Welcome to the inaugural “President’s Post”!
I am excited to launch a new, regular communication directly from me to you, in an attempt to provide more visibility into the strategic initiatives of the school and to share my heart with our community, as God leads. I pray this will give you more insight into our school and how we can be praying as a community.
Several weeks ago, we announced a change to our Enrichment 1 – Class 2 schedule for the 2020-2021 school year. While the reaction to this news was understandably mixed, I am thankful to be part of a community that is committed to handling disagreement directly, with grace and truth. I have had many conversations with families, some who supported and others who were disappointed with the changes. I am deeply encouraged that the consistent theme in all of these conversations was a love for and commitment to the unique purpose of Heritage Preparatory School.
As with any organization, but especially a Christ-centered one, the ability to understand the difference between principles and practices is critical. Heritage’s core principles of being Christ-centered, covenantal (both parents expressing and living out a faith in Jesus Christ), and classical in our pedagogy will never change. Our commitment to these principles and to a stringent admissions process that remains focused on ensuring that new families share our commitment to them, allows us to execute our central purpose and avoid mission drift over time.
Practices, on the other hand, will change and evolve as the school continues to grow and mature. By adapting our practices to meet the needs of our families, both present and future, and to further our commitment to excellence, we are ensuring the continued viability of the school and the fulfillment of our mission. It is our desire that we would, with great intentionality, develop students from E1 – C12 such that our graduates embody our Portrait of a Graduate:
Beginning with the end in mind, we endeavor to develop students who:
- Love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Demonstrate mature Christian character and virtue.
- Possess the ability to live and think with truth, wisdom, and excellence.
- Are equipped to listen carefully, reason wisely, think precisely, and articulate persuasively.
- Develop a passion for lifelong learning.
- Serve the kingdom of God and engage culture faithfully.
Our Board of Trustees consists of 11 faithful, committed, and prayerful men and women who want nothing more than to protect and advance the mission of Heritage Preparatory School and produce graduates who embody those characteristics. To do that requires difficult decisions and bold leadership. I am thankful they provide both.
Thank you for your patience, understanding and willingness to work through these decisions. It is because of our common faith in Jesus Christ and desire to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord that we remain unified and engaged in what the Lord is building here at Heritage.
Here are just a few of the things we have been working on over the first month of this school year:
We are excited about the possibilities that our expanded schedule will create next year. It is important to note that we are not changing the expected learning outcomes or adding content to the curriculum. Instead, the additional time will allow our teachers to integrate more creative elements into the delivery of the curriculum. We expect to have an even more active, dynamic and engaging pedagogy that will include more time in nature studies and art. Additionally, teachers will be able to incorporate more hands-on projects that will allow them to delve deeper into the subjects they are teaching. We see this expanded schedule as an opportunity to enhance the Charlotte Mason influences that we value in our early grades.
Here are some additional details about the 2020-2021 school year that will impact every family in the Heritage community:
- Enrichment I – Flexible Attendance Policy
We will have a flexible attendance policy on Tuesdays and Thursdays for EI students. Students will not be penalized for missing those days. To help accommodate this flexibility, we will limit the introduction of new material on T/Th as well as provide weekly communication through the Class Happenings of material expected to be covered on those days. This will allow parents to help their students maintain the pace of those who are attending five days a week. Since this is a flexible attendance policy and not a separate program, tuition will be the same for all EI students. The flexible attendance policy is available for EI students only. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions at the end of this communication for additional details.
- Homework in Enrichment I – Class 2
In light of the additional instructional time at school, general homework in EI-C2 will be limited to the daily reading log and the occasional practice of recitations and math facts. Assignments that are currently assigned for homework, such as math practice work, spelling and phonics will be completed during the school day. Students who are struggling may be assigned additional work at home to remediate their deficiencies. All families will continue to be expected to do family devotions at home.
- Enrichment I – Class 8
There will be a noon release for all students (EI-C8) on the school day prior to holiday weekends, including the Fridays before Labor Day, Columbus Day/Fall break, MLK, Jr. holiday, and Presidents Day as well as on Maundy Thursday. We will continue to have a noon release on the Friday before Thanksgiving break (Grandparents’ Day), Christmas break (the day of our school Christmas parties), spring break and summer break (Fine Arts Day).
HPS Building Update
God’s hand has been clearly evident in the permitting process that we are currently involved in with the City of Atlanta. As stated during our Parent Night, the school is seeking an updated Special Use Permit that will allow us to build on our ground lease. I am excited to announce that we have received unanimous support from all parties so far. That includes Piedmont Heights Civic Association, Morningside/Lenox Park Association and, as of this past Monday evening, our Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU-F).
Allow me a moment to provide some context. Back in 2001 and again in 2007 when Heritage applied to change the zoning to allow a school on the Morningside Baptist Church campus, there was significant resistance from the surrounding neighborhoods. HPS Board President Woody Faulk and others worked tirelessly to engender enough support to finally secure a hard-fought approvals by the slimmest of margins with the neighborhood associations and the NPU, which eventually led to approvals by the City of Atlanta. While we are not out of the woods yet – we still have to navigate the Zoning Review Board and the City Council – the process this year has been nothing short of miraculous. No longer is Heritage viewed as a nuisance that will add traffic and create more congestion; it is now viewed as a valuable asset to the community, a hedge against unwanted development, and a welcome neighbor. It has been a joy to attend these meetings and hear the positive comments from multiple sources.
Please continue to pray for God’s favor as we move forward in this process.
Upper School Update
Next Thursday, September 26, we are taking Class 6 and 7 students to Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters, specifically their innovation center, known as the Hatch. Our purpose is to invite the students into the planning process for the launch of our upper school and give them a chance to help create what we know will be a unique and exciting upper school experience.
We have designed a program that we anticipate all our students will learn from and enjoy. Leadership skills such as collaboration, team-building, strategic planning, and goal setting will be modeled and encouraged. Additionally, we have invited several of our CFA fathers to address the students. We hope that exposing them to the Hatch facility and providing a glimpse into the inner workings of a successful and well-respected business will challenge and inspire them.
This trip is a foretaste of the types of learning experiences we envision for our upper school students at Heritage. The city will truly be our classroom.
Parent Trip to Veritas School
Last year several members of our Board of Trustees attended a conference at Veritas School in Richmond, VA and had the opportunity to observe several classes and talk with teachers and administrators. It was a powerful experience for them to see a classical Christian upper school in action and gave them a bigger vision for our upper school. We are excited to be able to take a group of parents to Veritas in January 2020 to observe their classical high school classes and culture, ask questions of faculty and staff, and see why we are so excited about the launch of our upper school in two years.
These are exciting days for Heritage! We have many critical decisions ahead as we expand our educational offerings to upper school and work towards building additional classroom space. We ask that you continue to pray for wisdom, discernment and clarity and that God would provide clear guidance and direction as we move forward.
Matthew H. Skinner