teachers serving students there. The nature of public schooling in America, a country that values religious freedom, means they are unable to do what Christian schools are specifically designed to do; to integrate the redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ in every school endeavor. PCGS and PCHS need to grow our capacity to tell our distinct story to a broader audience and advocate for the eternal value of Christian schooling in general and our schools specifically.
Procedurally and legally, what happens with the integration work over the next few months?
There are no immediate plans to pursue legal counsel for a merger, although that would be likely down the line if the decision is to merge at the end of this process. The first phase of this four-year process is to gather feedback from our constituents and to communicate the steps we are currently taking with an open hand as well as to evaluate ways that PCGS and PCHS can share services aimed at growing collective capacity and clear continuity within all curricular and co-curricular programs PreK-12. There are many areas in which the two schools already share services and resources. We are only looking for additional opportunities that better serve our students and families.
Do the bylaws of each school allow for the establishment of joint leadership? What are the expectations going forward? Words like integration lead people to think this is a done deal; perhaps the words ‘cooperation’ and ‘exploratory’ are better words than ‘merger’.
We are comfortable that the current integration activity is an expansion and/or strengthening of the cooperative activities that have been ongoing for years. We did consider the wording of our current activities carefully and the aim of our four-year process. We appreciate the encouragement to continue to be intentional around word choice and communication. We have communicated that this integration activity is aimed at a merger, but there is no assumption that we are certain a merger will be the end of the process. There remains much work to be done during this process to determine if a merger is the final outcome.
It is essential to keep this problem-centered instead of solution-centered. That will help with the perception that this is just a done deal. If we’re trying to solve problems, then integration can be shared as a way to solve those problems.
This comment is a helpful recommendation, and our efforts will continue to be centered around identifying why integration activity is beneficial and what challenges we are hoping to address with increased integration activity.
At the last society meeting (in January), the board shared the need for certain skill sets on the board now compared to the past. I’ve served on the high school board and a Christian university board, and it seems that the deepest issues I’ve encountered on boards are theological/philosophical issues. You can always create ad hoc committees that capture skill sets.
Board Trustees have Fiduciary Duties (loyalty, obedience, and care) to the schools they serve. Those duties require the overall board profile include essential skill sets that equip them to provide appropriate governance and oversight to ensure those duties are met. It is undoubtedly true that the boards must be well versed in the theological and philosophical foundations of the schools to ensure the schools’ obedience and fidelity to core theological and philosophical principles. Christian schools exist to center everything they do in the person and work of Jesus Christ, as revealed in His Word.
How are conversations going with sister schools?
We’ve had good feedback but are in the infancy of communication. We’ve also met with individuals who have questions and concerns. The principals have a monthly agenda item at their Principal’s Club as a means to provide a conduit to sister school boards. We also plan to take these Town Hall Meetings on the road to sister schools. Each sister school has been asked how they would like to be included in this process.
As far as the integration committee, is it comprised of people from the surrounding communities as well?
At this time, we are using the current Co-executive Committee of the PCGS and PCHS Boards as our Integration Committee. The Board Structure includes board representation from surrounding communities, and this provides us with opportunities to gain perspective from those communities. We do plan to establish an Integration Task Force at the conclusion of the current school year, and we will consider appropriate representation on that task force as well.
I understand that if both institutions are merged, then administrations would be merged. But, would financials also be merged? If a grandparent donates to PCHS, we would want our money to go to PCHS rather than to PCGS because we want to take care of our sister schools.
If the schools merge at the conclusion of this four-year process, operation funds and non-restricted funds would be merged. Endowment funds and restricted funds cannot be combined and are subject to the founding documents and donor restrictions. A donor can always designate gifts for specific projects or budget line items, and those funds can only be used for those purposes. It is common for donors to designate their gifts to a certain cause.
I understand that from a profit and loss standpoint, we’re not sustainable five years out. How are we going to pay for admissions director, and more admissions activity, and for hiring you at CACE to serve as consultants? My family is at the top end of what we can pay for tuition. How can this all work?
Both PCGS and PCHS have significant financial pressures that require a change to build long term sustainability. The PCHS Board has already acknowledged there is an approximate $2,000 gap between what is charged in tuition and fees (approximately $8,000) and the per-student cost (approximately $10,000). PCGS does not have a gap between the cost of tuition and the program costs, but they have similar financial pressures that are manifested differently. Some have suggested that one of the motivations for a merger is to use PGCS to help fund the gap at PCHS. This suggestion is not accurate and is not any part of the rationale for a possible merger. We are very serious about addressing these pressures for the short and long term. As such, the 2020/2021 budgets for PCGS and PCHS will both show initial steps toward addressing the challenges. We are also in the process of a detailed 5-year financial forecast that will allow us to identify longer-term strategies to address the pressures specifically. This work is complex and is underway. We hope to have it completed by the end of this summer.
We know about the gap between tuition and the actual cost of education at the high school. What are the financial pressure points at the grade school?
PCGS has financial pressure that manifests itself in employee compensation that is lower than comparable schools in similar communities and higher than optimal faculty workloads. There is a sizable difference between PCGS and PCHS in these areas.
What are the main things CACE, administration, and the boards are working on at this time? The majority of our current work is focused in three very specific areas:
- Establishing a joint Administrative Leadership Team for PCGS and PCHS to work on addressing our shared challenges and opportunities together in the same sandbox. Establishing this team is a critical part of our capacity to address challenges in ways that are repeatable and sustainable.
- Building a communication system that allows us to keep constituents informed over time and in easily accessible ways. This communication system includes regular written communication, individual meetings, and town hall formats that will be rotated throughout surrounding communities.
- Building admissions structures and practices to help expand the net of mission appropriate families to whom we have access. We have made good progress towards this effort, and we still have much to do.
Dear Pella Christian Schools Families,
The purpose of this Integration Briefing is to describe the intent and structure of the Town Hall meetings that are scheduled for Tuesday, February 18 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM and from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM in the PCHS Library. This Town Hall meeting is offered at two different times to provide flexibility for those who wish to attend.
Since the announcement that PCGS and PCHS would be increasing the integration activity, we have been encouraged by the questions and feedback from the community. We recognize that there are some within our community who see the further integration of PCGS and PCHS as a positive progression and others that have questions and concerns. The intent of the Town Hall meetings is to welcome the Pella Christian Schools and surrounding Christian school communities into discussions about how integration and collaboration can strengthen the impact of Christian schooling in our area.
After a brief description of the multi-year nature of the integration process, a panel representing CACE and the PCGS/PCHS boards and administration will take questions and listen to feedback from the audience. This is the first of several Town Hall meetings that will be held to engage the community in this process. Our goal is to make this a transparent and open process that considers the diverse perspectives of our community.
In the February 5 Integration Briefing, it was shared that this week’s integration briefing would announce two additional leadership team members. While progress has been made in the last week, we have decided to hold this announcement for a future briefing.
It is our privilege to steward the historic, Christ-centered mission of our schools. We look forward to talking further about how to strengthen and sustain our schools today and for future generations.
Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Teams
Dear Pella Christian Schools Community,
This integration briefing will re-introduce the current members of the Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Team, describe the ongoing relationship with Pella Christian Schools and the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE), and provide additional communication opportunities designed to keep our constituents up-to-date and fully informed regarding integration activities.
Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Team
The team members that have already been introduced include:
- David Te Grotenhuis - PCGS Head of School
- Dan Van Kooten - Outgoing PCHS Principal
- Greg Wojcynski - Incoming PCHS Principal
- Teresa Ulferts - Director of Admissions
Please be in prayer for these four Administrative Leadership Team members as they work to strengthen and sustain the historic, Christ-centered mission of our schools. We will be announcing two additional members in our next Integration Briefing on Wednesday, February 12.
The Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE)
Pella Christian Schools has been engaged with the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE) throughout our continuing strategic planning process. The boards of PCGS and PCHS have also jointly contracted CACE to provide consulting and leadership support during the integration process. A CACE representative will be onsite at PCGS and PCHS for three two-day visits per month, will conduct video meetings with the administrative leadership team once a week, and will consult with Teresa Ulferts (Pella Christian Schools Director of Admissions) in a video meeting every two weeks. In addition to these scheduled meetings, CACE representatives are available for regular consultation with the boards and administrations of both schools. More information about CACE can be found at CACE.org. The four primary CACE consultants working with Pella Christian Schools are:
- Chad Dirkse, Managing CACE Consultant
- Tim Van Soelen, CACE Executive Director
- Glenn Vos, CACE Leadership and Governance Coach
- David Urban, CACE Enrollment and Marketing Consultant
In addition to weekly integration briefings, Pella Christian Schools will hold a series of Town Hall meetings throughout the remainder of this school year. The first Town Hall will be held on Tuesday, February 18 in the PCHS Library. The same meeting will be offered twice; 12:00 PM-1:00 PM and 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM. A panel of representatives from the administrative leadership team, CACE, and the PCGS/PCHS boards will provide additional details about expanding integration activity with special attention given to the impact on curricular and co-curricular programs and progress in the implementation of new admission processes. Additional Town Hall meetings and detailed agendas for those meetings will be announced in future Pella Christian Schools Integration Briefings.
Thank you for your ongoing support and feedback as we grow the integration activity at our schools. Our next integration briefing will focus specifically on how integration is being developed within instructional programs.
By God’s Grace,
Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Team
Dear Pella Christian Schools Families,
Greetings from the Boards of PCGS and PCHS.
We wanted to take a moment to follow up with you from the letter we sent in December detailing the efforts underway to more fully integrate the operations of PCGS and PCHS. Over the past several months we have been working on a cohesive leadership structure as we venture forward together. Following the description of the first steps in establishing a joint leadership team, this communication is intended to begin clarifying our joint, ongoing communication plan as we pursue the expanded integration of Pella Christian Schools.
Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Team
The primary day-to-day leadership of Pella Christian Schools integration activity has been entrusted to the Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Team. We will define the roles and functions of the team members over the next two Pella Christian Schools Leadership Briefings.
David Te Grotenhuis will continue in his current role as PCGS Head of School and bring experienced leadership and strategic insight to the team.
Dan Van Kooten has decided to step away from his leadership role at PCHS at the end of this school year. We are extraordinarily grateful for the 23 years Dan and Andi Van Kooten have labored and served PCHS.
Greg Wojczynski has accepted the offer of the PCHS Board to serve as the next PCHS Principal beginning in July 2020. We are excited to see Greg’s gifts in instructional leadership and student life grow in this position. Please take this opportunity to thank Dan for his faithful service and welcome Greg into this important leadership role.
Teresa Ulferts will be joining David and Greg on the Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Team. Teresa joins Pella Christian Schools as our first Admissions Director. She started her journey last week and is busy setting up admissions functions designed to tell the Pella Christian Schools story to a broader, mission appropriate audience.
Beginning next week, a Pella Christian Schools Integration Briefing will be shared with constituents weekly through the remainder of this school year. The intent of these briefings will be to provide concise and transparent information about ongoing integration activity and our joint efforts to strengthen and sustain the historic, distinctively Christ-centered mission of Christian schooling in this area. We will be archiving each briefing on our website for easy reference over time. Additional communication structures and opportunities for you to provide feedback will be described in upcoming briefings. Please take a moment each week to read the briefings and do not hesitate to contact the board or administrative team members of PCGS or PCHS if you have questions or concerns.
We will outline additional members of the Pella Christian Schools Administrative Leadership Team and the support role the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE) is playing through the integration process in next week’s integration briefing. We are grateful for the ongoing support, encouragement, and prayer for the PCGS and PCHS boards and administration. We look forward to providing additional information through our weekly briefings.
By God’s Grace,
The PCGS and PCHS Boards