SouthLake Christian Academy Update – June 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

Welcome to summer! I hope you have already had time to rest and recover from the hectic school year.

Graduation Ceremonies
Last week we celebrated the 20th Graduation Ceremony in SouthLake’s history. The class of 2022 is particularly meaningful to me because these students were freshmen when I started at SouthLake, and my daughter is a member of the class. These seniors needed remarkable resilience, perseverance, and patience to make it to graduation. During their high school tenure, they experienced hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, snow storms, economic uncertainty, social unrest and violence, and a pandemic. Like no class before them, they were online, in person, hybrid, masked, unmasked, re-masked, quarantined, exposed, infected, re-quarantined, reinfected, and finally recovered, and in perfect attendance for the graduation service. Among the largest classes in recent SouthLake history, this class of 68 members was also among the most accomplished. Here are a few facts about the class of 2022:

  • 27% of the class are lifers, having attended SouthLake continuously since junior kindergarten or kindergarten.
  • 100% of the class participated in student organizations, sports, or fine arts.
  • 50% of the class earned scholarships totaling more than $8 million for academic achievement, leadership, athletics, and service to the community.
  • 15% of the class will compete as student athletes at the collegiate level in baseball, basketball, football, tennis, soccer, and lacrosse.
  • Our graduates were accepted to 89 different colleges and universities across the country.
  • Our graduates will attend 33 different schools in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
  • 47% will matriculate in state while 53% will leave North Carolina to attend schools in the Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West.

We are proud of these students and grateful to God for the time they spent here. They will forever be a part of our history and lifelong members of the SouthLake family. We look forward with anticipation to what God does with the gifts and abilities they have developed in this place as they take what they have learned to a needy world beyond this campus.

SouthLake App
We are excited to announce the upcoming launch of the SouthLake Family App which will be available for download on Android and Apple devices within the next few weeks. We recommend that families access Renweb via a web browser from their phone or computer until the new free SLCA-branded app is available. We will make another announcement at that time letting you know the download is live.

Annual Fund
June is the final month in our fiscal year to donate to the SouthLake Christian Academy Annual Fund. The Annual Fund provides us with resources for value-added projects like renovations, new equipment, security improvements, and technology upgrades. We are using last year’s contributions to make major renovations to the First Building Commons, a space we will use each week for chapel, Sunday worship, fine arts presentations, and school meetings. If you have not contributed to the Annual Fund this academic year, would you consider making even a $1 contribution? High participation totals show your appreciation for and confidence in our school. To contribute online, go to the following link: Thank you for your support for SouthLake Christian Academy.

School Safety
I know recent events have all of us thinking about school safety, so allow me to highlight the security measures in place at SouthLake. We have a security team on campus comprised of individuals with law enforcement and/or military training who are prepared to respond in the event of an emergency. We have new gates controlling access to campus and a new state-of-the art camera system covering every common space, playground, parking lot, sidewalk, hallway, and and stairwell. We practice hard and soft lockdown regularly, and we do so in a manner that minimizes stress for students. We do security training with our staff each August. We consult periodically with security experts and the Huntersville Police Department to shore up campus security, plan emergency response, and practice good prevention. We have other security protocols in place that we do not discuss. And most importantly, we keep our class sizes small so our teachers can know our students well and quickly identify potential problems. We take campus safety seriously, and will continue to work diligently to keep our campus safe for your students.

Head of School Evaluation Survey
In February, I asked the School Board to empower me to complete an official 360 degree evaluation of my leadership as Head of School. I worked with the Board to come up with a survey tool for Board members, employees, and school families to provide feedback to the Board about my leadership. The survey is completely anonymous; I will have no access to the data until the survey closes and the report is delivered to the School Board. The survey should take you about 5 minutes to complete. I appreciate your feedback and promise to honor your time by using your responses to improve as a leader. SouthLake families will receive the link via email.

Blessings for a wonderful, restful, and safe summer.


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


Why I Am Thankful, Now More Than Ever, For a Liberal Arts Education

I have an undergraduate degree in French Horn Performance. I have master’s degrees in business and theology, and a PH.D. in philosophical theology. Aside from my MBA, all of my education has been in the so-called liberal arts. As opposed to concentrated vocational training in a career-specific course of study, a liberal arts education focuses on the academic disciplines of philosophy, history, language, literature, music, art, and the social sciences. Also called the humanities, these courses of study teach one to think and write and solve problems rather than merely to do a job. The humanities endeavor to make one a better person rather than merely a more credentialed one. I have never held a job that specifically requires me to have any of the degrees I hold, and yet in every job I have had, and at every stage of my adult life, I have been incredibly grateful for a liberal arts education. This is especially true now, for two key reasons.

First, closing and opening a school during a global pandemic has forced me to think carefully, critically, and calmly, skills without which I might have lost my mind or my job long before COVID could get to me. This year I have had to read and study more diligently than ever, sorting through mountains of data, discerning fact from fiction, disregarding hyperbole and speculation in order to attend to relevant information. Leading an organization during a public health crisis requires the kind of information literacy that a liberal arts education helps develop. Sure, a degree in public health would be helpful, but one cannot earn a degree to match every crisis. The abilities to learn concepts quickly and apply them appropriately are valuable precisely because they are transferrable.

Second, the racial turmoil and political polarization we have seen in recent months has exposed our inability as a nation to engage thoughtfully and productively in public dialogue on controversial topics. We are all tempted to exist in an echo chamber, listening to voices that reflect our own, viewing events exclusively through the lens of our own experience, and discounting alternative perspectives. Sustained engagement with the humanities inoculates against the kind of narrow ideology that divides and radicalizes. When we humbly subject our viewpoint to sustained critique, we are much more likely to see our own blind spots and to show empathy toward others with whom we disagree. I see no other way to live peaceably with my fellow citizens.

The free and critical exchange of ideas lies at the heart much of the western intellectual tradition from its inception. As the cost of a true liberal arts education has increased exponentially, I fear the value has been increasingly marginalized. Research shows that the humanities tend to have a moderating influence; serious students tend to view the world with less dichotomy and more nuance, less polarization and more subtlety, less estrangement and more empathy. In the process, perhaps students of the liberal arts also come to see that both politics and pandemics have less ultimate significance than matters of faith. Diseases and democracies rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God remains forever. Worry less about the schools you or your children may attend. Worry less about the fleeting social dramas that tend to occupy our immediate attention. Let us concern ourselves more intently with the kinds of people we are becoming, the kind of society we are helping to create, and the God who sits enthroned above all our fleeting and temporal concerns.

Education Leadership

Leadership During a Crisis

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a Zoom meeting with the president of Samford University Dr. Westmoreland on the topic of leadership. He gave seven principles for managing through a crisis:

  1. Take a deep breath. Pause, reflect, relax, and think before you act. Even a few seconds of deep breaths can calm and center your thoughts leading to better decisions.
  2. Establish priorities. Crises require triage to be sure the important things get done and in the right order.
  3. Filter the clutter. Separate the speculative from the informative. Facts are your friends in an emergency.
  4. Take care of your people and yourself. Set limits on your work, a curfew for your emails, establish boundaries, and get needed rest.
  5. Guard your cash. This applies personally and professionally. In an economic crisis, limit spending to the absolutely necessary.
  6. Don’t quit. Even when your reserves are low, your mood depressed, you hope nearly shot, and your nerves frayed, keep going.
  7. Begin and end each day with Colossians 1:17. “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Connect with your faith and operate with the knowledge that many things are beyond your control or ability to repair.

Were I to add an 8th principle, I would include Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” To be poor in spirit is to have our hearts broken by the things that break God’s heart. To hold loosely the material things of this world in recognition that from dust we come and to dust we will return. To recognize our limitations, weaknesses, and failures. To acknowledge our need for help. To admit when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness. To be humble enough to recognize our complete dependence on God, and thereby strong enough to lead and act with wisdom, compassion, and justice.

Juggling the twin crises of coronavirus and racial violence, I suspect that the easiest parts of both are behind us. When camaraderie fades into frustration and solidarity slips into selfishness the complexities of leadership will multiply. May God give us the wisdom and strength to lead with poverty of spirit and perseverance.


Characteristics of the Creative Leader (versus Authoritative Leader)

Here is a link to an excellent comparison of creative leadership with authoritative (tradition) leadership by John Maeda and Becky Bermont. The comparison summarizes some important features of organizational management and captures something of the spirit of leadership to which I aspire, but don’t always achieve.

Characteristics of the Creative Leader (versus Authoritative Leader).


Responding to Criticism

Sometimes you’re going to make people angry, not because you do something wrong but because you do something right. People generally do not like change, even if the change is for the good. Ruffle feathers, touch a sore spot, topple a sacred cow, disrupt the status quo, and people will respond negatively.

In those moments, how will you respond? In the past, I’ve responded well and poorly, and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • The way people respond to a decision does not make that decision more or less correct.
  • Listen to your critics. They will usually teach you more than your fans.
  • You do not have a moral obligation to respond to every criticism. Sometimes the best response is no response at all.
  • Avoid the temptation to fire off an angry email response to a criticism. Email is permanent. Assume your response will be read by everyone, so have a trusted friend or colleague preview written responses before you send them.
  • Don’t obsess over what others think. You don’t need their approval. They cannot make you feel bad about yourself without your permission.
  • Ultimately, there’s one opinion that matters above all, and God regards you highly, even when you screw up.