“Keep FAITH With Our Youth”
A message from Lutheran High School Association Superintendent Steven Meseke
Mission “Keep FAITH With Our Youth”
“Keep Faith With Our Youth” was the theme of the capital fund raising effort in the mid 1950’s for the building of Lutheran High West and Lutheran High East. Over the years, it has become the mission statement of the Lutheran High School Association. To highlight the key elements that have made LHSA successful in the past and what will keep it strong and relevant moving into the future, the word FAITH is used as an anagram (Faith Academics Instructors Technology Healthy finances).
F = FAITH. Much has changed in education since the doors first opened at Detroit Lutheran High School in 1944. Instructional techniques, pedagogy, curriculum, technology, and even the dress code have continued to change. One component has remained constant, that our schools are first and foremost Christ centered schools. Teaching and sharing the faith with our students is why Lutheran High School was founded and why we continue to exist to this day.
Our Lutheran High Schools certainly provide a solid academic and extra-curricular program for our students, but what sets them apart from public education is the freedom to share our faith. Perhaps freedom is not a strong enough description. There is an expectation that our faith is shared throughout the day not only in formalized settings such as chapel and religion classes, but also in the thousands of interactions that occur between individuals daily.
Our schools are not merely made up of faculty, staff, and students, but rather souls, Children of God. Our ultimate goal is not just that our students succeed academically and graduate from high school, but that they continue their walk of faith and eventually graduate to life everlasting with their Lord and Savior. This key ingredient will never change; it will remain the motivation and emphasis in everything we do.
A = ACADEMICS. Academic excellence has always been a vital part of our schools; after all, our Lutheran High Schools are schools. Several years ago, the entire LHSA faculty completed a yearlong process of writing a curriculum based upon identified standards and outcomes. This was the first time in the history of the LHSA that faculty from each of the schools worked together to generate a common curriculum that would be taught across the Association. To verify that our faculty teaches what they have agreed to teach, each faculty member identifies the department standard that is being evaluated on each question of their semester exam. The outcome of making academic excellence a priority is demonstrated in the high test scores of our students.
I = INSTRUCTORS. Our teachers are key to the success of our students and schools. A study conducted on the highest improving schools nationwide reveals that the three greatest impacts to student performance are; a culture of high expectations, the relevance of instruction, and strong relationships. The responsibility to create a culture, teach with relevance, and build strong relationships rests wholly upon the instructor in the classroom. Knowing this, we seek to fill our schools with teachers who love their Lord, love working with young people, and love their subject area. Alwin Wied, the now sainted former Principal of Lutheran West, impressed on his teachers his four “Fs.” He wanted his teachers to be Firm, Fair, Flexible, and Friendly (but not familiar) with their students. The 5th “F” to be added, would be, Faith-filled.
Highly trained and certified faculty is a priority of the Association and a requirement for accreditation. 74% of our teachers with two or more years of experience have earned a Masters Degree or higher, demonstrating their desire to be lifelong learners and experts in their field. Quality teachers are pivotal for a quality educational experience and this will continue to be a standard for us as we move forward.
T = TECHNOLOGY. Technology has always been a part of education. From slate boards and chalk to smart boards connected to the internet, from taking notes with fountain pens to laptops and smart phones, technology continues to change and develop. We believe that a brick and mortar building with teachers personally teaching and interacting with students in a lecture/discussion format is still the best methodology of instruction. Within the traditional classroom setting, teachers today have a multitude of options available to them to enhance their teaching because of technology. All of our schools are wireless, allowing teachers and students to access the web anywhere within the building for research and educational enrichment. To varying degrees, students in all of our schools may now use their smart phones, notebooks, and tablets for educational purposes during the school day. Teachers are encouraged to make use of technology in their classroom in order to engage students in new ways. Technology opens up new worlds to our students and we must seize the opportunities it provides, not with the intention of adopting different technologies because they are new, but rather, after careful study, how they will assist us in better preparing our students for their life after high school.
H = HEALTHY Finances. Due to careful management and oversight of the Association finances, the International Student Program, and the Association’s Shared Time Program with local public schools, the Association has been able to freeze congregational assessments since 2004 and tuition since 2009 (tuition will be increased by $200 for the 2016/17 school year. At the same time, student financial aid and the salary scale for faculty and staff has increased each year.
For the past 15 years, the Association has carried no debt, paying cash for the last three building projects. Also during that time, the Association’s Foundation has grown from 2 million to over 17 million in investments.
The economy in Michigan has been a challenge for the last decade. As a result, congregations have had to tighten their belts and, in many cases, drop the level of support for their high school families. While this decision is understandable, it presents a challenge for our high schools to retain those students that they currently have and recruit prospective students knowing that the cost may be significantly higher, as parents also feel the pinch of the economy in their own families. The need for financial aid continues to escalate. Therefore, as we move forward it is imperative that we continue to raise funds for financial aid. We never want a student to be turned away due to lack of funds.
Since the establishment of Lutheran High School in 1944, thousands of dedicated men and women have sacrificed to provide our young people a quality, Christ-centered, values based education. It has never been nor will it ever be easy, the devil cannot be pleased and will seek to destroy, but with the armor of God, this ministry will continue to succeed and be blessed, as we continue to ”Keep F A I T H With Our Youth.”