SouthLake Christian Academy Update – August 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

Summer is winding down. Students return to campus in 10 days. People often ask if we are ready. My answer is always “No, but we will be.” As we prepare to begin a new academic year, you will likely be bombarded with information. I will try not to add to your burden, but do want to highlight a few details.

Open House/Orientation
We look forward to having you on campus next week for open house or orientation meetings. For those in grades JK-4, we will announce classroom teachers later this week and you will meet in your teacher’s classroom. For everyone else, we will direct you to the correct location when you arrive on campus, or notify you by text alert. We are finishing renovations in the First Building so some locations are still TBD. Here is the schedule:

  • JK-4 – Monday August 8, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
  • Grade 5 – Monday August 8, 9:00 a.m.
  • Grade 6 – Monday August 8, 10:30 a.m.
  • Grade 7 – Tuesday August 9, 9:00 a.m.
  • Grade 8 – Tuesday August 9, 10:30 a.m.
  • Grade 9 and all new High School students – Tuesday August 9, 1:00 p.m.

Normal Operations
For the first time since 2019, we begin the school year with mostly normal operations. Yes, COVID infections remain somewhat common, but decreased virulence from current strains of the virus mean we are mask optional and will not have to quarantine those exposed to COVID. If you have symptoms, however, it is important to stay home and test. Those with a positive COVID test will coordinate return to school with Nurse Elizabeth Metzger. Even though now most appear to experience mild symptoms from COVID, we still want to minimize spread and decrease student and teacher absences to the greatest degree possible.

Academic Development Center (ADC)
SouthLake provides robust services for students with specialized learning needs. Students needing academic accommodations of any kind, or specialized therapy from one of our certified NILD teachers, will have interaction with the ADC. This year Mrs. Iva Bas assumes the role of ADC Director, bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience, and compassion to the position. Those currently receiving services from the ADC will communicate with her to arrange schedules. Those needing academic accommodations based on professional testing will also communicate with her in the days to come. Support for students with learning differences is one of the things we do well here at SouthLake and we are thankful for Iva Bas, Gail Woods, Lynn Moore, and April Belcher for their work in this arena.

SouthLake App
Last month we introduced you to the SouthLake app. We know many have still not downloaded the app. In the days to come, we will rely heavily on this tool for communication, so please take a moment to download the SouthLake App which is available by name in the App Store (iOS users), or the Google Play Store (Android users). The app can connect you to school calendars, announcements, financial information, grades, homework, lunch orders, and everything you need to be an active member of the SouthLake community. We are still building content for some features of the app, and some features require login credentials for Renweb or Orgs Online.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
This fall, in Middle and High School Chapel, we will be teaching through the New Testament book of Ephesians. In this letter, Paul reasons that because we are one in Christ, we should evidence a unity that transcends whatever might divide us. In the beginning of chapter 4, Paul urges us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” In the midst of contentious times, this is my prayer for SouthLake.

A Few Miscellaneous Details
A quick reminder that we will begin a new Bible study for parents when the First Building sanctuary is finished. Also, we are hiring a new School Counselor, and in cooperation with SouthLake Church, an Assistant Pastor/Spiritual Life Director. If you know of qualified candidates, direct them to our website. We will begin the school year with nearly 630 students. At 18 students per classroom, full capacity is 634. Ever so close.

I pray you have a great start to the school year.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Academics Bible Education Leadership

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – May 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

Friends, we are on the home stretch. The month of May provides us many opportunities to celebrate with year-end programs, awards ceremonies, chapel services, and graduation. With fewer than 13 school days left, we are all tired, so let us pray for endurance to finish the academic year well.

I have an update about the relationship between SouthLake Presbyterian Church and SouthLake Christian Academy. As you will recall, the church and school comprise one legal entity with the church Session (the pastor and elected elders) serving as our final governing body. The Session grants the School Board authority to oversee many school matters. For more than two years, the Session has prayerfully considered alternative ways to structure the church-school relationship. A proposal last December for the two entities to separate fully would have required a transfer of property assets from the church to the school, but the transfer was rejected by congregational vote. The Session is now considering a proposal whereby the school would become a subsidiary of the church with a degree of governance autonomy and an expanded School Board. The Session is working with a school committee to finalize new bylaws for the Academy. Pending legal review and final Session approval, we will apply for our own tax ID and 501c3 status sometime this summer, the final steps in the subsidiary process. I hope to have more details to share with you at my next update.

In April, the Session appointed to the School Board the first SouthLake alumnus to serve, Mr. Jacob Slavik. He is a member of the class of 2007 and serves as a Senior Manager at Sawgrass Partners, a firm specializing in services for senior adult living providers. As a member of SouthLake Church with experience in accounting, auditing, and board governance, Mr. Slavik brings a wealth of both professional and personal experience to the Board. This summer, the Academy will submit two candidates to the Session for approval to replace members whose terms are set to expire. If you wish to nominate someone to serve on the School Board, please let me know and I will send nominees an application. Completed applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and the most qualified candidates will interview with the Head of School and Session.

We have released the calendar for the 2022-2023 academic year. This summer we plan to work on the academic calendar for 23-24 to help those of you who plan your vacations far in advance. Speaking of summer, please note we have a host of on-campus enrichment camps for all ages in June and July, as well as online classes available for high school students wanting to get ahead. More information can be found on our website and various social media channels.

In closing, let me say a word of thanks to our teachers for what they have done to get us through another unusual school year. I keep praying for a normal year, to no avail. Now I am wondering if perhaps God’s answer to such prayers is to give us the resilience to face whatever circumstances come our way. Our seniors selected Philippians 4:13 as their class verse, which in context reads, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” I see the truth of Philippians 4:13 in the ministry of our teachers every day. Be sure to tell them thank you whenever you get the chance. A kind word goes a long way.

Blessings,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education Leadership

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – April 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

I greet you on day one of Missions Week as we begin our celebration of 20 years of missions at SouthLake. For two decades, SouthLake has partnered with 32 missions organizations, provided financial contributions of $436,290.07, and given untold hours of labor in support of mission efforts around the world. This week we will host special chapels on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, students may wear their Missions Week tee shirts each day, and on Friday we will cap off the week with our Spring Festival. I want to thank Kristin Ledford for her stellar efforts to plan and execute our spiritual life activities this year. And thanks to the efforts of the Parent Teacher Fellowship (PTF), this year’s Spring Festival will be free for all who attend, with the notable exception of the food trucks on campus. Please plan to drop by after school Friday to enjoy the festivities.

The April 1 deadline to withdraw from SouthLake without incurring tuition costs has passed, and I am pleased to report a retention rate of nearly 95%. School wide we have fewer than 20 spots left for the coming academic year. All grades are full except JK, 1, 6, and 11 and we have more than 40 students now in a waiting pool. We continue to tour and test students daily with the busiest months of our admissions cycle still to come. There is a very real possibility we could operate at maximum capacity for the 2022-2023 academic year. The only way this happens is when satisfied parents tell their neighbors. We spend almost no money on marketing because word of mouth remains the most common way our new families learn about SouthLake. Thank you for your continued trust in us and for helping to spread the good news about our school in the community.

In December I told you about Autumn Solesbee, a SouthLake third grader who won the regional round of the national Drive, Chip, and Putt competition. This qualified her to compete in the finals at Augusta National this past weekend. Well, we are proud to report that Autumn won the competition, placing first in her age group. The competition was aired on the Golf Channel and in a post-competition interview she was congratulated by Bubba Watson. Congratulations Autumn! You are a champion at Augusta National.

This month we will say goodbye to Harrella Wedington, our Chief Financial Officer. At the end of April, she will become the Controller for a national non-profit organization serving at-risk youth. I cannot overstate the impact she has made on our school, providing stellar leadership of our financial operations for more than four years. During her tenure, SouthLake has gained remarkable financial strength, even while navigating economic fallout from the pandemic. As a CPA with an MBA and vast experience in educational settings, Harrella possesses a rare skill set that will be difficult to replace. I will miss her integrity, business acumen, and good humor, but she will remain on the job until she trains her replacement. We wish Harrella the best as she takes on a new challenge.

To conclude, I would like to highlight the outstanding instruction of our Choral Director Mary Ann Foltz. In addition to teaching music and choir to every age group at SouthLake,

Mary Ann directs our annual spring musical. This year’s performance was Once Upon a Mattress, a humorous adaptation of the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” Mary Ann is a master at casting, placing each student in an ideal role for their abilities. She can tell a brilliant story with a minimalistic set that can easily be transported and assembled for the off-site performance. She helps build a genuine sense of camaraderie so students feel supported and comfortable around each other and in front of an audience. She works tirelessly to construct sets, sew costumes, and rehearse music after hours, all while teaching a full load of music classes during the day. She is a program builder who has seen voluntary participation in choir more than double during her tenure. SouthLake is a better school because of the dedication and hard work of teachers like Mary Ann.

As I proofread, I see a lot of superlatives in this email. Maybe that is because we have much to celebrate. Certainly my job is to fix problems, but my job is also to highlight what is good about this place. As we near the conclusion of a tough academic year, I am thankful for all of those who quietly roll up their sleeves and put in the hard work to help make this place great. Hang in there. Spring is here; summer is coming.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education Fine Arts Sports

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – March 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

My typical first-of-the-month correspondence comes to you a day late so I can report good news about our dual reaccreditation process which wrapped up this afternoon. 

Reaccreditation
We are accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and by Cognia, the K-12 division of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Every five years we complete a lengthy self-study to document our compliance with required standards, and then accreditors conduct a site visit. A team visited our campus this week and conducted interviews with administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents, and School Board members. They also observed 47 different classes across campus. The team met with me today to deliver the expected good news of their affirmative recommendation to the ACSI Commission on Accreditation. Although their final report will not be complete for another month, I can highlight a few of their commendations and recommendations. The team commended our commitment to excellent financial stewardship, our focus on the wholistic development of children, our research-based approach to instruction and supporting technology, our emphasis on critical-thinking skills and biblical integration, and our policies and procedures to ensure the health and safety of our people. The team also gave recommendations for improving our ACSI teacher/administrator certification process and enhancing our curriculum guide documents. We learned much through the process to help us become a better school. I am particularly grateful to Mrs. Suzy Deneen for her stellar leadership of our highly successful reaccreditation process.

Town Hall
I want to thank those who attended our Town Hall meeting last month. While I question whether such meetings move us forward in the most relevant ways, I do believe they have helped us disseminate facts and express disagreements, both healthy practices for our community. I remain encouraged that almost all interactions at our Town Hall meetings this year have demonstrated civility and Christian charity. Our next meetings will likely be division specific (Lower School, Middle School, or Upper School) and we will be back in touch with you about dates and the topics we plan to discuss.

Exemplary Instruction
This month I would like to highlight excellent instruction by an Upper School teacher who wears many hats. Nathan Simpson teaches AP Computer Science, Algebra I, and Bible. He also serves on our Security Team, Technology Team, and coaches our Wrestling Team. In five seasons, Coach Simpson has coached four state champions, all of whom have gone on to compete nationally, placing 16th or better each time. This year, Coach Simpson had the honor of coaching his son Kaden to a state championship and an appearance at Nationals where he placed 12th. And did I mention that Kaden is a freshman? High School wrestlers have three more years to contend with Kaden’s fierce competitive drive and work ethic, and Coach Simpson’s skill as a mentor and coach. Congratulations to father and son on a remarkable season!

Our spring sports have started and we have great teams for you to watch as the weather warms. Spring Break begins in only 16 days.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education Sports

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – February 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

The first month of the year is behind us, no small feat. Winter brought us a COVID surge, three weekends in a row of ice and snow (with a fourth in the forecast), a host of accompanying logistical challenges, and some highly competitive sporting events. Our varsity basketball team has been particularly fun to watch as they have a winning record in a talented conference playing a remarkably entertaining brand of basketball. With the playoffs on the schedule for February, I recommend you getting here to see a game when you are able.

Accreditation
February will bring us a site visit from one of our accrediting bodies, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). This will conclude a years-long process whereby the Academy completed a comprehensive self-study, submitted supporting materials to ACSI for review, and is preparing for a team to visit at the end of the month. The Parent Teacher Fellowship will help us host and our teachers will be prepared to have visitors in their classrooms each of the days the ACSI team is on site. Pray for us as we complete our reaccreditation process.

Town Hall Meeting
The Parent Teacher Fellowship will host our next Town Hall meeting on Wednesday February 16, from 6:30 to 8:00 in the First Building Commons. The format will be much the same as our last meeting, beginning with an update on school matters from the Head of School followed by Q&A with our administrative team. If you would like to submit questions in advance, you may do so by sending your questions to slcaquestions@gmail.com.

Renovations
The First Building Commons will undergo a major renovation this summer in partnership with SouthLake Presbyterian Church. Your contributions to our annual fund will help make the Commons into a first-rate worship and meeting space with professional sound, lighting, and projection, along with a new stage, drop ceiling, and paint. In addition to use by the church on Sundays, the Commons will be used for weekly chapel services, school assemblies, parent gatherings, and fine arts events. This project would not be possible without strong enrollment and generous charitable giving by our families.

Tuition Rates
Last month I released tuition rates for the coming school year showing an increase of 4.8%. I failed to note that those rates are subject to Board approval, which I will seek at this month’s Board meeting. While inflation rates are near 7% for the past year, we remain committed to keeping SouthLake affordable for as many as possible while still taking care of the financial needs of our employees. Payroll expenses account for just under 70% of our operating revenue. You can find proposed tuition rates on our website and in last month’s email update.

COVID
January broke records in almost every pandemic category, and SouthLake was no exception. After a month that saw 106 students and 17 employees test positive, conditions are now improving. The positivity rate for Mecklenburg County is down to around 28% from its high of over 38% in early January. School cases are becoming less frequent as well. You can find all school statistics on our website under the COVID Dashboard. As before, when the positivity rate drops into the low/moderate range around 5% and school conditions improve, we will again implement mask-optional protocols. I am hopeful Omicron will subside as quickly as it surged.

Exemplary Teaching
This month I had the opportunity to observe Mrs. Kendra Boovy’s class as they studied a biography of Harriet Tubman (1820-1913). As an escaped slave, Union spy, and conductor on the so-called underground railroad, Tubman helped dozens of slaves escape captivity. She never lost a passenger and was never caught, even after slave owners posted a $40,000 reward for her capture. Mrs. Boovy introduced students to freedom quilts, a clandestine method of communication for abolitionists. Hung out to dry after the wash, quilts with particular designs helped fleeing slaves identify safe houses and navigate the best escape routes. Mrs. Boovy passed out sample designs and had students work in groups to make educated guesses as to the meaning of each. She used this exercise to teach students about Tubman, how the underground railroad worked, and the perilous journey to freedom. As we begin Black History Month, I am grateful for the dedication of our teachers to highlight African Americans who have shaped our nation’s history.

May God grant you grace and peace for the winter days ahead.

Blessings,

Matthew S. Kerlin
Head of School

Education Teaching

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – December 2021

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

I hope you each had a blessed Thanksgiving with good food and time with family and friends. We have only three weeks until Christmas break. I often hear parents say “the days are long but the years pass quickly.” That feels true to me, particularly this year.

Today we welcome Coach Cheron Farley who joins our staff as full-time Director of Football and Baseball Operations and PE Teacher. Coach Farley has been associated with SouthLake athletics since 2013. He brings significant coaching and business experience to SouthLake, and he was recently inducted to the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame as a standout player on both football and baseball state championship teams. Welcome Coach Farley.

Congratulations to Rebekah Leonard who recently completed her Certificate in School Management and Leadership, a program jointly sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Business School. Mrs. Leonard was selected for the first cohort of the program which began October 2018. The multi-course program helps school leaders apply business practices to an educational setting for more effective leadership. High-caliber professional development like this takes time, money, and effort on the part of our employees and makes SouthLake a better school. Thank you Mrs. Leonard.

Last month I participated in a press conference recognizing one of our very fine third-grade students Autumn Solesbee. This fall, Autumn participated in the national Drive, Chip, and Putt competition against thousands of qualifiers from across the US and Canada. Autumn won the final stage of Regional Qualifying in her age group. She also finished 9th in the US Kids Golf World Championships and won the Best Pee Wee Golf Swing in the World contest. But the best part of Autumn’s story is that she is adopted, something she will cheerfully discuss with anyone. The LPGA did a story on her for adoption month, and in her press conference, her charisma and positive attitude was a remarkable reflection on her, her family, and her school. Well done Autumn!

Let me give you a few reminders about our continuous enrollment process. SouthLake students remain enrolled from one year to the next (as long as they meet academic and conduct requirements) unless parents tell us they plan to withdraw. We utilize this process as a convenience for the 93% of students who return to SouthLake each year. Enrollment fees are drafted in advance of the coming school year, allowing us to hold a seat for your student and make financial preparations for the coming school year. Here are a few key dates for you to remember:

  • January 1 – new tuition numbers released and financial aid application opens. Tuition increases for next academic year will be less than 5%.
  • January 15 – deadline to inform us of your intent to withdraw from the school or make alternative payment arrangements for upcoming enrollment fee billing.
  • February 15 – enrollment fees for the 2022-2023 academic year will be auto drafted from the account on file with our FACTS payment system. Unpaid enrollment fees may result in cancelled student enrollment. Spots will then fill from the waiting pool.

My report on classroom instruction this month comes from Mrs. Lucy Lepeley’s High School Spanish class. My hour observing her class passed by in a flash; rarely have I see such high levels of engagement from a class. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia. Mrs. Lepeley demonstrates complete knowledge of the language and teaches idioms and subtleties of pronunciation as only a native speaker can. From the moment class began, students were immersed in Spanish. They began class reciting and translating the date, Bible verse, and quote of the day. They moved seamlessly into the complicated topic of the subjunctive mood which Mrs. Lepeley taught two different ways before breaking the class into small groups to work on syntax. Barely a minute passed without Mrs. Lepeley calling on students to answer questions or read their work aloud; students had better stay awake and alert. New languages introduce students to new cultures and competencies that will serve them well after SouthLake. We are blessed to have strong teachers in our foreign language programs.

Finally, I would like to give you a brief summary of our town hall meeting last month. Approximately 117 people attended. Rebekah Leonard convened the meeting and served as moderator, asking attendees to direct questions to a panel of administrators that included me and our Division Heads Becky Makla, Jennifer Thomas, and Mark Apgar. Pastor Dan King read scripture (James 1:19-20) and began the meeting with prayer. The first half of the meeting focused on the future of the church-school relationship. I walked attendees through the history of the discussion, reasons for restructuring, and terms of separation. Questions from the audience centered on the appraised and tax value of the property, the role of debt in the decision, concerns for securing the long-term Christian mission of the school, and the proposed structure of the School Board. In particular, parents asked for a clear understanding of the process by which new Board members will be nominated and selected, something we will certainly provide when the time comes.

The second part of the meeting was an open forum and we took questions on critical race theory (CRT), the Christian mission of the school, mental health, vaccine mandates, and mask policies. As to CRT, the question was posed to our Board asking for their views on the subject. Some Board members spoke in opposition to CRT while others acknowledged they do not yet understand CRT enough to have formed an opinion. All articulated support for teaching history thoroughly and accurately. With respect to the Christian mission of SouthLake, parents expressed the desire to see us remain a Christian school in the reformed tradition, a desire our Board and administration share as well. We addressed a question related to mental health services for students and we outlined the layers of support we provide, including small class sizes, case management for students in crisis, a Licensed Practicing Counselor who visits campus each week, and professional training for teachers to recognize trauma. We also outlined the various expressions of religious life at SouthLake, including Bible classes and chapel for each grade, developmentally-appropriate Bible curriculum, mission projects, retreats, Bible studies, special events, and campus religious organizations. Parents expressed concerns about vaccine mandates. We reiterated that we do not plan to require COVID vaccines for students or employees during the next academic year unless we are legally required to do so. Some parents asked for longer-term promises and others asked us to defy any national mandate, things I declined to promise. Near the end of our meeting, a few parents made strong statements in opposition to our mask policies this year, while others expressed support for using the tools needed to keep us on campus.

Now that I’ve had a few days to process the meeting, two things stand out to me. First, opposing viewpoints were shared openly, heard carefully, and discussed with civility. I want to emphasize this point because it is no small matter. We owe it to our children to model civility, and for the most part, we have done so. Second, we have more in common than what divides us. We all want our students to receive a sound Christian education in a safe environment. We will sometimes disagree with one another. This is to be expected, for such is the nature of living and working in community. We remain committed to listening to our critics and doing all we can to foster unity even through disagreement. I have no illusions that a town hall will magically mend the divisions plaguing our society and sometimes bleeding over into our school. But I am enheartened by the ways our community engages differences with transparency and mutual respect.

Blessings to you and your family as you begin the season of Advent.

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education Leadership Race Teaching

SouthLake Christian Academy – Update August 2021

Dear SouthLake Christian Family,

I hope you have enjoyed a restful and relaxing summer. August begins the mad dash to the starting line. For those new to SouthLake, I send a monthly update on or near the first of each month called First Thoughts. Let me officially welcome each of you to a new school year. As you finish (or begin?) your back-to-school preparations, perhaps you will find this information helpful.

First, we plan to announce our COVID safety protocols later this week, most of which will seem rather mundane by now. Of course, we have paid close attention to research on the Delta variant and new guidance from health agencies related to masks. Our teachers return to campus on Wednesday when we will discuss the matter at length. We also plan to host a school-wide panel discussion on Zoom this Sunday with three SouthLake parents who are medical doctors on the front lines. They will discuss Delta, masks, vaccines, and answer your questions. With so much new information every day, I would rather us take time to get this right rather than make quick announcements we later retract. Please be patient and reserve sharing your opinions until after Sunday afternoon meeting. I will send more information near the end of the week. If you’d like more insight into our decision-making process, I’ve written on the subject here.

Second, we have new faculty members to introduce. In our Lower School, please welcome Sarah Drake (JK teacher), Angela Roberson (JK assistant), Katie Henline (JK assistant), Julie Salony (K teacher), Michelle Lahetta (K assistant), Deborah Sammons (grade 1 teacher), Brittany Darland (grade 1 assistant), and Jacqueline Nicholls (grade 3-4 assistant and PE teacher). To our Middle School, welcome Cami Parsons (grade 7 math) and Andrew Bennett (grade 8 math and technology). To our Upper School, welcome Lucy Lepeley (Spanish III and IV), Tyler Melton (US history, government and economics), Noel Powell (chemistry), and Joshua Bas (math). Adding fourteen new teachers reflects the recent enrollment growth we have seen at SouthLake, particularly in our Lower School. For the first time in years, eight of our fourteen grades now have wait lists and others are near capacity. Because we keep class sizes small, almost every teaching space on campus will fill. Campus space now represents one of our greatest future challenges. And on that subject …

Third, we will soon send to print the final draft of our school’s strategic plan. You will see it in your mailbox early this fall. We began the planning process in late 2018 and finished in early 2020 after sustained consultation with hosts of our constituents. When you read it, you will note how many things we have already accomplished in the few months since we completed the plan. I remain grateful for how well our families continue to support SouthLake during a global health crisis, economic strain, and political upheaval. Together, we continue to rise above contentious cultural currents, keeping our focus on educating and ministering to the children God gives us. For this, and because of you, I have hope and excitement for the new year ahead.

Blessings,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education

SouthLake Christian Academy – Update July 2021

I trust the summer is affording you a different pace of life and some time to recover from a stressful year. At the risk of interrupting your leisure, I would like to give you several school updates as we head into the second half of summer break.

Financial Operations
This week the School Board approved our budget for the coming academic year. We project revenue of approximately $7.8 million and expenses of around $7.5 million for a 4% operating margin, an important marker for a healthy organization. This assumes an enrollment of 610, and we are only 11 students away from that mark as of today. Our payroll expenses will increase from just under $4.1 million to almost $4.5 million (61.2% of our total budgeted expenses), with most of the increase supporting school-wide pay raises. We are also budgeting carefully for deferred maintenance. Based on a recent report from engineers and contractors, we have approximately $1.5 million in maintenance needs that must be addressed over the next 10-15 years, particularly HVAC, roofing, flooring, and paving. Simply put, as our facilities age, we must set aside money to keep them in good shape, admittedly not the most glamorous way to spend money. Simultaneously funding pay increases, facilities improvements, and strategic cash reserves feels like a juggling act, but we must keep all the balls in the air. We will always do our best to make decisions to best serve our students and put the Academy on the surest financial footing possible.

New Staff Roles
I have a few new staff roles to announce. Moving away from the “principal” titles more typical of public schools, Mark Apgar, Jennifer Thomas, and Becky Makla will now be Lower School Head, Middle School Head, and Upper School Head respectively. The Lower School has been the fastest growing division of SouthLake for the past two years, now with 12 classes, 24 teachers, and nearly 200 students and their families. Mark Apgar (soon-to-be Dr. Apgar) will thus need to focus his leadership on grades JK-4. Jennifer Thomas will relinquish her role as Assistant Principal and assume full leadership of grades 5-8. Becky Makla will no longer be interim but will assume permanent responsibility for leading grades 9-12. Kim Howlin has agreed to an expanded role as Middle School Dean of Students, a job she has already been doing without the title. Farrell Boone will take on new responsibilities as JK-8 Curriculum Director, helping us complete curriculum mapping needed for an accreditation review later this academic year. I will have several new teachers to introduce to you in my next email correspondence in August.

New Carpet and Paint
Most of the carpet on our campus is – shall I say this euphemistically – vintage, antique, original to the school. The time has come for us to replace it. This week we have been packing up carpeted offices and moving furniture into hallways. Next week almost all the carpet on campus will be replaced. The First Building Commons will also get carpet as the space is being renovated to create a sanctuary for SouthLake Church and a chapel, meeting space, and performance venue for the Academy. Until the carpet project is complete, some folks may be working from home for the next week or so while trying to avoid flashbacks of COVID lockdown.

COVID Measures for Fall
We continue to monitor guidance and legislation by local and state officials regarding COVID protocols for fall. We hope to begin the school year normally, ending most or all of our unusual safety measures, but I acknowledge this is dependent somewhat on circumstances beyond our control. Anecdotally I can tell you we’ve been operating summer camps mostly without masks and without incident. One safety measure will remain, however. If exposed, unvaccinated people will need to quarantine. Although we are not requiring the vaccine this year, it will eliminate your need to quarantine if exposed to COVID.

Happy Independence Day
As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence, I share with you the concluding phrase of the Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” These words remind me that any worthwhile endeavor needs both divine providence and mutual trust. I am thankful to live in a country and serve a school that actively recognizes the former and continually seeks to build the latter.

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education

SouthLake Christian Academy June 2021 Update

Dear SouthLake Christian Family,

I hope your summer is off to a relaxing start. For those new to SouthLake, I send a school wide update on the first of each month called First Thoughts. We welcome you to the school and look forward to knowing you better in the months to come.

Graduation
This past Friday we held the 19th graduation ceremony in our school’s young history. Here are some noteworthy facts about the class of 2021. Of our 58 graduates, one third are so-called “lifers” having attended SouthLake continuously since junior kindergarten or kindergarten. 50% of the class earned scholarships totaling nearly $3 million for academic achievement, leadership, and service to the community. 10% of the class will compete as student athletes at the collegiate level in soccer, baseball, basketball, and gymnastics. Our graduates were accepted to 72 different colleges and universities across the country. They will attend 31 different schools in 11 states and the District of Columbia. 53% will matriculate in state and 43% out of state, attending schools in the Southwest, Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast. During the pandemic, these students finished their senior year in person and thrived during arguably the most challenging year in the history of modern education. We are proud of them and pray for God’s wisdom to guide them as they take the next steps along life’s journey.

Enrollment
As of today, we have 594 students who have finished enrollment for the coming school year, 484 returning and 110 new. With almost three months to go in our enrollment cycle, we have already equaled this past year’s enrollment. Grades K, 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12 are now operating on wait lists. Word of mouth remains the most common way new families learn about SouthLake, so thank you for telling others about our great teachers.

Summer Enrichment Camps
We have a full slate of enrichment camps on campus this summer, with 214 students enrolled in 38 different camps, 9 of which still have space available. Many of our campers will be new to SouthLake this fall, and some are non-SouthLake students. We have both morning and afternoon camps available throughout the summer for students in junior kindergarten through high school. Camp registration closes at midnight on June 7. For more information and to register online, go to https://www.southlakechristian.org/campus-life/summer-camps.

Facilities
This summer we will be doing significant work improving our campus. Many of our teachers will be moving to new rooms as we flex space for new classes. Additionally, we will be painting the exterior of our main academic buildings, reflooring several rooms and offices, and doing significant renovations to our large playground. Your Annual Fund contributions help make these improvements possible. So far this year, nearly 50% of our families have made charitable contributions to the school. If you would like to give before the close of this fiscal year, you may do so online at https://factsmgtadmin.com/give/appeal/zF58bxcdG.

In closing, I want to say thank you for our success this past school year. We knew we would need a strong combination of committed teachers, cooperative parents, and courageous students, and by God’s grace, we got all three in abundance. The doctors and medical professionals whose children attend SouthLake were a tremendous blessing this year. Their calm advice and encouragement helped us make fact-based decisions, avoiding the extremes of panic or denial. As I finish my third year at SouthLake, I am more grateful than ever to be a part of this remarkable community.

Matthew S. Kerlin
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education

SouthLake Christian Update – May 2021

Amazingly, only 13.5 days of school remain before summer break. I’m not typically one to count down the days, but this year is an exception. Each day in person this year has felt like a gift, and every week a victory. I will save my congratulations for the official end of the school year, but for now, I cannot thank our teachers enough for their herculean efforts to make this year possible. Did you know that the average tenure of our faculty is greater than 10 years? We have never needed their experience and expertise more than this year. I encourage you to drop your teacher(s) a note of appreciation next week. You have no idea how far those notes go toward sustaining endurance and boosting morale.

I have a few general updates on how we plan to approach the 2021-2022 school year in terms of COVID safety.

  • We will continue our Online Academy for students who need it for health reasons.
  • We plan to keep classroom capacities where they are now. Although the CDC has said three feet of spacing is adequate, we value small classes and hope greater spacing will allow us to relax other safety measures sooner.
  • We would all like to move away from masks as soon as we can do so safely. This will depend on vaccine acceptance by our students, families, and teachers, along with metadata showing vaccinated people are unlikely to contract or spread the virus. Although we do not plan to require the vaccine at this time, it’s likely our fastest way to eliminate masks.
  • We plan to return to as many in-person gatherings as possible, including weekly chapel services, although meeting sizes will depend on area conditions and health agency recommendations.
  • We will soon discontinue temperature checks as the NC Department of Health now considers them optional.
  • We plan to play football this fall. We have a full slate of games already scheduled, and I look forward to Friday nights under the lights once again.
  • We will keep you posted as we are able to make additional changes toward normal operations.

This past week I had the opportunity to spend three days at a Christian school a few hours away, serving on a site visit committee with ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International), one of our accrediting bodies. As a relatively new head of school, I found the experience incredibly educational as we prepare for our accreditation site visit next year. I came away from the experience with a head full of ideas, but mostly with gratitude for SouthLake and all that we’ve successfully navigated during our three years together.

Finally, we have a busy summer ahead as we offer a full range of enrichment camps on campus and several high school classes through our Online Academy. You have probably been bombarded with information on these topics, but if you need a refresher, let me know. We will also make campus improvements, prepare our classrooms for the fall, and finish academic scheduling to get you that information around July 1. And sometime in July, we’d like to take a few days to rest before we start it all again this fall. Until then, I encourage you to finish well, say thanks to your teachers, and say a prayer of gratitude to God for his blessings during a most unusual but successful academic year.

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

COVID Education