Cultivating the Soul of Summit
As far as we know the term culture was first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator Cicero, who referred to cultura animi, as “cultivation of the soul.” I like that. The word culture went silent for an extended time, then re-appeared in modern Europe in the 17th century referring to the improvement or refinement of individuals, especially through education. Someone has said, “Culture is the sum of the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” I like that as well.
The word culture has come to have many meanings: culture can refer to one’s ethnic background; we grow a culture in a Petrie dish; to be a cultured person is to aspire to either the substance, or pretense of sophistication, and so on. Among all its various meanings, culture can describe the soul and distinctives of an institution, like a school. In fact, every institution has a culture, for good or for ill, and at Summit we are very concerned that the soul and distinctives of our school are both redemptive and carefully nurtured.
Among other things education is an art-form, and there are three important filters that we employ at Summit to cultivate and protect the soul of our school: Facilities, Faculty, and Families/Students. I often refer to Summit, not as a place, but as a web of redemptive relationships woven for the purpose of educating our children. Having said that, these relationships necessarily come together under the roof of a place, the campus of Valley Christian Assembly. We are tremendously blessed to be in partnership with this dear Church family, but the size and complexion of this facility is a filter through which we determine the scope of what we can do as a school. In similar manner the composition of our faculty in all its diversity and giftedness is a filter. What our teachers can and cannot do largely frames what we can and cannot do as a school. Finally there are the students and their families. As a school we cannot be all things to all people, and determining beforehand the kind of student who can thrive at Summit is an important filter. All these filters must function in concert with each other to ensure that the culture of Summit remains intact.
Summit has repeatedly affirmed that it would like to become a Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade school. However, that affirmation has always been subject to the proverbial, “circumstances permitting,” and those circumstances are described by the three filters referred to above. After a protracted season of prayer and consideration of all the variables, the Summit Board has decided to press the pause button for the addition of a Seventh Grade next year. To clarify quickly, this is a pause and not a stop. There has been no dilution of our determination to continue adding grades, only a reconsideration of timing. In many ways building a credible Junior High program is more complicated than a Grammar School, especially in facility and faculty. For the present those two filters suggest that we are not ready to take that step and meet our current educational standards. At Summit we do not want to grow for growth’s sake, and we do not want to grow at the expense of the culture that sets this school apart.
This pause is not without precedent in the life of our school. After starting classes in 2007 with three grades, the Summit leadership decided it needed to draw back to just Kindergarten the next year before continuing to grow up. While at present we will not be growing up a grade next year, we will continue to build out our lower grades. Apart from the high demand for these classes, the Summit Board has determined that it is important to cultivate the roots of a solid Grammar School to ensure that our future Junior and Senior High programs will bear fruit in keeping with the Summit culture.
These are never easy decisions to make and we covet your continued prayer in the process. By the time you read this newsletter Dr. Orton and members of the Board will have personally shared this news with the parents of our current Sixth Graders. Our immediate goal for Sixth Grade during the second semester of this school year will be to do all that we can to prepare these students to matriculate into the next phase of their education.
Please continue to pray with us in this time that God will bless us, that He will give us wisdom, and that His name would be lifted up in all that we do.
God bless you all,
Dr. Timothy Orton
Summit Classical Christian School