I sent the email below to Corey Navis, outgoing head of schools at Sheboygan Christian School (SCS) and Sheboygan County Christian High School (SCCHS) this morning. He didn't laugh me off, so I am posting it (with some minor edits just to protect some confidences) here. His not laughing me off should not be seen as him agreeing to my suggestions for his participation in my harebrained (or not-so-harebrained) scheme. Anyone think I'm not crazy? If so, is it time to seize the day?
First, some explanation for non-locals: Washington School is a large public K-5 elementary school in Sheboygan, just seven blocks down the street from Sheboygan Christian, a K-8 school. Washington's building is old. The school was technically converted from a neighborhood school to a charter school by the Sheboygan Area School District (SASD), although it realistically functions as a neighborhood school with some uniqueness in curriculum due to the fact that they serve a highly diverse student population where over 80% of the kids live in poverty. It seems likely that SASD will close the school after this year, citing concerns about the kids' performance on standardized tests and the need for renovations at the school.
Next, Y&J refers to a location for a proposed new SCS location out in the 'burbs, accessible only by motor vehicle. SCS owns the property, although there are some contingencies.
Finally, some level of school choice involving vouchers that would include students in the SASD has been proposed in the governor's budget. While it is not guaranteed that the program will pass, Republicans hold the governor's office and both chambers of the legislature and seem to be ready to ram all sorts of things through while they can. SCS and SCCHS are studying the potential impact of school choice/vouchers and how the schools ought to respond.
I am on the board at SCCHS. None of this should be taken in any way as the position of SCCHS or its board. Even though they should immediately endorse it.
Here is the email, please respond on the blog, on facebook, on twitter, by email, by calling me, face-to-face. I really want to know--am I a pie-in-the-sky liberal or is it time to carpe diem...
8:57 AM (8 hours ago)
I have a great idea! SCS should buy Washington School from SASD. We'd need to raise $5 million to renovate plus the purchase price. Maybe we could get some conservative foundations to fund that by saying we'll be a choice school that intentionally serves kids from all income levels, including a high percentage of kids in poverty. But we have a few years to do that--even SASD says there are few years of life yet in the building.
While we're thinking big, a few years down the line, we merge SCS and SCCHS and turn SCCHS into a 7-12 school doing the same. Maybe we sell Y&J and the current SCCHS and find a campus in town--maybe some factory or other large empty building.
I propose we start a foundation to do just that. You can be CEO. I'll be on the board. Get SCS and SCCHS to each appoint a board member as members of the foundation, and then get some big guns on the board to help raise funds. We won't be able to pay you much at first, but hey, we all make sacrifices. :-) :-)
I can't take full credit for this idea. A teacher at Washington gets most of the credit--she, another mutual friend, and I had breakfast this morning, and I was expressing deep concern for a Washington student I have come to know over the years, for whom Washington School has been the one constant in his life. He has made significant progress socially and academically, but he's probably going to end up at another school where he'll have difficulty adjusting for all sorts of reasons. And rumors are many of the Washington kids could end up at Pigeon River School, and that is going to be a problem for all sorts of reasons.
OK, now let's be realistic--if school choice happens, SCS needs to target the Washington School attendance area, and maybe we really can do something with funding by purposely making it part of SCS's strategic plan to serve kids from all economic classes by specifically targeting kids in poverty within a mile or so of our current campus. I assume you'll be working with SCS's board for the next few months on school choice just as you are with SCCHS. Are there people on the SCS board who could buy into such a vision? Might some kind of local foundation promoting Christian education for kids in poverty be able to work alongside SCS and SCCHS by taking on some of the legwork required to welcome kids in poverty to our schools and provide them and their families with what they need academically, socially, and spiritually? As someone who could buy into such a vision, is there any chance you'll still be around the area to try to help with this? Even if you're not, is this a vision with a chance, or am I simply a liberal with big dreams and no understanding of practicalities? Is this the time where we are called to seize the day and really do something big for the kingdom?