“Tiny Westminster Stuns!” Remember this headline from The Birmingham News three years ago? It is still one of my favorites. As I wrote in a blog (link to blog), I think it was much more than a lucky victory. Instead, it was Alabama’s first true glimpse at the cultural, academic, and athletic strength that is the Westminster School at Oak Mountain.
By any external metric that I know of, Westminster has proven once again that strength cannot be judged by size. Take a look at last year’s State of the School Report (link to report). If you look at growth data, college placement test scores, athletic victories, or scholarships, Westminster measures well. And we have only improved on these numbers. God has blessed Westminster to the point that you would be hard pressed to find a school that could match it in all of these categories. Actually, I think it would be helpful to compare notes with a school of similar size, cost, and scores, but I do not know of one.
External metrics, however, have their limits. As some of you have indicated, the data we used in last year’s report does not capture the true sweetness of where we are as a school. And more importantly, it could distract from the areas of weakness that most need attention.
With this in mind, I am going to change direction in this year’s report. Instead of presenting more data about our growth and performance, I want to share my thoughts about looking for a new Upper School Head. As many of you know, James Daniels, our current Upper School Head, has announced his intention to plant a church in Chelsea (link to James’s letter). Finding his replacement is, I am convinced, the most pressing need for Westminster right now. It is also the place where we can do the greatest good to keep Westminster strong and moving forward. You all have seen what Lori Jill’s grace, wisdom, and consistency have done for the Lower School. Our prayer is that God will now provide us with the right person to lead our Upper School into the future.
As I search for our next leader, I am looking for three characteristics:
First, a Westminster leader must be a shepherd of hearts. He or she has to be an individual who knows how to nurture, cultivate, and discipline, all while being driven by grace. However, I understand that grace is a vague term to use in a job description. When I was a child, adults used the word grace to describe the agility of a good athlete or the manners of a well-behaved child. For many today “having grace” has come to mean merely keeping people happy. While we expect our leaders to be skillful and polite and even diplomatic, I hope that we would all agree that we mean so much more by grace. For example, I am convinced by Lori Jill that we need to make sure that our definition of the word grace has room for grit. A grace-filled leader will be polite and even winsome, but will also know how to combine these qualities with discipline and determination.
True leadership is the art of learning to see others in Christ. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:18, his ministry was a “ministry of reconciliation.” So is ours at Westminster. Our every word, as Paul goes on to say, should thus send forth an “appeal” to the students to “be reconciled to God.” This obviously implies a certain tone and choice of words, but more importantly, it implies a certain perspective on our students. As followers of Christ, we must understand that our students are sinners in need of reconciliation with God. We must further understand that in Christ, God has forgiven their sins, and loves them as He loves his own Son. Likewise, we should see them in all their sinfulness, and love them unconditionally in Christ.
Second, a Westminster leader must have a thorough mastery of the classical liberal arts curriculum we teach. Here, however, is the real struggle: a Westminster leader must not only understand the liberal arts, but also how they are taught. This means our leader must have more than a first rate education. He must understand the strategies and principles required to pass on such an education to the next generation and have the ability to help other teachers master these skills. Additionally, he must have clarity of thought and speech that serves him well in a variety of contexts. And ultimately, a Westminster leader must understand that the true end of education is not college admission or money making, but human flourishing.
Third, a Westminster leader must have the ability to manage teachers and students. I must admit, this is a trait I have been slow to admire. I like people of vision and ideas who can inspire others; I like people who can execute, setting the example for others to follow; but I have failed to see the beauty of people with the temperament of a true manager. A manager must have a disciplined and focused gaze upon the work of an institution. He or she must be able to gauge the state of things and evaluate progress. A manager must develop categories, metrics, and instruments for measuring and promoting the improvement of his or her organization.
God is blessing Westminster. I know that He has already prepared the right person to lead “Tiny Westminster’s” Upper School. I do hope you will join us next year. Tuition has been set as follows:
- K-5 $7,347
- 6-8 $8,407
- 9-12 $9,738
We are absorbing the cost of the new building without having to increase tuition significantly. We can do this because we are being frugal and because you all are meeting your pledges to the building campaign. We are so thankful for your generosity!
I do hope that if you can, you will commit to giving end-of-the-year gifts to Westminster. As we adjust to paying a mortgage and utility bills, money is certainly tightening up. And this is also not the time to slow down on new initiatives. Next year, we hope to expand our fine arts program as well as begin to make much needed improvements in the Lower School facility.
I would like to thank you all for a great year. It is reasonable to believe that we will be at capacity in every grade next year! God is blessing Westminster. Please take a moment in the next few days to thank Him for giving us and our children this wonderful place to grow in grace as a community.
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