Deer Creek’s story was similar to so many Christian schools’ in metropolitan areas around the country. The school was started by a church 25 years ago. There was a lot of excitement and passion. The school grew…quickly. Then, at about the 18 year mark, populations shifted, and the church moved. Enrollment declined. The budget was squeezed. Teachers took pay cuts. Extracurriculars were eliminated. The prevailing parking lot conversation was “Is Deer Creek going to be open in the Fall?” That is when the Board of Directors at Deer Creek asked CACE to come alongside us to help guide us through the challenging and rewarding process of school transformation.
CACE gave us the knowledge, network and encouragement to ask the questions we needed to ask of ourselves, and the practical tools to move us in a healthier direction. CACE didn’t simply come in and talk. They listened first, respected our past, and challenged us towards the future. We evaluated Board Governance, School Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Curriculum and Instruction, Budget Development, Fundraising and Marketing. In other words, everything. This wasn’t done in a vacuum. It was done in relationship with the CACE Fellows and the other schools of the Score group.
At the end of the day, the mission to provide a Christ-centered education to any family who desired this for their child remained the same at Deer Creek. We simply needed someone to help us consider the essentials and the encouragement to make the difficult decisions to adapt to a new historical and cultural context. Three years since our relationship with CACE began:
- Enrollment is up 21%
- Hired a Head of School to lead us in our mission
- Extracurriculars are back
- Established two years of Mission-driven budgets
- Moved to Relationship-based fundraising: Increased 200%
- Established Strategic Plan
- Clear and focused Marketing
- Revitalized Board Governance
We are thankful for all of the above, but I think the best evidence of the overall shift in the culture of the school was summed up by a teacher when she said; “I haven’t heard one parent ask if we are opening our doors next year.” We are a healthier school for our students, families, teachers, community and the Kingdom, and CACE has been an essential partner in our transformation. Thank you, CACE!
If you’d like to support the mission of Deer Creek as we partner with families to help children grow in Academics, Faith, and Character for Kingdom service in the South Chicago region, please click here.
After three years on the Board and one year as Interim Principal, Steve now serves as the Director of Development at Deer Creek Christian School in Chicago Heights, IL. Steve and his wife Sally have three children, Gretchen (5th), Simon (1st), and Jonas (1st) who eagerly get out of bed every morning ready to learn at Deer Creek. They are committed to the continual growth of Christ-centered education in economically and ethnically diverse communities. Steve grew up in Sioux Center, IA and graduated from Dordt University in 2001. Steve’s contact info is: firstname.lastname@example.org & 708-672-6200