Here at RCLS, we enjoy a change of pace in the summer and the opportunity to refresh our procedures and renew our campus for the highly anticipated return of our beloved students, the very reason for our efforts. This year, that change of pace has presented a remarkable opportunity for training and networking for our school principal, Mrs. Lagerwaard.
The Van Lunen Center at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, now in its 11th year, is an executive management training center for leaders of Christian schools. Based on the founders’ desire to impact “the quality of Christian education in the United States,” the Center collaborates with several Christian school associations, including the Lutheran Education Association (LEA), to offer the nation’s Christian-school leaders invaluable training and support, with a particular emphasis on executive management principles and practices rather than more general leadership skills. The Center’s Fellows Program, in which Mrs. Lagerwaard is enrolled, is the cornerstone of their efforts “to provide world-class executive management education for heads of schools based on the historic Christian faith” (Van Lunen, p. 22). The program requires a 12-month commitment, which includes three intensive training weeks, and is shaped by a set of six core values (p. 22):
1. It is distinctively Christian in all its aspects.
2. It is characterized by a “big tent” approach to inclusivity.
3. It is excellent in all its dimensions with a focus on executive management.
4. It seeks leaders diverse in ethnicity, culture, gender, and school size.
5. It maintains a bias to partnership with other organizations.
6. It orchestrates the completion of applied projects.
Having just returned from her first of three intensive training weeks, Mrs. Lagerwaard is already feeling grateful for the opportunity to participate in The Van Lunen Center’s 11th Fellowship cohort. Inspired by her enthusiasm and what she is learning, I sat down with her to learn more.
How did you first hear about The Van Lunen Center Fellowship?
Mr. Joel Landskroener, who is the Executive Director of Meyer Lutheran High School in Meyer, Minnesota, participated in an earlier Fellows cohort. He recommended that I consider applying for the program as he found that the Van Lunen experience was a unique opportunity that offered intentional and strategic knowledge, as well as an invaluable network of Christian school heads of school. In his leadership role at Meyer, Mr. Landskroener finds that he frequently draws on what he learned through the program. I took his advice and applied for the program several months ago.
Can you describe the program? What is expected of you, as a fellow?
This is a year-long program in which the fellows meet for a week, three times throughout the year: July, January, and the following July. Throughout the year the fellows apply concepts and strategies via a school-based project that culminates with a video report of what has been accomplished. The video outlines the scope of the project and how the project has positively impacted the long-term health and future of the school community.
What do you hope to gain from the program?
After the initial week of classes and time with the professors, consultants, and other fellows, I can see that one of the greatest outcomes of this program is the network of colleagues around the U.S. and the world that each fellow will have to draw from. It takes a village to lead a Christian school, and having this diverse group of talent to draw from is immensely helpful and encouraging. I also look forward to applying skills relating to strategic planning, enrollment, and marketing and development.
What significance might The Van Lunen Fellows program––and what you learn––have for RCLS?
The program is designed to help leaders of Christian schools develop solid strategy that includes pillars to support all facets of the school: enrollment, development, and academic opportunities and programming. Christian schools that are "doing this work well" are growing and thriving. Right now, RCLS is a school that is growing, and we look forward to sharing the gospel and offering an exceptional academic program to more throughout our community and the surrounding areas. The Van Lunen Fellows program has been and will continue to be a great partnership for this important work.
What do you hope or envision for RCLS generally?
My hope for RCLS is that the school is able to reach more and more children with the faith- based, academically stimulating experience that we offer. I am grateful to lead a school that seeks to serve the whole child––body, mind and spirit––and, in doing so, graduates students who are prepared to increase the kingdom of believers and serve their fellow citizens.
What do you think it means to lead well?
I like what Ronald Reagan once said: "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." I find that the pleasure in leading is building relationships––listening to the needs of those you serve and meeting their needs, so that, together, we may all honor our mission while realizing the vision of what can be. I am excited for where RLCS is at and eager to help shape a vision for what is yet to come.
RLCS families, I hope you all find great encouragement in where RCLS is “at,” as well. Know that your school is grateful to partner with you in your work with your children. We look forward to having them back on campus soon!
*For more on Mrs. Lagerwaard’s experience with The Van Lunen Fellows Program, be sure to watch for an article in this weekend’s "Life & Leisure" section of the Post Bulletin.
The Van Lunen Center. (2017). The Story of The Van Lunen Center: The First Decade 2007-2017. Grand Rapids, MI: The Van Lunen Center.