CSM is experiencing a number of Christian schools that seem confused as to whether their Chief Executive Officer should attend Board meetings, should vote at Board meetings, should participate fully in Board meetings, should have one or more of his/her Leadership Team there as well. Let’s lay out CSM’s position clearly, and then provide some commentary.
“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.”
Clint Allen, Headmaster Alpha Omega Academy, TX
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.
Jed Davis, Board President Parkview Christian Academy, IL
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.
Peter Hansen, Head of School Lancaster County Christian School
Simon did an outstanding job. I don't agree with him on everything, but his positions are always logically and intellectually formed.
Deborah Miller, Regional Director (former) ACSI - North-West, MT
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.
Diann Floth, Head of School Billings Christian School, MT
Collaborate – We did a lot of meeting and talking before the day about what the goals were for the day. Then we went to dinner afterwards and talked about how it went and what the next steps are. He was very interested in tailoring it to what we needed to have happen. He said what needed to be said but in a way that was able to be heard. His rates are very reasonable; it was very affordable for our school. It was awesome!
Josh Bowar, Head of School Sioux Center Christian School, IA
It was very exciting. Everyone is encouraged and energized – it’s the shot in the arm we need.
Bethany Wirin, Head of School Marshalltown Christian School, IA
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.
Diann Floth, Head of School Billings Christian School, MT
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.
Nicki Kuiper, Coordinator Heartland Schools
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.
Dr. William Walner, Principal Bethany Christian School, CA
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.
Edward Fidellow, Executive Director Christian Montessori Fellowship
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.
Robert Peck, Headmaster The Samuel School, PA
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.
Cade Lambert, Superintendent Des Moines Christian School
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.
Erin Hart, Head of School 3 Rivers Christian School, WA
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!
Aaron Coon, Head of School Calvary Christian Academy, DE
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.
Michelle Goodman, Principal The King's Academy, PA
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.
Luke Davis, Headmaster Seattle Classical Christian School, WA
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.
Mike Myers, Headmaster Dayspring Christian School, PA
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.
Clark Gilbert, Head of School Milpitas Christian School, CA
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.”
Warren Barrett, Head of School Grace Academy, MD
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.
Cindy Dodds, Regional Director ACSI - Northeast
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.
Kyle Kuipers, Board President Byron Center Christian 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."
Jake Mulvihill, Head of School Legacy Christian Academy, MN
“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.'”
Shawn Smith, Principal Grace Christian School, VT
"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."
Henry Doorn, Superintendent Southwest Chicago Christian Schools, IL
"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."
David Couchman, Principal Summit Christian School, CA
"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.
Rev. "Boo" Kay, Principal Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School, LA
"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."
John Barkel, Principal Fremont Christian School, MI
"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."
Kasinda Bristol, Head of School Trinity Christian School, CT
"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."
Shawn Smith, Head of School Grace Christian School, VT
“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.”
Neil Capone, Head of School Faith Heritage School, NY
"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."
Jake Mulvihill, Head of School Legacy Christian Academy, MN
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.”
Jennifer Knecht, Head of School Manheim Christian Day School, PA
"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.
Dan De Kam, Executive Director West Michigan Christian Schools Collaborative, MI
When I found the toilet bowl cleaner that actually worked (ZEP), I was so relieved.
When I discover the shoes that were so comfy, stylish and last forever (Clarks), I felt like I accomplished something.
To finally find the resource, people and organization that understands what I am facing and where I ultimately want to go (CSM), I've been changed.
No disrespect in comparing CSM to shoes and TB cleaner, but if you knew the arduous journey (as some of you do) to search high and low for years and try everything under the sun to solve these needs, you will relate to what I am saying.
I've paid for education. Lots of it - but I simply could not find the people able or willing to meet me where I was as at as a school leader. I had worked my tail off and had a good school. But we want a great school and we want to be able to communicate what we do to others.
I got my Masters Degree in education, I went to conferences galor, including leadership conferences, I paid for consulting from business consultants, non profit consultants and educational consultants - I sometimes left with nuggets of wisdom so small- you would have mistaken them for chicken nuggets at Micky D's.
Then I met Bill. Now I don't want Bill to get a big head - but wow. When he spoke to a group of us at a Christian Montessori Conference- I was blown away. He actually not only knew what he was talking about from personal experience - he understood what I struggled with from years of research into what school leaders all over deal with. It's an important difference.
And Bill is not a mild mannered boring guy....Bill tells you like it is. Kind of like the way that really wise old widow at your church looks at you straight in the eyes and tells you the most profound and sometimes painful things because they love you and they want the best for you and they care more about helping you than you liking them.
But it's even better than that, because Bill also LISTENS! Actively listens and helps you process what is going on in your own head and the revelations waiting to emerge. Then sits back and celebrates the idea that was born. I mean, being the school leader can be challenging. No one else in your school or even family really has that job and can relate to the numerous small victories needed for transformation to occur. But Bill gets it and he genuinely enjoys and honors your accomplishments along the way.
When people like Bill and Simon show up and extend a hand offering their wisdom to help your school... go for it. You'll get more than nuggets if wisdom, you'll get clarity to take your school and your personal career to the next level, and the next, and the next...
Thanks Bill - you really are great and I'm so glad I met you!
Denise Marti, Head of School Providence: A Christian Montessori Community
Last spring Cedar Valley Christian school invited Christian School Management to our school to consult with us on a strategic plan. Bill and Simon spent three days evaluating our school and meeting with key groups of people. They then presented a strategic plan for our school for the next five years. They were able to give us an honest opinion of things that we were doing well and things that we could do better. They were able to supply opinions based on research and experience. Although some things were hard to hear, they were helpful as we planned for the future of our school.
Following their visit, my board suggested that I continue with some executive coaching. I was reluctant but am glad that I took advantage of this opportunity. The six follow up sessions with Bill served as a good reminder of the strategic plan and allowed me to dig deeper into the plan, ask questions and get a better understanding of each part of the plan. Bill was encouraging but direct and helped me navigate our plan but also helped me grow as a leader. I looked forward to each session and enjoyed the coaching that Bill provided.
As far as school improvement and individual professional development are concerned, the time spent with Bill and Simon was extremely valuable and money well spent. I often refer back to something they said or I look to their material to continue to help our school become the best that it can be.
Jeffrey Pospisil, Principal Cedar Valley Christian, IA
I tell anyone that calls me about CSM or emails, “do anything short of lying, cheating, or stealing to get them there.” Money is always the hang up. I tell them to look at it as an investment in your school – even if you get one student, the consultation pays for itself. Even after all that time, the Board was still hung up on money for this consult. It’s an investment in the future of the school, it’s going to pay for itself, look at our past history. Basically, we’re ahead 200,000 bucks.
Shawn Smith, Principal Grace Christian School, VT
Overall, he did a very, very good job in a digital format. If he were to ask me about an area to grow, I’d say talk less and let people engage more. Leave them wanting more. On the other hand, he’s got a lot of good stuff to share.
Jerry Bowen ACSI Rocky Mountain House
You could have handed us a 5 page document and said here is the best guide for a successful Annual Fund, but the CSM process led to valuable conversation and writing rehearsal that was invaluable. The conversations were contextual to our school. The content was excellent: do’s, don’ts, timelines, examples! Profound, simple, educational, inspirational! Most consultants tell us what to do, CSM shows us how to do it! We now know we can do this!
Jake Mulvihill, Head of School Legacy Christian Academy
You are the civil and mechanical engineers of school leadership!!! I know we have to be the sub contractors who do the work - but we could not have done it without you. Thank you!
BTW - I cannot believe you made all that come together in 4 days. It looks like a month's worth of work!
Denise Marti, Head of School, Providence Christian Montessori Community
He really equipped our new school leader (Academic Dean) to be very successful this year. We had a specific list of topics to discuss and met twice a month. At the first meeting we focused on the topic; at the second one we did follow-up questions, which was very helpful.
Diann Floth, Head of School Billings Christian School, MT
They led conversations appropriately.
There was a lot of give and take. It’s the nature of the work that every once in a while we’re going to say “We’re not gonna do that,” and the level of rapport was appropriate.
What we needed to hear? I think so. It’s always hard to come in when you don’t know a lot of people. The SFP part was exceptionally thorough and beneficial. They worked well with our CFO, who’s really sharp, and shaped the way we think about some things – it was exceptional.
Mike Sligh, Head of School Lakeland Christian School, FL
Knowledgeable - Yes, that’s why I work with them. They’re very good at recognizing where their expertise starts and stops - Simon defers to Patrick because he feels Patrick is more knowledgeable in some areas, and vice versa. It’s not simply a transactional discussion; they make you feel like you’re a person, too. We’ll be doing the coaching process again. Compared to the market out there the cost was good and the coaching was successful, that’s why we’re sticking with it.
(Collaborative Executive Coaching)
Dan DeKam, Executive Director West Michigan Christian Schools
The great thing about Tom is that he can be very direct. There are certain circumstances which, as a consultant, you need to know how to explain to different stakeholders. He was very adaptable to circumstances. He did the job we asked him to do. He has great experience, knows what does and doesn’t work.
Dan Tallacksen, Board of Directors Christian Heritage Academy, IL
In each instance where we were talking about a specific matter, Bill gave me helpful direction and guidance. I know he’s busy, and I appreciated his accessibility. If a situation came up, I reached out and he made time to talk with me. I really appreciated it. He’s gotten to know me over time, and he’s able to speak into what my true personality is and to be mindful of the struggles of being in this role.
Courtney Elliott, Head of School Hope Academy, MI
The biggest win was that our Board woke up. That was really worth it all by itself - seeing those “aha moments” with our Board. They have always been my cheerleaders instead of the workhorses, and there has to be a time when that relationship changes. They really got that
Denise Marti, Head of School Providence: A Christian Montessori Community, NC
Path, action, success – Definitely. We have a lot on our plate, but it’s focused energy now. We’ll have success in what we will accomplish, and in the clarity of where we’re going and what we will say “no” to with opportunities. In general, we will grow in our success as a school.
Jake Mulvihill, Head of School Legacy Christian Academy, MN
I will recommend this coach or whoever, and I highly recommend that after going through SP the Head follow up with some coaching. That was a good part of the progress we’ve been able to make.
Jeff Pospisil, Head of School Cedar Valley Christian School, IA
I’m incredibly appreciative of the final product now that the board has approved it. The board did not approve it that evening, and we spent a couple of months, the board and the leadership team, working on it. That made it fit exactly what was intended. There was significant by-in and the Board ultimately unanimously approved the final plan.
Tom DeJonge, Superintendent Grand Rapids Christian School, MI
I would say we have a lot more confidence compared to our views pre-plan. There was uncertainty as to what the future might look like. We know what we have to do to hit our objectives. We know these plans work – others have been using the CSM plan and we have tangible examples that we can rely on. The biggest thing is now the school is more unified around that plan, and we can move the school in a better direction.
Dan Tallacksen, Board Treasurer Christian Heritage Academy, IL
We’re very grateful that we have consistent leadership and a strategic plan. This is my 20 th year at Lighthouse. That makes a difference in where can go with the school. There’s unity around the mission, God’s word, the core value statement of faith. That’s why I love a strategic plan because it doesn’t matter if the board changes. We will never go back to being a school without a strategic plan.
Stephen Roddy, Head of School Lighthouse Christian School, WA
Our thinking was strategically, early in the process, on the right side of healthy practice. We needed (the service we got) more than I thought in terms of Board roles. It was really fun to have Tom there to provide perspective from someone who’s still “in the school building.”
Brian Polk, Board President Ecclesial Schools Initiative, FL
What my Board needed to hear was that all good things can happen, but they have to happen in a very explicit ordering of priorities. We can’t have everything at once because we can’t afford to pay for it. When people come up with “great ideas,” it’s not a great idea if it’s not in the plan.
Bill Shelnutt, Head of School Trinity Presbyterian School, AL
We use our SFP almost every single day. Simon worked tirelessly to make the budget figures run effectively so we would come out in the black. It's part of everything we’ve done since then – we’ve been following the same (type of) plan for many years. He’s worked overtime in order to make it work, the plan is very specific & detailed.
Rev. "Boo" Kay Episcopal Day School, Lake Charles, LA
We needed a consultant to be successful. They have a way of pulling out the best in you, rather than it just coming from the leaders and teacher leaders
Becky Miedema, Head of HR Des Moines Christian School
I have to say, it’s wonderful the way Simon and Patty use their gifts and talents professionally and compassionately.
Their examples were hopeful. What and how they presented to the Board and the school faculty and staff made the experience that much richer.
I really enjoyed Simon’s examples from the Gospels and the Bible, but it’s also important to know that every Christian
school has a different depth to their teachings and faith. It was nice to see him use that and be respectful of our Church.
Maria Kroll, Principal Guardian Angel Orthodox School, IL
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