Why I am excited about re-enrolling my son at Westminster
Seven years ago, Ann and I toured Westminster for the first time. Even today I can remember the impression that tour made. We were stunned by the strong vision of the founders; we were excited about the opportunity to be part of Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church; and we thought the teachers and staff were extraordinary. Yes, we saw opportunities for improvement, but, as I said in my last report, it was clear a strategy for improvement was already in place—and already seeing results. When we decided to come to Birmingham, it was because we wanted our children to attend Westminster. And now, even though I am starting a new adventure with Fixed Point in January, I can’t imagine not re-enrolling Davis. Here’s why:
I want my son to be in a school where he will be pursued and known. I want him to be loved as an individual. I also want him to learn to sacrifice personal desires for the good of the community.
I want academic rigor. I want him to be challenged to pursue excellence. In fact, I want him to be challenged beyond his abilities, to face failure and continue pressing on. I want him to be in a school that forces him to earn his grades.
I want him to be among teachers that know the difference between misfortune, gifting, and sin. When the printer runs out of ink, I hope he feels free to appeal to his teachers, and I hope they feel free to graciously teach him to trust providence. If he just isn’t as smart as other students, I want teachers who help him rejoice with others while also helping him identify and delight in his own unique potential to reflect Christ’s glory. If it is his own fault, then I want teachers that will help him own his mistakes, repent, and fight harder next time.
I want him to be in a school that will teach him to “take every thought captive to obedience to Christ.” I want his education to be a discipline that hones his skills as well as an art that reveals the beauty of learning. I want him to submit to the mastery of teachers who understand and enjoy the freedom only found in wisdom.
I want a school that develops my son as an athlete. I want him to learn to compete to win, not because winning is that important, but because life demands that he learns how to commit to a goal, and to pursue that goal relentlessly. I want him to learn that even if he wins, it will have little value if he did not win with integrity and as a member of a team. I want a school that understands winning is fun and fun is good. I also want a school that will teach him how to lose.
After twenty-three years of working with adolescents, I have learned one thing: what I want is messy.
For each point in the above list, I could tell a painful story. I have seen students feel forgotten and others who just want to be left alone. I have seen that most students get tired of being stretched, and I have seen students weep when the other kids make them feel dumb. I have seen students shake with rage when having to accept the consequences of bad luck.
For each item on this list, I can also remember a story when a teacher let us down. I can remember times when parents expected too much and offered too little. However, I most keenly remember the times I blew it personally.
As long as we want a school that insists on shepherding our children’s hearts, we have to accept that it is going to be messy. It is going to be frustrating. The heart is deceptive and will resist any and every effort of love. There is no clean and easy way to pursue the heart.
But so what? Education, to be worth the effort, should aim at developing students emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If teachers and coaches are willing to venture into the dark places of my child’s heart while attempting to teach him math or history, then show me where to sign.
I say all this for two reasons: First, re-enroll and if you can, give an end-of-the-year gift to the school. Second, fight for this. Fight for a school that prioritizes the pursuit of the heart. Even when it is heart wrenching—and it will be—never tolerate lowering the standards.
And why would we? It would have been easy to accept compromises in the past. We were struggling financially. We were academically unproven. It seemed doubtful that we could offer a strong arts program or athletics program. We held to our vision then. Why on earth compromise now when we are as strong as we’ve ever been? To be clear, we can and should get better, but Westminster now operates on its firmest platform ever. More than ever before, our school is positioned to equip students for whatever life brings them.
Let me highlight five indicators:
As a parochial school Westminster’s relationship to Oak Mountain Church provides us with substantial protections. Consider the following:
- Political Freedom: If we were not under the umbrella of the church, we would answer to the Department of Education and be vulnerable to the whims of political change. Every election could mean a change in our curriculum.
- Financial Security: If it were not for the church, it is hard to imagine the school surviving the recession or being able to build our Upper School building. Not only did they give us the land, the church financially backed our loan. We also have the privilege of using the church space for our Lower School. If we were footing that bill, we could expect $15,000,000 up front and $300,000 annually for expenses.
- Spiritual Strength: While not experts on math curriculum, the staff at Oak Mountain deeply understand the struggle of shepherding hearts. And those of you who have enjoyed the ministry of Oak Mountain Church understand the importance of grace-centered theology. You know how it protects against the myriad ways evil tries to destroy the body of Christ.
Members of the Class of 2016 were awarded over $2,500,000 in academic, athletic, and special achievement scholarships and grants. These twenty-eight graduates accepted packages totaling just over $1,100,000.
Our athletic teams continue to improve. Westminster is now a name that earns respect in many athletic arenas on account of our athletes’ prowess at certain sports and their behavior as followers of Christ. Here are some of the accolades we’ve acquired just this past year.
This accomplishment may be my favorite. Adding a drama program has been extremely difficult. However, the performance of Cinderella this fall convinced me that we had done it. Our theater department has proven itself capable of staging a large scale production that requires more than one or two lead actors. And our student body has proven itself up to the increasing demands of these bigger and better productions.
Finally, Westminster is beginning to enjoy financial stability. Perhaps in the past you have wanted me to cut to the chase and talk more quickly about dollars and cents. Starting in January, I may even feel the same way which is why I am glad to announce the smallest increase in tuition in the history of the school. This is due to the willingness of our parents to see the value of our school and the ability of our teachers to deliver that value.
Again, thank you for your love for our family and support for me. I look forward to continuing to enjoy the community as a parent.
This is our third year to use the RenWeb and FACTS system. As a reminder, FACTS will bill you an annual fee of $46 for monthly autodraft ($20 for all other payment plans) in the month of May. The 2017 – 2018 tuition rates are:
If applying for Financial Aid, please go directly to your personal FACTS account and apply under the Grant and Aid tab, or click below. Families applying for financial aid will need to complete an application by Thursday, January 5.
Dates to Remember
- Financial aid deadline, January 5
- Reenrollment deadline, January 12
- Recommitment fees autodrafted by FACTS, January 24