Life on the GRACE campus during summer months is anything but quiet. On any given day, students enrolled in summer camp load buses for an excursion; the operations staff cleans, paints, polishes, restores, and renovates our three campus buildings; administrators work in their offices on projects that have been waiting for their attention; athletes practice and push themselves, investing in sweat equity that will pay dividends down the road; and teachers pop in randomly to say hello and pick up supplies for their own summer projects. Summer marks the conclusion of one school year and provides the prologue to the next. At GRACE, we have a lot to be thankful for from the 2017-18 year, and a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year.
The 2017-18 school year provided a number of highlights for the GRACE community, including record enrollment and record participation in the Annual Fund. Students across both campuses participated in weekly chapel services, Bible studies, service projects, and retreats. This week, a team of 24 students and staff members are participating in a mission trip to Costa Rica. Over eighty percent of our middle & high school students participated in GRACE athletics or performing arts. The class of 2018 was offered more money in the form of academic scholarships than any preceding class and earned acceptances from a wide variety of colleges and universities stretching from London to Alaska, including outstanding Christian schools, several of the top colleges in the nation, and an Ivy League school. Overall, it was a fantastic year for GRACE as God continued to bless our community in ways beyond our expectations.
As we celebrate the achievements of the year that concluded, we know that there are always opportunities for improvement. During the spring of 2018, GRACE conducted our annual parent survey, which provided a great deal of feedback for our leadership team to consider. Slightly more than fifty-eight percent of our families responded to the online survey. The results were positive, affirming, and encouraging as respondents praised the strong community atmosphere, Christian environment, overall student experience, and growing academic program. However, as to be expected, there was also critical feedback. As attested to by the surveys, our greatest strength institutionally comes from the strong, caring relationships created between our staff members and families. In areas where those relationships fell short, parents expressed their dissatisfaction. While positive responses tended to address generalities, critical ones often centered on specific interactions with individuals, which administrators in turn addressed with appropriate staff members. Our commitment is that each student will know that he or she is known, valued, and loved, an expectation expressed to our staff members throughout the year.
As the 2018-19 school year gets underway, we will continue to build upon our goal of equipping students for life. There will be a greater emphasis on teacher observations and feedback, as well as a staff professional development program that empowers principals to develop targeted, individualized training opportunities for teachers. For instance, instead of sending the entire teaching staff to one conference, the principals and academic dean will work with individual teachers to develop plans specific to their content area, age group, or area where there is an opportunity for growth. GRACE is adding a part-time guidance counselor to better support the emotional and social needs of our students, as well as provide support for parents and staff members. On the lower campus, programmatic and staffing changes are in place to create a greater emphasis on science instruction in grades 3 through 5. On the upper campus, new technology courses provide more opportunities for students to study technology and STEM-related programs, including a new STEM-focused elective for seventh-grade students.There will also be two additional fine arts course options for high school students. On both campuses, we continue to assess school safety procedures, implementing enhancements and modifications as needed, some of which will be apparent when school begins in August.
As we enter into the 2018-19 school year, we want to share with you a few areas where we will be focusing our efforts:
- Over the past three years, our enrollment has remained relatively constant at just under 800 students. We would like to see enrollment in our earliest grade levels grow, bucking a national trend among private schools.
- 90% of our students from 2017-18 re-enrolled for the 2018-19 school year. We would like this percent that measures our retention grow to 93%
- We will continue to utilize Annual Fund donations to support improvements on both campuses.
- When lower campus students return to school in August, they will notice new flooring throughout the lower campus, including a resurfacing of the gymnasium floor.
- The lower campus main entrance has been redesigned to provide greater visibility into the parking lot from the front desk, as well as a designated waiting area for school visitors.
- The third-grade classrooms are undergoing a complete makeover to utilize the space more effectively while also make them more student-centered.
- On the upper campus, the Maclellan Grant funds are being used to modify the media center and the computer lab, providing the first steps of a more modern makerspace for our students.
- Also, during the 2018-19 school year, GRACE will contract with a third-party to conduct a capital campaign feasibility study with the eventual goal of building an additional building on the upper campus that would include additional classrooms, two state-of-the-art science labs, and a gymnasium.
Technology at GRACE (TAG)
- Our leadership team continues to research the best tool for our students in relation to laptop options in seventh through twelfth grades and our goal is to make sure that we are doing the best possible job of equipping our students for success.
With all of these issues, we ask that you join us in praying for the best options for our community, focusing on the way in which these areas can influence our ability to carry out our mission. Our teachers are intentionally equipping your children, our students, by developing skills that will not only help them be good students, but be prepared for life beyond the classroom at every age. For the 2018-19 school year, we will encourage our community to focus on what it means to live a life worthy of God’s great call on our lives as explained in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Please join us in praying that our students will embrace this scripture as we focus on God’s word being essential to be well-equipped in every aspect of their daily lives. It is this tool, more than anything else we can do, that will help them develop their gifts and talents so that they may truly impact their world for Christ.
Eric Bradley, Head of School