Pella Christian Integration FAQ
The process of further integration between PCGS and PCHS is aimed at a merger and is a four-year process. That process is in its earliest stages. There is no deal already done, and there remains a sizable amount of work to be done before any final decisions about a merger would be made.
Pella Community Schools are excellent schools, and there are faithful Christian leaders and teachers serving students there. The nature of public schooling in America, a country that values religious freedom, means they are unable to do what Christian schools are specifically designed to do; to integrate the redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ in every school endeavor. PCGS and PCHS need to grow our capacity to tell our distinct story to a broader audience and advocate for the eternal value of Christian schooling in general and in our schools specifically.
There are no immediate plans to pursue legal counsel for a merger, although that would be likely down the line if the decision is to merge at the end of this process. The first phase of this four-year process is to gather feedback from our constituents and to communicate the steps we are currently taking with an open hand as well as to evaluate ways that PCGS and PCHS can share services aimed at growing collective capacity and clear continuity within all curricular and co-curricular programs PreK-12. There are many areas in which the two schools already share services and resources. We are only looking for additional opportunities that better serve our students and families.
We are comfortable that the current integration activity is an expansion and/or strengthening of the cooperative activities that have been ongoing for years. We did consider the wording of our current activities carefully and the aim of our four-year process. We appreciate the encouragement to continue to be intentional around word choice and communication. We have communicated that this integration activity is aimed at a merger, but there is no assumption that we are certain a merger will be the end of the process. There remains much work to be done during this process to determine if a merger is the final outcome
This comment is a helpful recommendation, and our efforts will continue to be centered around identifying why integration activity is beneficial and what challenges we are hoping to address with increased integration activity.
Board Trustees have Fiduciary Duties (loyalty, obedience, and care) to the schools they serve. Those duties require the overall board profile include essential skill sets that equip them to provide appropriate governance and oversight to ensure those duties are met. It is undoubtedly true that the boards must be well versed in the theological and philosophical foundations of the schools to ensure the schools’ obedience and fidelity to core theological and philosophical principles. Christian schools exist to center everything they do in the person and work of Jesus Christ, as revealed in His Word.
We’ve had good feedback but are in the infancy of communication. We’ve also met with individuals who have questions and concerns. The principals have a monthly agenda item at their Principal’s Club as a means to provide a conduit to sister school boards. We also plan to take these Town Hall Meetings on the road to sister schools. Each sister school has been asked how they would like to be included in this process.
At this time, we are using the current Co-executive Committee of the PCGS and PCHS Boards as our Integration Committee. The Board Structure includes board representation from surrounding communities, and this provides us with opportunities to gainin perspective from those communities. We do plan to establish an Integration Task Force at the conclusion of the current school year, and we will consider appropriate representation on that task force as well.
If the schools merge at the conclusion of this four-year process, operational funds and non-restricted funds would be merged. Endowment funds and restricted funds cannot be combinedand are subject to the founding documents and donor restrictions. A donor can always designate gifts for specific projects or budget line items, and those funds can only be used for those purposes. It is common for donors to designate their gifts to a certain cause.
Both PCGS and PCHS have significant financial pressures that require a change to build long term sustainability. The PCHS Board has already acknowledged there is an approximate $2,000 gap between what is charged in tuition and fees (approximately $8,000) and the per-student cost (approximately $10,000). PCGS does not have a gap between the cost of tuition and the program costs, but they have similar financial pressures that are manifested differently. Some have suggested that one of the motivations for a merger is to use PGCS to help fund the gap at PCHS. This suggestion is not accurate and is not any part of the rationale for a possible merger. We are very serious about addressing these pressures for the short and long term. As such, the 2020/2021 budgets for PCGS and PCHS will both show initial steps toward addressing the challenges. We are also in the process of a detailed 5-year financial forecast that will allow us to identify longer-term strategies to address the pressures specifically. This work is complex and is underway. We hope to have it completed by the end of this summer.
PCGS has financial pressure that manifests itself in employee compensation that is lower than comparable schools in similar communities and higher than optimal faculty workloads. There is a sizable difference between PCGS and PCHS in these areas.
The majority of our current work is focused in three very specific areas:
Establishing a joint Administrative Leadership Team for PCGS and PCHS to work on addressing our shared challenges and opportunities together in the same sandbox. Establishing this team is a critical part of our capacity to address challenges in ways that are repeatable and sustainable.
Building a communication system that allows us to keep constituents informed over time and in easily accessible ways. This communication system includes regular written communication, individual meetings, and town hall formats that will be rotated throughout surrounding communities.
Building admissions structures and practices to help expand the net of mission appropriate families to whom we have access. We have made good progress towards this effort, and we still have much to do.