Head of School Blog

Equipped for Civil Discourse

Several weeks ago, in response to the school shooting in Florida, the student council leadership asked the school administrative leadership team how GRACE students could participate in the nationwide walkouts taking place on March 14 and April 20. The first date coincided with our Community Service Day. On that morning, several of our groups gathered to pray for our nation and our leaders, and used the time to remember the victims from Stoneman Douglas High School. On the morning of April 20th, at 10:00 AM, a group of students who wished to participate gathered in the school parking lot, led by their student council. During this time, the 2018-2019 student council president, led the group in prayer for our nation, our leaders, and for the families who have been impacted by school shootings. After the prayer, our current student council president, shared a brief message with his peers, encouraging them to be informed, engaged, and active participants in the world around them. His call to action challenged students to form opinions based on the study of facts and to not simply go along with the crowd. He concluded his remarks by encouraging students to not just speak up for causes, but to take action through donating to and serving with the causes they support. As he stated, “these are the most American things you can do — Stand up for what you believe in and get in productive discussions with other people.” The fifteen minute event ended with a closing prayer for our students and our nation.

GRACE Christian School is a loving community that spiritually and academically equips, challenges, and inspires students to impact their world for Christ. In order to impact their world for Christ, our young people will need to do the very things that our student council presidents discussed. There is a quote from Dr. James Emery White, a Charlotte area pastor and author, that captures this idea beautifully. In his book Serious Times, Dr. White writes, “The heart of Jesus’ strategy for transforming the world was unleashing a force of transformed lives…This is how the world will be changed: individuals who have had their lives touched by Christ turning around and touching the lives of others.” We share the above with you so that you will be informed and, we hope, continue this dialog with your students at home. Thank you for the opportunity to partner with you in cultivating a legion of world changers for Christ.  

On Safety, Security, and Community, Part 2

[written by Head of School, Eric Bradley]

In the days after the tragic shootings in Parkland, Florida, I shared a response on behalf of the school. In that note, I promised to address security on our campuses, and since then, I have spent a great deal of time considering what to share about this topic. I have struggled with the appropriate balance between transparency and the liability that such transparency might furnish.  As I have considered what to write, one passage of Scripture continues to come to mind: 

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” I Peter 5:6-9

Peter’s words are as relevant today as when he wrote them as we consider the evil that continually surrounds us. In addition to the warning, he reminds us that we are not alone in dealing with this challenge or the evil prevalent throughout the world.  This passage commands us to be sober and vigilant. This is the driving thought as we consider the safety of everyone that comes onto our campus. 

In light of the call to be sober (clear-headed) and vigilant (alert, attentive, cautious, and observant), several actions have been taken to improve campus safety for our students and staff. These changes include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The exterior doors on both campuses are locked and only accessible through fobs or keypads. 
  • On both campuses, guests are required to submit identification that is scanned through the Raptor Security System, providing the school with a rapid background check. 
  • Security cameras have been added on both campuses to provide increased visibility of our doorways and property and can be accessed by our administrators at any time. 
  • On the upper campus, the rearrangement of the front desk allowed for the installation of a large screen monitor that provides visibility of the main doors on that campus. The glass treatments in the reception area allow for individuals to see out, but not for guests to see in. 
  • On the lower campus, security camera images are monitored throughout the day by the administrative team. 
  • In the Activity Building, the solid entrance door was replaced with one that has a window to allow staff to see outside the building. 
  • The school continues the practice of monthly drills and periodic staff emergency training.
  • This year, we required staff and student drivers to have identifying stickers on their windshields to help us track people on campus. 
  • We have been intentional about partnering with our local police forces (Cary on the Upper Campus and Raleigh on the Lower Campus) and they have responded with an increased presence on both campuses. 
  • Earlier this year, we created a school safety committee to review and monitor our current practices, as well as make recommendations for changes. 

The above points provide a brief overview of some of the steps that have been taken to protect the students and adults on our campuses. There are other things that take place that go unnoticed, but are ways we work to protect our community. For instance, last summer, we allowed our lower campus to be used by the local police as a training facility. These officers participated in drills throughout the building, developing response strategies for different scenarios. We will continue to seek opportunities to connect with local law enforcement agencies in an effort to help them have familiarity with our facilities. 

Even with the things shared above, we know there is need for more work to be done. We need to increase the amount of training for our staff and students on how to respond in case of an emergency. As a parent, you are aware of the unique safety challenges our community faces. On the lower campus, the shared property with the church provides challenges in monitoring who comes into the parking lot. The upper campus is very open, with students traveling between our two buildings. To that end, we have coordinated a visit with a team of agents from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI). In April, these agents will review our current security practices and procedures, as well as provide recommendations on how to improve these practices. These recommendations and the work done by our Safety Committee will provide us with a great strategy for improving campus security. 

As a GRACE parent, you can help us with campus security in a variety of ways:

  • When visiting either campus, always check in at the front desk.
  • Please speak to your students about the importance of not opening doors for unknown individuals and of the importance of not propping open doors in any campus building. 
  • On the Lower Campus, please use the signs provided by the school when picking up your child in carpool. 
  • When on campus, report any suspicious individuals, behavior, or vehicles. 
  • As I mentioned in the original email, the more the individual members of our community connect and get to know one another, the greater the safety of our overall community. 
  • Please cover our campus in prayer every day. 

I began this letter by citing a passage from I Peter 5:6-9. I think it only appropriate to conclude the letter with the passages immediately following those, which provides one of the most beautiful blessings in all of Scripture:

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.” I Peter 5:10-11

On Safety, Security, and Community

Earlier this week, at a time when we should have been focused on the solemn commemoration of Ash Wednesday or the pageantry of the Winter Olympics or the fun of Valentine’s Day, we instead, were once again joined together in outrage and horror by news of another school shooting. This time, the tragedy took place in Parkland, Florida. In the almost twenty years since the Columbine High School massacre, there have been too many headlines announcing another tragic school shooting. According to an article in this week’s Washington Post, “at least 170 primary and secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus.” Some media outlets use a much higher number; others a smaller one. Regardless of the exact number, all would agree that news of another school shooting has become much, much too common. My greatest concern is that we, as a culture, have become numb to tragedy. Amidst the immediate debates and discussions about gun control, governmental response, or mental illness, let us not lose sight of the tragic loss of seventeen lives, and the shattered families grieving in south Florida. 

In the aftermath of these tragedies, it has become common practice for schools like ours to do two things. The first is to issue calls of prayer and support for those impacted by the tragedy. This is entirely appropriate since, as followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to mourn with those who mourn, as Paul so eloquently shared in Romans 12. So, we will pray for those directly impacted by this most recent tragedy and for our nation as a whole. We believe in the power of prayer and we ask that in this time of mourning, God would provide a comfort, support, and peace that can only come from Him. 

The second thing schools often do is to provide school families with information concerning safety measures in place to prevent such a tragedy or to address how the school would respond if such an event were to take place on site. This is entirely appropriate and something that I will share with our GRACE community, but not in this communication. Please be assured that we review our policies and procedures frequently in an effort to provide a safe environment for our staff and students. We have a School Safety Committee that exists for this purpose alone. However, instead of focusing here on current plans and procedures, what I would like to consider is the important aspect of preventing another tragedy. Our mission statement opens by stating, “GRACE Christian School is a loving community.” With all of our drills, security cameras, professional development sessions committed to security, and other appropriate means of providing a safe environment, our greatest source of protection is our loving community. In many cases, school violence is the result of a disconnected, disheartened, and desperate individual lashing out at those around him. Being part of a loving community means that we actively seek to make sure each child is known, valued and loved. This is our sincere desire for each child, every day. This means investing in the lives of the students who walk our hallways in more ways than simply teaching lessons. It means that we support families in times of crisis. It also means that we develop trusting relationships with parents. Sometimes honest dialogue means that we have to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations, but this is what we are called to do as part of a loving community. 

Recognizing the value of having candid, honest dialogue, as is age appropriate, I encourage you to speak to your children about the importance of sharing concerns they may have about a peer or a situation and bringing it to your attention. Specifically, if a young person is sharing thoughts of self-harm or harm to others, either in person or via social media, it is imperative that students understand the importance of sharing that information with an adult and the school administration. Likewise, if you, as an adult, find yourself in a situation where you fear that a threat of violence could affect your child or any child at our school, you must contact the proper authorities and/or the school administration. It is impossible to overstate the value of this type of proactive intervention. 

The Association of Christian Schools International, one of our accrediting bodies, provided us with the following resources to share with our families: Children and Crisis: COPE Leads to Hope and Teachers and Kids and Crisis.  My hope is that these resources may provide you with some guidance for important conversations with your children. As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve your family and work with your children. It is a tremendous blessing and responsibility that we do not take for granted. 

Blessings,

Eric

 
 
 

Gaming Seminar for Parents

On Sunday, February 4th from 2:00-3:30pm, the PTF will host clinical psychologist Dr. Doug Davis for a program on how parents can help their kids develop a healthy relationship with gaming. RSVP Link for Video Gaming Seminar
 
Computer gaming is everywhere: at home on consoles and PCs and traveling with us on our devices. It’s no wonder that gaming can become problematic for some kids, taking up too much time, and detracting from other important aspects of life. Clinical psychologist Dr. Doug Davis has been gaming his whole life. He is well-versed in the up-and-downsides of screen time. He will share how parents can help children, tweens, and teens develop a healthy relationship with gaming. Dr. Davis will point out risk-factors that make some kids more vulnerable to developing unhealthy habits, and advise on how to avoid or deal with the most common pitfalls. Finally, he will discuss how to decide when a minor problem is becoming a major one, what to try to get things under control, and when to seek help.
 
Dr. Doug Davis, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist with undergraduate degrees from the UNC-Chapel Hill. He earned a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Throughout his career, Dr. Davis has built a broad background of experience, bringing together developmental, cognitive behavioral, and family systems among other approaches to understanding people and helping with change. He has played many roles in the lives of young people, including coach, mentor, teacher, tutor and therapist. Dr. Davis has worked in the Triangle area since 2005. He currently provides individual, family, and group therapeutic services to children, adolescents, young adults, parents/caregivers, and families. For more information, including treatment specialties, please see dougdavispsych.com. Contact him at 919.749.4210 or doug@dougdavispsych.com.
 
Please RSVP below if you plan to attend so that GRACE PTF has a head count in order to provide light refreshments. RSVP Link for Video Gaming Seminar
 

Christmas Season, Christmas Songs

Written by Head of School Eric Bradley

My first education job was as a history teacher. To this day, I love finding odd or little known stories in history, one of my favorite things about teaching the subject. A few weeks ago, I came across an article about Do You Hear What I Hear and its connection to the Cuban Missile Crisis. This led me to read about several other Christmas songs and their background.

  • Do You Hear What I Hear — Noel Regney was born in France and educated at the best music schools in Europe.  When the Nazis took over France during WW2, he was forced to serve in the German army. Regney began working for the French Underground while serving as a Nazi soldier, an incredibly stressful and dangerous situation. In one instance, he knowingly led a group of German soldiers into an ambush, getting shot himself in the process, allegedly in order to provide more cover for his role as a spy. Imagine the emotional toll of being in this type of situation. Shortly after the ambush incident, he deserted from the German army and spent much of the rest of the war in hiding. After the war, he worked in France briefly before moving to New York City where he served as a songwriter for TV shows and commercials. In October 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was asked to write a Christmas song. Imagine being in this position — come up with a Christmas jingle while everyone in the country is consumed with the the threat of nuclear war. In this environment, working with his wife, they created Do You Hear What I Hear, which they intended to be a prayer for peace in the middle of the Cold War. “A star dancing in the night with a tale as big as a kite” might have been meant to represent something much more menacing. Here is the last stanza:

Said the king to the people everywhere

Listen to what I say

Pray for peace people everywhere

Listen to what I say

The child, the child

Sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light

He will bring us goodness and light

  • O Holy Night — This song was written in 1847 by a French poet, Placide Cappeau, when asked by the local parish priest to compose a Christmas poem. After writing the poem, the author decided it would be better as a song, and asked a Jewish composer friend to set the poem to music. The song became quite popular and spread throughout French churches. However, years later, when Cappeau renounced the church and declared himself a socialist, the song was officially banned by the French Catholic church. The ban had little effect as the song was already very popular among churches throughout Europe. Shortly after, American abolitionists fighting against slavery helped spread the song throughout the United States. Think of the third stanza being sung in the United States on the brink of the Civil War, “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
  • Joy to the World — This song was written in the early 1700s by Isaac Watts, but was not intended to be a Christmas hymn, but rather, a song about the second coming of Christ. The lyrics were based on Watts’ interpretation of Psalm 98:4-9 which opens, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” While it is interesting to think through the lyrics with the idea of the song being about the second coming, the central idea of the song does work for the incarnation as well — “Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Let Earth receive her king!”

All of these songs are fascinating on their own, but like many things in life, they take on more meaning when you look into them more deeply. In these three songs, we are reminded that God works in ways we do not fully comprehend.

  • In Do You Hear What I Hear, a man who experienced the horror of war first-hand, penned a beautiful prayer for peace, hoping for a better future for all of our children.
  • In O Holy Night, a socialist poet and a Jewish musician, two men who had no connection or commitment to the Christian faith, combined their talents to create a powerful song that celebrates “The Thrill of Hope” that comes in the form of the Christ child.
  • In Joy to the World, a hymn intended to honor the triumph of the second coming of Christ has become one of the most recognized of all Christmas songs. Now, knowing the background of its origin, when I hear the song in the future, I will think not only on the joy of the incarnation, but also of the incredible promise of our King’s return.

As we prepare for the Christmas season and all of the busyness that may entail, I encourage you to stop and think about the incredible way that God may be moving in your life and the lives around you, and never lose sight of the incredible, awe-inspiring, life-changing message of Hope that came to us in the form of the Christ child. A hope that continues on still today.

Merry Christmas, Eric Bradley

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!

O night divine! O night when Christ was born.

O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Placide Cappeau, 1847

 

 

Annual Fund Thank You

Dear GRACE Families,

Thank you for the tremendous show of support for our 2017-2018 Annual Fund Campaign. While the Annual Fund has been in existence for some time, this was our first attempt to create support through this type of campaign — one that featured no mailing of donation cards or solicitation via a student activity such as running laps. This year, our approach was simply to ask you to support the Annual Fund because of your commitment to the mission and vision of our school. Each day of the 10-day campaign, we highlighted an aspect of the GRACE community that benefits from your support of the Annual Fund and helps make our school special, including the Christian foundation, wonderful educational environment, and incredible staff. So in addition to providing financial support of our Annual Fund goals, we hope that our 10-day campaign was also a reminder of God’s blessings on our community.

I am delighted to report that our 10-day campaign surpassed our fundraising goal. As a replacement mechanism to Boosterthon, we knew that we wanted to equal or surpass the level of fundraising that event generated. Just over 50% of our GRACE families participated and made an average donation of $103. As of today, the 2017-2018 campaign has generated over $27,000 for us to use during this school year. In addition to raising money now, many of you indicated your intentions to donate at year-end or to donate at the 2018 Celebrate GRACE event. For those of you who would still like to participate in the campaign donations can be made via this link on the GRACE website. Thank you for your generosity.

As a result of this month’s giving, we can move ahead on the following projects:

  • Renovation of the lower campus library;
  • Renovation of the upper campus lobby;
  • Replacing the lower campus flooring in the hallways; and
  • Enhancing the upper campus computer lab.

Going forward, our goal is to increase the percentage of our families participating in this event as strong community involvement in fundraising signals to outside organizations that we have a community that is supportive of our leadership, our mission, and our future.  This, in turn, allows us to apply for funding in the form of grants and other educational helps.

Thank you for your generous support of GRACE. So much of what we accomplish is a result of the support of our community as you partner with us in equipping your students for life.

Annual Fund Campaign Day 10

 

Support the 2017-2018 GRACE Annual Fund Campaign

It’s the final day of the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Campaign. Thank you to everyone who has participated and made a commitment. Gifts to the Annual Fund allows GRACE to invest in critical resources in many areas of school life including academics, athletics, fine arts, safety, security, and technology. Each day during the campaign we will highlight a different aspect of GRACE and how the Annual Fund supports each one.

Please prayerfully consider how you can be a part of this year’s Annual Fund Campaign. Strong parent participation is a key factor in us gaining access to outside foundation funding. Every gift, regardless of the amount, counts toward our goal of 100% participation. Please make your commitment (or let us know about the giving you are already doing) by filling out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card.

Day 10: We are Thankful for our Christian Worldview

The educational process at GRACE Christian School is based upon the belief that the Triune God is the Creator of all that exists and is the Author of all truth. God chose to reveal Himself and His truth through the Word of God and through His creation. God’s Word is thoroughly integrated into every subject and activity. The rigor in all classes prepares our students to compete in every academic arena in order to develop community and world leaders who will stand for biblical standards in a fallen world.

 

 

What is the Annual Fund and What Does it Do?

If you’re not sure what the Annual Fund is, or how those funds are used, please read the following series on Giving to GRACE:

Make your commitment today! Fill out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card now!

Annual Fund Campaign Day 9

 

Support the 2017-2018 GRACE Annual Fund Campaign

It’s week two of the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Campaign that started last week and will conclude on October 20th. Gifts to the Annual Fund allows GRACE to invest in critical resources in many areas of school life including academics, athletics, fine arts, safety, security, and technology. Each day during the campaign we will highlight a different aspect of GRACE and how the Annual Fund supports each one.

Please prayerfully consider how you can be a part of this year’s Annual Fund Campaign. Strong parent participation is a key factor in us gaining access to outside foundation funding. Every gift, regardless of the amount, counts toward our goal of 100% participation. Please make your commitment (or let us know about the giving you are already doing) by filling out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card.

Day 9: We are Thankful for our Academic Program

GRACE is first and foremost an academic institution that seeks to equip, challenge, and inspire our students to love learning, to think critically and to apply their knowledge and wisdom to affect their world for Christ.  

Students in GRACE’s elementary program are given the tools and the knowledge to solve age-appropriate problems by learning how to share, take turns, and develop the understanding that every person is worthy of respect and kindness. All students gain foundational skills in reasoning while learning how to communicate with coherent arguments, and demonstrate personal responsibility.

The middle school program is designed to prepare students for a college-preparatory high school academic program. Teachers also work with students to expand their awareness of the world beyond themselves, appreciate the opinions of others, and manage their time effectively.

High school students are provided with ample occasions for self-advocacy, collaboration and practical opportunities to think critically. Advanced Placement® and honors classes are balanced with opportunities to participate fully in fine arts, athletics, and community outreach.

What is the Annual Fund and What Does it Do?

If you’re not sure what the Annual Fund is, or how those funds are used, please read the following series on Giving to GRACE:

Make your commitment today! Fill out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card now!

Annual Fund Campaign Day 8

 

Support the 2017-2018 GRACE Annual Fund Campaign

It’s week two of the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Campaign that started last week and will conclude on October 20th. Gifts to the Annual Fund allows GRACE to invest in critical resources in many areas of school life including academics, athletics, fine arts, safety, security, and technology. Each day during the campaign we will highlight a different aspect of GRACE and how the Annual Fund supports each one.

Please prayerfully consider how you can be a part of this year’s Annual Fund Campaign. Strong parent participation is a key factor in us gaining access to outside foundation funding. Every gift, regardless of the amount, counts toward our goal of 100% participation. Please make your commitment (or let us know about the giving you are already doing) by filling out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card.

Day 8: We are Thankful for our Facilities

In the 35 years that GRACE has existed, God has provided the resources for the facilities that we have needed to grow and expand over the years. In recent years, our focus has been on maintaining and improving the facilities we have rather than growing additional square footage. In the past year, the Annual Fund has provided the resources needed to upgrade several areas across our buildings including updates to the 5th and 6th grade areas, a complete renovation of the bathrooms in the lower campus, and new HVAC units for the lower campus. The year before, the Annual Fund helped with the extensive renovations on the upper campus that resulted in a updated chapel, four new classrooms, and a new set of bathrooms.

 

What is the Annual Fund and What Does it Do?

If you’re not sure what the Annual Fund is, or how those funds are used, please read the following series on Giving to GRACE:

Make your commitment today! Fill out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card now!

Annual Fund Campaign Day 7

 

Support the 2017-2018 GRACE Annual Fund Campaign

It’s week two of the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Campaign that started last week and will conclude on October 20th. Gifts to the Annual Fund allows GRACE to invest in critical resources in many areas of school life including academics, athletics, fine arts, safety, security, and technology. Each day during the campaign we will highlight a different aspect of GRACE and how the Annual Fund supports each one.

Please prayerfully consider how you can be a part of this year’s Annual Fund Campaign. Strong parent participation is a key factor in us gaining access to outside foundation funding. Every gift, regardless of the amount, counts toward our goal of 100% participation. Please make your commitment (or let us know about the giving you are already doing) by filling out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card.

Day 7: We are Thankful for Athletics

GRACE has a full slate of athletic opportunities that begin with students in 6th grade. The mission of our athletic program is to provide an atmosphere where student-athletes can develop their physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual gifts through the avenue of athletic training and competition. Participation in athletics allows instruction in character, integrity, discipline, hard work and leadership. GRACE emphasizes the importance of good sportsmanship as part of our challenge to every student to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)

The Annual Fund has supported GRACE’s growing athletics program in a number of ways, including a complete redesign of the Physical Education space in the Activity Building, upgrades to the weight room, and improvements to the changing rooms.  

What is the Annual Fund and What Does it Do?

If you’re not sure what the Annual Fund is, or how those funds are used, please read the following series on Giving to GRACE:

Make your commitment today! Fill out the 2017-2018 Annual Fund Commitment Card now!