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 October 2021

As you head into your week off from school, let me be a cheerleader for SouthLake and give you a few bits of good news.

First, you should soon receive by mail a copy of SouthLake’s Strategic Plan. I hope you will take a few moments to read the document, or at the very least look at the great pictures. This publication reflects hours of collaborative work by many in our community and outlines our school’s strategic priorities for the future. The goals we’ve set are lofty, but I believe you would rather us aim high. A mentor once told me that most organizations overestimate what they can accomplish short term, and underestimate what they can accomplish long term. I am excited to see what God can accomplish as we work together in the years to come.

Second, this week I received a remarkable compliment from the Principal of Hibriten High School, our varsity football rival from one week ago. She called to tell me how impressed she was with our students, staff, and parents this past Friday night. She received many compliments from her staff about how polite and respectful our folks were, and how much they enjoyed having us on their campus. She mentioned specifically that our players were careful to say, “thank you” and “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” when speaking with the Hibriten staff. Whether we win or lose in competition, how we conduct ourselves among our rivals speaks volumes about ourselves, our school, and our Creator.

Third, I would like to recognize SouthLake junior John Levantino for being selected to the North Carolina Honors Chorus. John auditioned with over 700 students from across the state. Only 176 students were selected from 78 participating schools. To put this achievement into context, there are nearly 1000 high schools in the state enrolling over 1.1 million students. This makes John’s accomplishment even more impressive. And let me add that John also plays cello and runs cross country.

Fourth, I continue to observe our teachers in the classroom, and this month’s report comes from our Upper School orchestra. Students are learning an arrangement of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles” from the opera Mlada. How do you take an orchestral piece with 50 different parts and make it work for an ensemble of 5 strings, 2 trumpets, one flute, and an electric piano? Well, our Fine Arts Director Jose Bas is a master at solving problems like this and making music with the resources available. In an orchestra of 9 members, every musician is exposed. Mr. Bas knows all the parts, and can sing them when needed, and he knows theory and technique for strings, brass, and woodwind instruments alike. A virtuoso string player himself, Mr. Bas balances his high demands with frequent words of encouragement. Sometimes during class everything falls into place and genuinely beautiful music results. Heaven knows we have our problems, but in moments like these, I am reminded how much God has blessed SouthLake.

I hope you have a restful and relaxing week. We will return from Fall Break as scheduled, fully in person for all grades. See you on October 11.

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

Fine Arts Leadership Sports

Why SouthLake Christian Academy Will Not Play Football This Fall

Last week we made the difficult decision as a school to cancel high school and middle school football this fall. While this decision was not a surprise to many, it was likely a disappointment to everyone. I want to offer a full explanation of why we made this decision.

First, there is no way to play football and comply with the health and safety recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, or the Mecklenburg County Department of Health. As a school, we have chosen to follow the advice of scientists and public health experts whose job is to protect the common good by preventing the spread of diseases. In the opinion of doctors and researchers, the safety protocols we have in place for this school year give us the best chance of staying at school for in-person instruction on our campus. It makes little sense to work diligently to follow safety guidelines during the day and then ignore them to play a sport each afternoon.

Second, the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) categorizes football as the only high-risk sport played during the fall. Football is typically the largest fall sport in terms of participants and is by far the most logistically complex. Managing locker room and bathroom usage, transportation, team meetings, pre-game meals, access to our trainer, and the other logistics of the sport while maintaining physical distancing is not possible. Football also places our students in close contact with students at other schools that are not implementing the same safety protocols we are, adding to the cumulative risk for everyone involved.

Third, were a player to test positive for COVID-19, in all likelihood much of the team would be considered a close contact by health department standards and need to be quarantined and tested. An outbreak on the team, such as we have seen among NFL and college teams in recent weeks, could force us to close the high school and/or the middle school for a period of time. Because we have so many siblings at SouthLake, a high school closure would likely impact the middle school and vice versa. Many students at SouthLake have parents who teach here so closures would also impact our faculty. As we learned the first week of this fall, a positive case of COVID-19 can have far-reaching ripple effects across our school.

Fourth, the risk calculations we have to make about football does not support us playing the sport at this time. There are risks associated with everything we do now. Live instruction carries risks, but so does online instruction. When we make decisions of any kind, we balance the risks and ask ourselves which risks are worth taking and which ones are not. In our estimation, the risks of live instruction on campus were lower than the risks of keeping students at home. That risk calculation was based on data about the number of COVID-19 cases in our area, coupled with what we know about the educational and psychological effects of long-term social isolation. We did a similar cost calculation as we considered football this fall. The risks of playing are great, significantly greater than other sports, and those risks are not necessary for us to take. I acknowledge that other sports pose some risks too, but the risks are lower on average, the safety logistics easier to manage, and the implications of a positive COVID-19 test less severe.

Finally, let me say that I was hoping the NCISAA would reach this conclusion about football itself. Making this decision in unison with other schools would have been preferable to us having to make the decision alone. It has become clear to me, however, that even though a significant number of school leaders in our association have similar concerns about football, none have been willing to step forward, choosing instead to string students and their families along with the hope of a normal season. Increasingly I felt uncomfortable with this course of action. As we fought to keep our own school open in week one, I realized it is time for me to lead and to level with our young men and their families about the facts. The facts show that apart from a significant medical breakthrough, we cannot safely play football this fall.

On a personal note, let me say that of all the things the pandemic has taken from us as a school, losing the opportunity to see our students compete in sports is among the most painful. For years now, my fall Friday nights have been spent watching our students compete and cheer. Honestly, I miss that more than I do NCAA or NFL football, and I know many of you parents feel the same. But I also know that even had we played it would not have been the same. The NCISAA has wisely banned spectators from attending any athletic competitions this fall, so I will not see our students compete in person in any sport for the remainder of 2020. I do not like any of this, but I believe our efforts and sacrifices give us the best chance to keep school open for as long as possible for as many as possible. This too shall pass, and we will be under the lights on Friday nights once again.

Sports

Youth Sports: Keeping It All in Perspective

My oldest child played nearly every sport a boy can. My middle child was a dancer who performed at innumerable school sporting events. My youngest child is a dancer and high school volleyball player. I am Head of School for an academy with 35 athletic teams. Needless to say, I have spent countless hours watching youth sporting events. Fortunately for me, I thoroughly enjoy watching students compete. I am less enamored, however, with how parents behave while watching their children compete. I am blessed to work at a school where parent behavior is almost always exemplary. Through the years, however, I have seen my fair share of parents screaming at the officials, belittling kids, and trash talking the other team. What possesses otherwise reasonable adults to lose their composure while watching their kids compete? Perhaps the rising cost of college tuition drives hopes for an athletic scholarship. Living vicariously through our kids is always a temptation. Whatever the case, here are some suggestions for keeping the right perspective on youth sports.

Let kids make their own choices. Pushing kids to play a sport is generally a bad idea. Pushing them to practice harder or more frequently than they want can become counterproductive over time. If you as a parent are working harder at a sport than your son or daughter, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate how you’re both spending your time and money. Throwing a lot of cash at camps, trainers, and private lessons can backfire, especially for younger children. If they ask for extra help, and you aren’t sacrificing college savings to give them some, then great. Otherwise, pressuring them to perform at unrealistically high levels can generate resentment if children don’t feel like they are living up to parents’ lofty expectations.

Make it about the process not the outcome. Ok, I have to say this. Your kid is not going pro. However good you think he is, he isn’t going pro. He’s big and athletic for his age? Guess what, he’s still not going pro. He’s better than all the other kids? Nope, he’s still not going pro. Why do I say this? Statistics my friend. Nationwide, less than .04% of high school athletes get a chance at a professional career in any sport. That’s one in 2500. You have a similar chance of getting struck by lightning. When you clear your mind of thoughts of a pro career, suddenly your approach to parenting a sports-playing child becomes much healthier. Take the pressure of your children and stop trying to live out your dreams of a pro career through them. Encourage children to work hard, play fair, and be good teammates in practice, in the game, or on the bench. If they get better each practice, each game, and each season, then that is success worthy of celebration.

Yelling at the officials accomplishes nothing. I spend many years coaching baseball when my son was young. One season I volunteered as an assistant coach for a 10-year-old team with a head coach who had worked as an SEC baseball official for several years. In a playoff game, an umpire made a terrible call that cost our team a couple of runs and eventually the game. I voiced my displeasure to the official from the dugout, at which point the head coach looked at me and said, “Matt, if he were any better, he’d be an umpire somewhere else.” That statement put things in perspective for me. Youth officials are amateurs who have families and full-time jobs that usually have nothing to do with sports. They receive only a modest amount of training, supervision, and compensation. They typically officiate for fun because they enjoy watching young people compete and helping teach them the game. So cut the refs some slack, set a good example, and keep your opinions of the officiating to yourself.

Belittling your kids makes them worse not better. I see a frightening number of parents trying to coach their kids from the stands, yelling advice and criticizing mistakes. I’ve never seen a kid who likes this or performs better as a result. We as parents feel frustration and maybe embarrassment when our kids don’t do well in a game. The truth is, this is our problem not our kid’s problem. Here is a little piece of advice that I have heard from many parents wiser than me: Don’t talk to your son or daughter about his performance in games. If you know a sport well and you are asked for help, give only what is asked. Otherwise, play the role of a supportive parent. Offers encouragement, perspective, and calm. When the game is over, talk about where you’re going to dinner. Don’t rehash their performances, especially the mistakes. Let the coaches handle correction.

Let the coaches do the coaching. Believe it or not, your child’s coaches probably know your child’s abilities better than you. Coaches are not perfect, obviously. They are subject to prejudices and politics, first impressions and hot tempers, just like the rest of us. But when it comes to your child, you are not remotely objective. Coaches are more likely than you to know what position is best, what playing time is best, what offense to run, when to call a time out, and what best to say to encourage, motivate, or correct your child. So, for the love of all that is decent in the world, don’t complain to your coach about positions or playing time. You don’t have to like all your coaches or everything they decide. If a coach is inappropriately hot-tempered, profane, or belittling, by all means confront that sort of childish behavior. But remember that for the rest of your children’s lives, they will have classmates, teachers, professors, bosses, colleagues, and neighbors that they don’t particularly like. They need to learn to live with and learn from people they may not like. We parents need to model this for our kids.

Play multiple sports. The popularity of club sports has made players more skilled at earlier ages by extending the playing season. School season, club season, private lessons, camps, and off-season training mean that many teenagers play their sport almost all year. Much of this is driven by economics. Parents are willing to pay big money to see their kids improve and many coaches are eager to turn a profit. Yet, the rise in overuse injuries suggests that such intense dedication to a single sport exacts a physical toll on young bodies. According to recent studies cited by USA Today (September 5, 2018), more than 3.5 million under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports related injuries each year. High School students account for nearly 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations. Of equal but overlooked importance is the mental fatigue associated with playing a single sport all year. Kids need down time, yet often their schedules are too busy for proper sleep, a healthy diet, or adequate time to decompress. Kids can use the mental break that comes from getting away from their primary sport, meeting new people, learning new skills, and developing a broader base of fitness. A 2017 study by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine found that early specialization in a sport did NOT increase an athlete’s chances of playing that sport at the high school, collegiate, or professional level (www.sportsmed.org; July 2017).

Let the kids play. As badly as I want to see my team win, in my calmer moments I realize that a youth athletic competition is a low stakes affair. The outcome isn’t going to have a particularly profound or lasting impact on either the winners or the losers. For that reason, sports should be fun. There are too many seriously important things in life to take something that should be fun and treat it too seriously. I think it is easy for parents and coaches to suck the life out of sports for our children and strip from them the pure and simple joy of competition for its own sake.

 

Parenting Sports