The Renaissance Network – Your Questions AnsweredPosted on August 8th, 2011
For the last two years, the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) has been working with educators, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and leaders of the Adventist Church to develop an innovative management model for Adventist schools. AAF recently partnered with one academy to pilot the program this year. We are actually launching the pilot program a year ahead of schedule because we want to make this program available to schools as soon as possible.
The Q&A below is intended to provide you with the current thinking on how the Renaissance Network will operate. Be aware that this information is subject to change as the model is further developed in partnership with our pilot school, Thunderbird Adventist Academy. Thank you for your interest, and we welcome your feedback as we work together to improve and empower Adventist education.
Q: What is the Renaissance Network?
A: We invite you to imagine a school where students are afforded the best educational experience. Imagine a school where local school boards and administrators have free access to a powerful support system on a daily basis that facilitates expert management, staff training, financial planning, educational support, and facility master planning. Imagine a school where teachers are honored and appreciated, administrators are rewarded, the students are challenged, the community is engaged… and together, they are pursuing a vision for greatness.
Now imagine a network of these schools that bear the Adventist Education brand.
Welcome to the Renaissance Network.
Simply put, the Renaissance Network is a new way to deliver management resources to Adventist schools. Schools that join the Network are immediately linked up with a team of education professionals that help the school principal and staff design and implement a comprehensive, customized school-improvement plan. Once approved by the school board, the team ensures the school has support needed to develop and maintain a quality, sustainable education program.
Although we are in the early stages, our vision is to develop a Division-wide network of viable “model schools”– with superior academics, a rich spiritual atmosphere, cutting-edge technology, even facilities that meet or exceed expectations. As partners with AAF and with each other, schools in the Network will be able to accomplish so much more than they could independently.
We believe our Adventist academies should be the leading example to all Christian schools – maintaining a strong Christ-centered worldview, while providing the greatest college-bound educational experience possible. The goal is to equip Adventist schools with tools they need to become and remain centers of excellence.
Q: Why is the Alumni Awards Foundation developing the Renaissance Network?
A: Because our kids deserve the best. It was in Adventist schools that our lives were changed. We are therefore entrusted with an opportunity and responsibility to build schools that deliver quality, Adventist education.
We believe Adventist education is the most powerful, effective, lasting means for ministry in North America. The pulse of our church is inextricably linked to the vitality of our school system. Yet the challenges facing our schools are great, and they have serious implications for every member of the Adventist family. Research shows that the Adventist church is aging, and meanwhile enrollment in its schools is only declining. The future of our hospitals, universities and churches is endangered by the present instability of the Adventist school system.
As a community of advocates for Adventist education, we are compelled to roll up our sleeves and work to secure the future. We believe our organization is positioned to put forward solutions that extend beyond what the church structure currently offers. We are driven by a deep desire to see Adventist children and families have access to first-class education. We want to empower Adventist schools to be places of opportunity – places where spiritual nourishment, academic rigor, meaningful relationships, and hard work collide to create an experience for students that cannot be matched anywhere else.
Q: How does a school become a member of the Renaissance Network?
A: The first step is to ensure that the local school board and conference are in agreement with the mission of the Renaissance Network and AAF. Applying to join the Network is a completely voluntary action taken by the school’s governing bodies (usually the local school board and conference). We are not trying to create a one-size-fits-all model for every Adventist school ever built. This program is intended to be a service to Adventist schools that need it.
If both the conference and school board believe their school should be in the Network, the next step is to complete an application. This begins an intense due-diligence process, which includes a detailed review of the school’s history, needs, challenges, strengths, and opportunities. Representatives from AAF and the Network will visit the school several times to conduct various feasibility studies.
If this process proves the school and Network to be a good fit, then a partnership would be established through a contractual agreement. The agreement would delineate the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the school’s governing parties and the Network.
Q: What happens when schools join the Renaissance Network?
A: The process looks something like this:
1) When a school becomes a member of the Renaissance Network, it is immediately matched up with a team of education professionals from the Network. This team is equipped with proven strategies for school improvement and a wealth of knowledge in best practices and industry standards.
2) Next the school administration and Network leadership team work together to develop annual education and business plans for the school. These plans would include academic and co-curricular programming, financial strategies, facilities master plans, fundraising initiatives – everything necessary to create a Center of Excellence.
3) The Network leadership team and school administration present the plans to the local school board for review and approval. New plans must be approved by the school board every year at an annual planning session with the Network.
4) Once approved, the Network leadership team provides operational oversight to ensure the plans become reality. The Network also provides considerable resources to help the school meet its established goals (See list of resources below).
5) The school board continues to meet with the principal, but rather than dealing with operational issues, it is now free to deal with Big Picture issues. With specialized training, the school board becomes a very influential entity that develops the long-term vision for the school, secures necessary resources, and garners community support. The school board essentially becomes the guardian of the school’s vision for the future.
The Network leadership team provides many resources to ensure the school becomes a center of excellence, including:
- Funding from the Alumni Awards Foundation for special projects
- Planning and management expertise
- Consulting, mentoring and training for the school administration
- Resources to enhance technology and provide academic enrichment
- Innovative financial strategies
- Meaningful performance evaluations for staff and administration, combined with incentive and recognition programs
- Extensive, intensive professional development opportunities
- Training for the school board
Q: How many schools are in the Renaissance Network?
A: Currently, we have accepted one school, Thunderbird Adventist Academy, into the Renaissance Network for the 2011-2012 school year. This new partnership is considered a pilot project to test and refine the new education, business and school-management concepts, which we hope to implement in the future on a larger scale. The Network needs to show it can deliver on promises and meet expectations.
Q: Who is funding the Renaissance Network?
A: The Alumni Awards Foundation is funding the Renaissance Network. This includes the Network’s organizational expenses, grants to participating schools, and bonus compensation to school staff based on regular, meaningful performance evaluations. Network schools will continue to receive all their regular sources of income, but additional funds will flow from the Network to accomplish the school’s annual education and business plans.
Q: Will conferences have to put more money into education?
A: Local conferences and constituent churches will still be required to subsidize schools, but those subsidies would be capped at the level that is budgeted at the start of the school year. It is the responsibility of the Renaissance Network to ensure schools develop financial plans that prevent them from requesting “bailouts” from the local conference. We believe schools will also enjoy more philanthropic support from their local communities as they experience success and higher enrollments. All these factors working together, we aim to put every school in the Network on solid financial footing.
Q: Is the Renaissance Network trying to make all Adventist schools alike?
A: Only in the consistency of quality. We understand that successful schools are driven and supported by their local communities. Different communities value different aspects of a child’s educational experience. Consequently, Renaissance Network schools will continue to have different strengths. One school may deliver a strong music program, while another may excel in math and science. These kinds of priorities will be determined by a number of factors including the local market, tradition, staff talent, and interest among students.
Q: Will only the “good” schools be accepted into the Renaissance Network?
A: Definitely not. No matter how well or poorly the school is doing currently, the important thing is that it must have the capacity to become sustainable and the will to become excellent. We want to partner only with those schools that are ready to engage in a culture of excellence, improvement and change where it is needed. We look at four areas to determine if a school is a good candidate:
1. Local market viability: The school must prove it can attract a critical mass of students from its local market to sustain excellent and diverse programs. Many factors are considered in this test: location, number of local feeder schools, number of competing private schools, ability of local families to afford tuition, and regional demographics.
2. Local capacity to build resources: The school must demonstrate that it has the capacity to generate new funds from the local community to match the AAF grants. Regular subsidies provided by the local conference do not count as matching dollars from the local community.
3. Fiscal solvency of operation: Any funding received from AAF cannot be used for minimal operating expenses (payroll, payments on any debt, etc). Therefore, the school must demonstrate that it can meet the regular financial obligations necessary to operate, especially in the long term.
4. Corporate will/ Delegation of management and governance: The local community and governing bodies (local school board, local and union conferences, etc.) must demonstrate a willingness to transfer certain supervisory roles and decision-making authorities to the leadership team of the Renaissance Network, particularly with regard to the daily operation of the school and management of personnel.
Q: When can my school apply?
A: Now. Call Melanie Litchfield, AAF Director, at (423) 308-1855 to inquire.
Q: Is the Renaissance Network an official program of the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
A: No, the Renaissance Network is not governed or funded by the official Seventh-day Adventist Church. Rather, it is a partner with those schools and conferences that wish to participate. Those that wish to join the Network establish a partnership through a contractual agreement. As the Network grows, church entities will have representation on the Network’s governing body. The North American Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (NAD) has been fully engaged in this development process, but the laity has provided the funding and leadership.
Q: Will the Renaissance Network schools be “less Adventist”?
A: No. As a partner with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, our goal is to empower Adventist schools to be relevant, viable and excellent, but always distinctly Adventist. We want to preserve and advance the work of the Adventist Church in North America by supporting a vibrant spiritual environment for young people that is consistent with core Adventist values. We are in full support of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Philosophy of Education, which states that Adventist education serves to develop the whole person, foster friendship with God, build character, and restore human beings to the image of their Creator. Furthermore, the Network agrees to act in accordance with the most current education codes of the local conference and union.
Q: Why are you called the Alumni Awards Foundation?
A: History. One of our first and most celebrated programs was called the Outstanding Alumni Awards. As the scope of our work for Adventist schools has expanded, we have outgrown our name. However we want to clearly represent our evolving mission, and discussions for a name change are underway. Please post your ideas for us below!
Q: Is the Alumni Awards Foundation Adventist?
A: We are an independent, nonprofit organization. As an organization driven by laity, the official Seventh-day Adventist Church is not our primary source of funding or governance. Therefore, the foundation’s name does not include the word “Adventist.” However as representatives of the Adventist community, we promote a distinctly Adventist worldview. Our organization represents the diverse Adventist family – alumni of schools, church officials, teachers, ministers, attending and non-attending Adventists . . . We are all brought together by a common heritage in Seventh-day Adventist schools and our desire to strengthen and preserve the unique education system that made us who we are today.
Still have questions? Ideas for the pilot program? Post your feedback below. We value your input. Additional questions may be featured in “Your Questions Answered: Part 2.”