Over the last three years and in the last five years since ACSI accreditation (2010), MCS has made significant gains financially, academically, athletically, and spiritually. MCS has weathered the financial storm of both the economic recession and substantial building debt to move into a position of financial stability. A balloon payment on the building addition of $1.2 million was due and paid at the close of 2011 after three intense years of fundraising by both the superintendent and the school board. The remaining balance of building debt stands at $1.7 million and termed over the next 15 years at a rate of 4.8% interest. Both the principal payments and interest payments are built into the annual budget and expenses have been adjusted to allow for these payments. An “annual fund banquet” was introduced several years ago to help pay-down the loan outside of the budget and the average result has been $75,000-$100,000 toward the principal amount. This event has been a tremendous blessing as it has further enabled MCS to both pay down the loan while at the same time, make other needed improvements to benefit the overall operations. For example, since the launch of the building program in 2006, the school has simultaneously made over $500,000 in capital improvements – traced back to both public and private donations.
Academically, gains have been made both in operations and classroom performance. Led by the administration, the Educational Policies Committee has updated and validated the curriculum review process that includes inspection of the curriculum guides. This has resulted in the purchase of new curriculum annually (using both auxiliary funds and MCS funds) and better alignment of our academic objectives across grade levels. To further increase the effectiveness of this process and connect the curriculum to assessment results, the school hired a part-time curriculum director in the summer of 2015. The primary focuses of the position are curriculum alignment at the K-6 levels and assessment patterns across K-12. Standardized test scores on the Ohio Achievement Tests (OAA), the Terra Nova (TN) and the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) have also been very good considering the school tests all students – including those with vouchers and special needs. OGT scores for sophomores are consistently the highest or among the highest in Richland County.
For criteria that highlighted what is important to MCS, the school was named among the “50 Best Christian High Schools in America” by TheBestSchools.org in August 2014. The criteria for the award included academic excellence, extracurricular richness, diversity, and the “Christian faith taken seriously.” The spiritual tone most impressed MCS and we are proud that our students, parents, alumni, and constituents recognize that MCS is driven by our faith and our focus upon the Biblical worldview. The secondary chapel experience was “reinvented” in 2012 to include a greater emphasis upon student reflection and application. Community groups and peer groups were created to help students debrief about the topic each week in a small group setting and under the direction of a faculty member.
Athletically, MCS continues to retain over 10 varsity sports and a healthy program for elementary students. Soccer remains the school’s most popular sport and in the fall of 2014, the varsity boys soccer team won the school’s first ever state championship. This was the school’s second consecutive trip to the state finals and the fourth appearance in the boys final four. Despite the low numbers of participants, the school continues to maintain quality programs in track, swimming, and golf. The success of the athletic department rests largely on the organization and determination of the athletic director, staff, and volunteers. The program is self-funding with the exception of the coaches stipends from the school’s budget.
Three additional areas merit documentation here. First, MCS has launched an unprecedented and very successful marketing campaign over the last three years. The campaign has largely focused on the use of social media, but includes outreach through radio, video, and personal contact. Utilizing both professionals and our own employees, the school has produced a number of promotional videos that are posted to a myriad of Internet sites including the school’s own YouTube channel and Facebook pages. These videos cover topics such as the Christian philosophy of education, why students and families enjoy MCS, and school spirit themes. MCS has also introduced a school app and transformed its website to become “mobile-friendly”. Website features are far more interactive and useful – driving the visitor to seek and find helpful information on educational topics. Positioned as the “face of the school” the Superintendent has greatly increased his presence at local events, community meetings, and local advertising mediums. Taken together, led by the administration with the help of the public relations committee, MCS has recently emerged as a significant player in educational marketing in northcentral Ohio.
Second, MCS has been intentional over the last three years to cultivate renewed relations with the local churches. Under the direction of the former athletic director (who had previously worked in church ministry), the school opened new lines of communication with church personnel and established activities for mutual growth between the organizations. These attempts were met with enthusiasm from local church and parachurch personnel, and in a very tangible way, this effort has transformed relations between MCS and these ministries. For example, there now exist a network of church personnel across the area that meet regularly (that includes MCS) to coordinate our purposes for the advancement of the Gospel in the community. Primary for MCS has been the communication of our mission and how Christian schools support churches by providing future leadership. In some ways, this is a pioneer project and potentially a model for nondenominational schools moving forward.
Finally, the school’s capacity to withstand the recession and return to financial stability, while simultaneously effectively addressing the building debt and making significant capital improvements, is both laudable and compelling. This was no small task and has awakened the leadership team and school board to the importance of vision and planning. Such words are commonplace in educational organizations, yet the reality of their significance cannot be overlooked in this economy and culture. For MCS and Christian schools like it across the country to survive, it will be critical that we prioritize the process by which we evaluate who we are, why we exist, if we are effective, and how we are best able to prepare for the days ahead.