Steve was very authoritative in his subject. He has a great grasp and familiarity with the physical worldview of running a school that’s committed [to that biblical worldview] and was definitely able to communicate that. One of the things I really appreciate about Steve is that he and I spent time on the phone after the workshop, he sent emails, and he’s been very available for questions and talking things through and helping me out.
Billings Christian School, MT
Simon has such a depth of knowledge. It’s invaluable to get his perspective on where you’re at. We expected new things and we got them. The surprising thing was there were areas where we weren’t aware he had knowledge and could address with us. We will have him back again. It’s like an annual self-exam, having Simon come in every year and give us a check-up in a certain area.
Simon asked a lot of questions before he came about the audience, so he knew who we were and what we would be looking for. He was easy to listen to and made little jokes here and there – that’s nice to have that when you’re sitting and listening. He was direct. He wasn’t aggressive, but he wasn’t afraid to say what needed to be said. We felt he was very knowledgeable and had lots of experience that he brought to the table.
The following Friday at 7 a.m. I walked past a preschool teacher who said, “Dr. Walner, that was money well spent.” All the teachers felt affirmed by the strategic planning process. Bill and Tom helped solidify visionary ideas, but the most valuable was understanding how to fund those ideas in the next 5 years. The strategic financial plan showed us what the market could bear and recommended an 8.9% tuition increase. We usually do around 5%, but we went ahead and our re-enrollment has been the strongest ever.
We were tremendously blessed by what Bill (Simmer) said. People’s experience was “I never thought of it that way.” He delivered tremendously for everybody; it was a mix of new people and “old people” [veteran teachers]. There was a whole different perspective – data-driven vs. anecdotal. We were satisfied – very much so. A number of people said they want Bill to come back.
This was a great experience. When you go it alone and you have someone come alongside to help, it’s very meaningful - it’s such a powerful experience to have a plan. My goal is to review the strategic plan on a weekly basis. We appreciate the effort made to put everything on paper with a structure – year 1, year 2.
Christian school leadership is more complex, more demanding, and more needed than ever. Traditional graduate programs fail to prepare Christian school leaders and provide ongoing support to address this reality. Transformation Academy provides the framework, content, and mentorship to prepare future and current leaders to thrive in leading Christian Schools. It is one of the only programs to comprehensively tackle critical leadership roles in the areas of finance, fundraising, board governance, spiritual leadership, and data-driven organizational benchmarking. If I were replacing myself in the role of HOS at my school, Transformation Academy would be mandatory for my successor.
For most of us who get involved in Christian schooling, it doesn’t take long to realize that it’s unlike any other type of organization. Training in the non-profit and for-profit world both fall short of addressing the unique circumstances of the business/ministry paradox in private Christian education. In my first year as a head of school, I felt like an astronaut without a tether – very aware of all the vast things I didn’t know and not sure which way was ‘up.’ Transformation Academy served as my “ground control” experience. Addressing both the strategic and the spiritual, I returned to my school with a framework for progress and a variety of effective tools for helping my board understand our specific opportunities for improvement. Implementation of those improvements are on-going, but my school has gone from ‘swirling the drain’ to a financially-sound, mission-focused educational ministry. Prayer, hard-work and great intentions can take you far – but it matters to first know that you’re going in the right direction. Transformation Academy was paramount in determining our focus for change.
The value in Transformation Academy is greater than the investment to attend. I arrived at Transformation Academy with 10 years of experience as head of school and felt like I left with the most valuable leadership training I had ever received for Christian education. Those two years changed my life and my trajectory as a head of school. I left that experience feeling equipped to make decisions that would radically change the effectiveness and sustainability of our school. Transformation Academy truly is transformational. That was five years ago. Since then, our school has grown, added a campus, built a strategic reserve, added highly qualified staff in administrative positions, and made changes to curriculum and programs to better meet the needs of our students. Everyone in Christian school leadership should participate in Transformation Academy to change the course of Christian education for the Kingdom!
Simon and Bill were able to sell it to the Board. They did a lot of homework and knew a lot about us. I really appreciate how accessible they’ve been following the consultation. One day I sent them 3 emails. They responded quickly and were able to give us good solid advice.
Bill and Simon did their homework – pointed out things we hadn’t noticed and we were, “Really?” They knew us about as well as anyone could on a paper basis. They were respectful of our mission. One of the recommendations was a mission refresh – how it could be made better – and they were always respectful. Success is often measured by beginning with clear goals. We have those. With the faculty, two areas were really positive – mission at the beginning and professional learning community at the end. The other two areas landed like bricks – scheduling and assessment. It was the only blemish on the week.
This time they added a piece and engaged our faculty. That wasn’t part of the first one we had done. It made a big difference for the teachers to see that they are valued. You got what you needed to hear: They did not mince words, and we didn’t pay them to mince words. There was no candy coating. And they did it in a constructive, not a judgmental, way.
He absolutely facilitated conversations. The school is undergoing a lot of change, and people needed to share their thoughts and perspectives about the past. He was sensitive to that. He was very collaborative.
It’s fun to work with a consultant like Simon – we value that. He’s a knowledgeable person who’s been in the industry a long time, and he’s working with a school that hasn’t been working with best practices. He’s great company, and he has a winsome way with his personality and the way he approaches things. He makes it fun.
It took a bit to get the Board members to spend the money to bring in a consultant. We had brought in a consultant before and implemented only some of the suggestions. All of the Board agreed this was money well spent. We went out of our way to do this. I was able to convince the Board President, but we had about an hour discussion at a Board meeting about hiring CSM. Even at our meeting last week, the Board members were saying, “That was a good Consultant study.” The consensus of the Board was that it was a really good idea. Our Board members are business people and have had consultants. One had spent $75,000 for a consultant study and never implemented much. He said they’d basically wasted the money. The Board members say this was “worth it.” We appreciated the plan being written in a way that was usable. A lot of consultants give you information, but it’s not usable. I also appreciate that Bill and Simon have been accessible after the visit. That’s really important for us. They said, “If you need us, if you have questions, feel free to email or call.” A lot of people would say, “We get $125 an hour.”
Tom and Greg were very professional guys. They knew the history of Parkview and adjusted. We were going through significant changes the week or 2 before the consultation, and they rearranged their entire approach. They were very accommodating about meeting us where we were. We got the direction we needed.
Lancaster County Christian School
Peter Hansen, Head of School
Polite? Yes, he’s very well-mannered, great with all the different groups, related well with them. Simon is very blunt – “I can’t imagine a worse possible schedule.” Some of the feedback was hard to hear for some of my employees, especially the marketing team. He’s forthcoming, he doesn’t pull any punches – that’s what I pay him for. I wanted him to be able to say it so they would listen. He was well-versed in all the school’s data, well-prepared, and wasn’t prescriptive – like “your mission’s wrong” – whatever his preferences were.
ACSI - North-West, MT
Deborah Miller, Regional Director (former)
Simon did an outstanding job. I don't agree with him on everything, but his positions are always logically and intellectually formed.
Billings Christian School, MT
Diann Floth, Head of School
I don't know how it could have been done any differently, but it was a lot to absorb in 3 days. We wrote the plan with him, presented it to the faculty, and even up until about 2 weeks ago we kept refining it. This was so helpful for our staff. I was glad he included lead teachers - there's so much more buy-in. Simon was so gracious. One place he focused was the mission statement. As someone of his knowledge, I said I wished he could talk with the Board about it. So he came to a 6 a.m. meeting the day he was leaving. Then the Foundation Braod came in and he met with them about facilities. Our secondary Principal, who's relatively new to the school (2 years) was more excited about Simon's visit than he has been since he joined us. It gave him direction. IF that's all that happpeneded [as a result of the consultation] that alone would have been worth it.
We hired the workshop leaders as a team - they did an excellent job. They were socially aware - They were sensitive to what's happening in the room even as they were teaching. They were all wonderful that way. Worth the $$ - I absolutely will hire them again. I definitely think the practical solutions they offered will make an impact if the schools apply them. I love what Simon and Bill bring to the table. Lauren hit it out of the park - she is outstanding.
Byron Center Christian School
Kyle Kuipers, Board President
Overall, the experience was very positive, and the Board got some new life, some new energy, and we're all really excited about it. We're already acting on the first step. We engaged with a master facilities planner, hired him and that's under way. We also made financial decisions just last night about tuition, and we're working on our Board governance and structure.
Jake Mulvihill, Head of School
“In faculty evaluation, we came to the idea together. Simon brought us to where we were saying, 'This is good.' I appreciate that they didn't throw out everything that we had been building. They created a shift in mindset that allowed us to focus on growth and create a system for the 95% of teachers who do want to grow. We'll be implementing in the spring.
"The schedule was presented to us - it's amazing what they accomplished in the time they spent. They demonstrated how we could financially afford it and the benefits it would bring. There was so much to consider that I asked he to give us a day after got home to go into the elementary and middle school schedules more deeply.
The research pieces were important; they laid the foundation for why. Walking through the challenges with the current schedule made it obvious we needed to shift. We're implementing in 2021."
Shawn Smith, Principal
“He did tell us what we needed to hear. It’s one of the CSM promises – it’s built into the organization – you get a helping hand and a nudge in the right direction. The first consultation we laid the framework – strategic planning, strategic financial planning, updating the mission. This time we built on that structure and filled it in. Simon gives us hope (which is huge), help (a plan), direction (where we want to go), and wise counsel (based on his knowledge of the industry, his passion for Christian schools, and his years of experience). It’s just invaluable. When other schools call, I tell them, 'Do anything you can to get them there. If you get one student as a result, you’ve paid for it. It’s worth every penny and then some.'”
Henry Doorn, Superintendent
"Simon helped us understand what we need to do to put the school on a different trajectory. He didn't try to make us into something we're not. The leadership and Board have realized that the world is changing pretty quickly. This was a really helpful process for us. The leadership and the Board are energized. Monday next week, God willing, the Board is going to approve the strategic plan. On February 15, God willing, we're holding an in-service to present the plan to the faculty. We're jumping in with both feet."
Summit Christian School, CA
David Couchman, Principal
"The key performance indicators were really helpful. We may feel like we’re actually growing and improving, but are we really? That gave us something tangible to look at and make judgements about.
During my time in schools, I’ve had maybe 3 consulting experiences and this is the first one where I felt I really got my money’s worth. It was a very good thing for us. I was talking with the Board President and we’re starting to turn the corner we wanted to turn. It was the push we needed."
Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School, LA
Rev. "Boo" Kay, Principal
"I knew we would have lots to get ready. Simon was very specific about what he needed. He did his homework so our time together was well spent. He was up to speed when he arrived. He had read all the materials we sent and everything else he could get his hands on. He and Greg definitely made an easy team - they complemented each other. Greg would add relevant things he had seen recently in his own school and other places.
Simon didn't give us conclusions. He left us with 7 different schedules and we were tasked with coming up with the final one. He enlightened us about the possibilities and showed us the strengths of each one. We came up with another one that was not exactly like the one he presented. Being open-ended and reflection are critical - it's better if you do it yourself.
Fremont Christian School, MI
John Barkel, Principal
"You don't meet many people like Simon. He can tell you something and be blunt and still make you feel good about yourself. That's a great quality. He said what needed to be said. I wish we'd brought him in for two days - he had so much more to offer. He did a great job with the time he had."
Trinity Christian School, CT
Kasinda Bristol, Head of School
"Bill (Stevens) was definitely collaborative and told us what we needed to hear. There was a meeting on Saturday with the School Board to ask questions and get to the answers. I liked that he was very honest with us. He could be direct, not mincing words or trying to sugarcoat. One thing that stuck with me: Bill comes with experience and he used that to help us dig deeper and think. And he also took time to pray not just for us, but with us – that was huge, as a leader and from where my focus was."
Shawn Smith, Head of School
"We’re totally blessed. We got more than we expected and it was worth more than the paycheck. It was a value, not an expense. We’re excited.
"What else was amazing is that Simon is like the Energizer Bunny. The hours he put in – we spent 13 hours a day together. It was clear that he cared, he was vested. He rolled up his sleeves and addressed everything - from abstract thinking to future planning to budget to scheduling – the day-to-day to the very strategic. It was really fun."
Faith Heritage School, NY
Neil Capone, Head of School
“Simon used theory and his experience to move the Finance Committee forward. He worked non-stop and left us with recommendations that were specific to our mission and strategic plan that we are able to move forward with.
He got the Board talking in a short amount of time, and accomplished a great deal in the short time he was with us. It was like drinking through a fire hose. The Board wanted to put aside funds to bring the consultant back and monitor the school’s progress. We are very thankful.”
Legacy Christian Academy, MN
Jake Mulvihill, Head of School
"What Bill and Simon told us was relevant and accomplished my vision for the day. Part of that vision was to take some specific topics and lay the foundation – almost an educational philosophy – that we could move forward with as a school together."
Manheim Christian Day School, PA
Jennifer Knecht, Head of School
When asked whether the Head understood her path better than before, she said, “Yes, absolutely, and the Board does too.” Their meetings are more effective – now Board meetings are 1-1/2 hours long, not 3 hours. “That is huge.”
West Michigan Christian Schools Collaborative, MI
Dan De Kam, Executive Director
"Tom and Simon definitely did their homework. I was amazed - I wasn’t sure how much they’d read of all the information we gave them, but they seem to have read everything. The consultation brought people on board concerning critical issues.