Examining the Sustainability of Two Suburban Lutheran Schools by Addressing the Characteristics and Responses to Extraneous Variables

Nov 13th, 2018 | Category: Elementary/Middle School Education, Parents/Family/Community, Research in Education, Today's Lutheran Educator
By Joy A. Mullaney, Paul A. Sims, Angela Tagaris, Ardelle L. Pate, L. Arthur Safer

This research targeted two suburban LCMS Lutheran schools and examined their sustainability through the lens of Stevens’ lifecycle theory during the maturity stage and regeneration (Stevens, 2006), and Fullan’s sustainability theory for schools (2005). The objective was to explore, understand, and describe the perspectives of school stakeholders (i.e., pastors, teachers, parents, and other church workers) as their discussions revealed themes related to sustainability. The intent of this study was to start to fill research gaps relevant to Lutheran school sustainability.

Review of the Literature

To place Lutheran education in context, it is necessary to understand the foundations of Lutheran identity. When describing Lutheranism, Schmidt (2016) stated one must consider the unique pieces of Lutheran theology that were taught and practiced since the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The uniqueness of Lutheran identity distinguishes Lutherans from other Christian denominations. Doctrines, drawn from the Holy Scriptures, are what Lutherans know as truths (as cited in Bull, 2016). Of these truths, Lutherans have many distinctive elements, with the most basic being three principles, referred to as the three solas of the Reformation. (Kinnaman, 2015):

1. Our salvation is entirely a gift of grace from God and not our
own doing.

2. We receive that grace through faith and not by any works we
might do.

3. The sole norm and rule of all doctrine is the Holy Scriptures (p. 23).

These three solas form a concise basis for what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess. Sola Scriptura or Scripture alone means the Bible or Scripture is the inspired Word of God and is the sole source of what Lutherans believe and practice; Scriptures judge the validity of practices. Sola gratia or grace alone is the assurance that salvation is based on God’s grace alone, and not earned by our good works. Sola fide or faith alone assures God’s gift of grace is received. Sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fide (by faith alone), and sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) are the basis for Lutheran doctrine (Kinnaman, 2015).

Relating Kinnaman’s (2015) description of the fundamental principles of Lutheran identity to the purpose of Lutheran education, Rietschel (2000) stated the first objective of Lutheran education was for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God. An objective for Lutheran education is to consider the truth that fallen man lost God’s image, and that one must regain God’s image and resume fellowship with God. This can be achieved through faith in the blood shed by Jesus Christ, and through the Word and the Sacraments which will nurture the growth of children. Lutheran schools facilitate students’ growth in the knowledge of the Triune God, as well as the development of Christian virtues through the understanding of the Law (rules, order, behavior, sin) and Gospel (salvation through grace alone through faith) (Senkbeil, 2013). Korcek (2011) pointed out two doctrines central to Lutheran education: education and vocation. Veith (2011) summarized, “Baptized Christians are called to live out their faith in the world in the different stations of life to which God may call them” (p. xii). Luther’s pastor Johannes Bugenhagen reasoned that since baptized Christians have high status in front of God, they are deserving of excellent education; baptism meant that fine education once only for the elite should now be offered to all Christians, including girls. The second doctrine significant to education is vocation. Luther’s theology of vocation was grown out of baptism. Baptism is the mark of the everyday life of a Christian and allows for new life in Christ. In this new life, the Christian lives out his vocation (Korcek, 2011). Vocation, as Luther saw it, is not a calling to a church office, but a calling to all Christians to a life of holy service. God works through the Christian for the good of mankind. Christians are called to love and serve their neighbors, the workplace, their family, the church; and the liberal arts prepare one for service to the world. Lutheran schools not only fulfill this necessity but also prepare children in the catechism, thus equipping them for eternal life.

Lutheran Education

From the start of the LCMS in 1847, Lutheran schools provided members with schools to teach students not only the faith but to provide a language and culture platform for their German immigrant children. As the LCMS formed, it clearly outlined in Article III of its constitution that a major purpose of the synod was to establish and nurture Lutheran educational agencies, or elementary and secondary schools. With this emphasis, LCMS schools prospered. Growth rates varied over the years and at times have declined (Holtzen & Krause, 2000). Refer to Figure 1. Noting the rapid decline since 1996, it is important for the mission of the LCMS that studies like this take place to inform and preserve LCMS Lutheran schools.

Figure #1, Chart for Elementary Schools

Figure 1:  The Number of Lutheran Elementary Schools in the United States from 1847 to 2017. Incline in the number of elementary schools from 1847 to 1996 and rapid decline since 1996 is shown in this figure (Holtzen & Krause, 2000; LCMS, 2017).

The declining number of Lutheran schools and overall enrollment decline is clear, as shown by data provided in the literature (Holtzen, & Krause, 2000). Cochran (2008) also noted the rapid decline of LCMS Lutheran schools and the impending changes recognized in Lutheran schools. He acknowledged several factors and trends that have led to the decline in the number of Lutheran schools and total Lutheran school enrollment:  parents make choices as consumers, fewer baptisms, changing demographics, and the economy are noted as such factors.

Stueber (2008) noted enrollment patterns and trends as well as insights into the future of LCMS high schools. Refer to Figure 2. Larger cities experienced many elementary Lutheran school closings; this affected Lutheran high schools, as most Lutheran high school students traditionally came from the feeder Lutheran elementary schools in the area. High schools downsized and struggled with funding; fewer students meant fewer resources. Six challenges emerged for Lutheran high schools including mission, spiritual development, leadership, technology, marketing, and change without compromising mission. Despite the schools which failed, those who embraced the challenges in this environment thrived. Stueber (2008) noted three common threads that have emerged in thriving schools. The first trend centered on strategically moving the urban Lutheran high schools away from the urban area. The Lutheran Education Association of Houston is one such example. A second trend was the engagement of effective marketing to the school community; the hiring of enrollment management and marketing helped get the message to the community. Finally, thriving Lutheran schools put into place effective leadership in the board room where board members know their roles, creating vision and policy; school administrators share vision, model, and manage change effectively in thriving schools.

Figure #2, Chart for High Schools

Figure 2. LCMS number of high schools in the United States from 1955 – 2017 (Holtzen & Krause, 2000; LCMS, 2017).

At the 66th Regular Convention in 2016, the LCMS recognized the declining number of Lutheran schools and enrollment decline as a problem (LCMS, 2016). From this national convention, through Resolution 8-03, the LCMS synod directed the Office of School Ministry to determine the cause of decline in total enrollment as well as the decline of the number of schools. Lutheran schools need leadership training, the support of Lutheran schools requires sustainability, and the study of reasons leading to enrollment decline is necessary (LCMS, 2016). In addition, the Office of School Ministry was to identify alternative funding models and consider classical education, online learning, flexible scheduling, hybrid homeschool and international models. The LCMS indicated the Office of School Ministry should give special attention to the creation of unique models for congregations to consider, including those that will address tuition restrictions for lower income families. Research and recommendations are forthcoming and are expected to emerge at the LCMS 67th Regular Convention in 2019. The LCMS attention to issues and efforts to address these issues facing LCMS schools gives significance to this study.

Theoretical Foundations and Conceptual Framework

Two theories support the problem of sustainability of Lutheran schools. Lifecycle theory compares a nonprofit organization, such as a Lutheran school, to the lifecycle of humanity (Stevens, 2006). Sustainability theory describes eight elements of a sustainable school (Fullan, 2005). This framework was integrated to underpin the researcher’s questions, “What makes a Lutheran school sustainable according to the perceptions of stakeholders?” and “To what extent do extraneous variables affect the sustainability of Lutheran schools?”

Theoretical Framework 1: Lifecycle Theory

The lifecycle of a nonprofit organization such as a Lutheran school compares to the lifecycle of a human. Like people, an organization experiences life stages, including birth or start-up, growing or adolescence to maturing, and sometimes stagnation. In a nonprofit organization, stagnation results in decline or death unless there is renewal (Stevens, 2006). Lifecycle theory aligns with sustainable Lutheran schools, as they travel through the cycle of continuous renewal to sustainability.

Theoretical Framework 2:  Sustainability Theory:  Systems Thinkers

Fullan (2005) developed the sustainability theory related to schools, maintaining that sustainability and school improvement are directly related. In whole-systems change, what people do effectively in schools is a result of the system change. In sustainable schools, leaders are cultivated; continuous improvement is coupled with innovative practices; capacity is built both laterally and vertically. Fullan’s theory (2005) defines leaders as the agents or developers of progressive transformations; however, one leader who acts in a progressive manner cannot cause sustainability of a school. In tandem with leadership development, short- and long-term results lead to sustainability. Newly cultivated leaders must have opportunities to practice developmental leadership in efforts to change the culture and systems of organizations, thus leading to sustainability (Fullan, 2005).

Research Methodology

The researcher located two sustainable Lutheran schools willing to fully participate in the study. The research design was a qualitative multi-case study. Creswell (2013) stated that “a hallmark of a good qualitative case study is that it presents an in-depth understanding of the case” (p. 98).

Sample

To glean significant insight from participants, principals selected stakeholders who understood the climate and culture of the school; stakeholders included pastors, teachers, parents, and other church workers who possessed historical context. All participants were willing to engage. Written consent, with the option of disengagement at any time without consequence, from all participants was obtained prior to the focus group and interviews. Fifteen stakeholders participated in the study. From School A, six participants including the principal, director of Christian education (DCE), lead pastor, associate pastor, a teacher, and a parent/volunteer were involved in the focus group or interviews. In School B, nine participants included the principal, two teachers, a teacher aide/parent, lead pastor, DCE, a volunteer, and two parents interviewed or participated in the focus group. Only one educator, Principal A, participated in both the focus group and the interview.

Data Collection Procedure

To better understand the perceptions of stakeholders in two sustainable suburban Lutheran schools, in a focus group and individual interviews, the researcher asked participants about characteristics of sustainability, school responses to extraneous variables, and proactive actions that addressed potential barriers. Focus group and interview questions aligned to the two research questions as well as the two theories in the framework, lifecycle theory and sustainability theory. One focus group question and five interview questions were developed by the researcher for Research Question 1. One focus group question and eight interview questions were designed for Research Question 2. Refer to Appendix A for these questions.

Focus Group

An experienced LCMS educator facilitated the study with the focus group discussion on November 21, 2017 at School B with six stakeholder participants. Leadership from each school was assigned by the researcher to the focus group. A pastor from one school and the principal from the other school was assigned with the intention of moving the focus group conversation forward. Six participants included two from School A and four from School B. In the concluding focus-group activity, each participant individually wrote characteristics of sustainable Lutheran schools on Post-it Notes and then in two small groups categorized characteristics into main ideas.

Interviews

Following the focus group, ten individual interviews were conducted. The researcher conducted five interviews at School A on November 28 and 30, 2017 and five interviews at School B on December 5, 2017. Interviews were face-to face, with open-ended and probing questions asked in a semi-structured manner so that participants were able to define their experiences according to their perspectives. Interviews were digitally recorded on two devices and transcribed within three days. Transcripts were emailed to the interviewees for validation. Minor adjustments were made based on the respondents’ feedback. Member checking ensured the accuracy of transcripts and diminished researcher bias. This triangulation completed the data collection process

Data Analysis Procedures

The researcher read the data multiple times as she established patterns and looked for similarities to develop generalizations. Notes were taken in the margins of the transcripts that related to the two research questions. During data analysis, the researcher coded the data using open-coding to ensure she was receptive to anything relevant; coding was organized on a chart with data being given names, brief definitions, and identified for later use. The researcher used induction to build concepts, themes, and theories using the understandings gleaned from the field through focus-group conversations and individual interviews.

Results

As the researcher analyzed the qualitative date in this multi-case study, she placed quotes of stakeholders into categories, then developed theories. From the categories, she constructed five predominant themes. First, stakeholders from both schools A and B emphasized the need to base all that they do around their mission or moral purpose. It is important for them to not only provide religion within their school day, but they place value on the integration of religion in each content area. School faculty and staff model Christian-like behaviors, and activities are planned to facilitate such. Keeping true to Lutheran identity is important to both schools, but they are welcoming of students and families from other faiths; outreach is a part of the mission as they bring the Word of God to those outside of the Lutheran circle.

Second, stakeholders expressed the commitment to the school as a prominent characteristic of a sustainable school. The churches cherish, value, and support their respective schools; there is a commitment to unity between school and church that includes a full life of involvement and trust in the school-church family. Parents have expressed trust in the teachers and administrators and feel that their children are safe and well cared for; they feel the school holds the same values that they hold at home, thus affording continuity. Administrators construct opportunities for families to connect with each other to build community; they offer leadership roles for parents, students, and teachers so that all can be a part of the family. All of this is strategically planned in a sustainable Lutheran school.

Theme three revolves around the quality of a sustainable Lutheran school. Quality is of utmost importance in the selection and retention of faculty and staff. Administrators from both schools expressed their dedication to finding the best teachers and staff who not only have excellent teaching skills, but also have a solid Christian faith-base. The teachers are dedicated to their students, their families, professional learning, and a full life in church and school. School administrators recognize that there is a shortage of rostered teachers to call. If given the opportunity to call a rostered teacher or offer a contract to a non-rostered teacher, if all is equal, the rostered teacher will be called. If, however, the non-rostered teacher is more qualified and is strong in their Christian faith, then a contract will be offered. Quality programming and curriculum must also be evident in sustainable Lutheran schools. Continuous review and renewal of curriculum to ensure relevance will be evident in sustainable schools along with a wide breadth of programs and activities, such as fine arts, athletics, and co-curricular high interest clubs.

Fourth, quality leadership is an essential element of a sustainable Lutheran school. Leaders in schools A and B are not satisfied with status quo; they are committed to continuous improvement and cyclical review, evaluation, and change of all aspects of school programming. Leadership has changed with the times. No longer are sustainable Lutheran schools only for their church members as originally structured by the German immigrants. Rather, there is leadership commitment to strategically welcoming all demographics. Leaders in Schools A and B have proactively addressed threats and obstacles such as keeping up with technology and sustaining financials (through multiple sources). They address and communicate mission and vision, plus short-term and long-term goals through strategic planning. Church leadership designs governance with policy-based models, thus allowing school administrators to conduct internal operations within set policies. These leadership specifics are valued in Schools A and B.

The final theme constructed from the data is response to community needs. There are two parts to this theme. Schools A and B understand the importance of reaching out to the community. This is intentional. For example, both schools are in communities where the public schools do not offer full day kindergarten; in response to the communities’ needs for a safe and high quality full-day learning environment, Schools A and B have offered full-day kindergarten along with before- and after-school care available to working parents. Secondly, stakeholders from both schools felt the schools have sustained because they have built a solid reputation in the community through a safe and loving atmosphere and by offering quality resources.

Research Question 1:

What makes a Lutheran school sustainable according to the perceptions
of stakeholders?

During the focus-group conversation, all stakeholders agreed that Lutheran school sustainability must encompass a unified church and school with commitments from all stakeholders; participants talked about a strong unified partnership and relationship between church and school with high value placed on the school. Focus-group members and interviewees stated the importance of modeling complete immersion in church life for the benefit of students. All stakeholders perceived the partnership as real where both church and school stakeholders want to work together for the greater good. Stakeholders discussed the core values of a sense of community, family, and love for one another in the church and school environment in their respective schools. Parent B highly values loving relationships in the school and church, and noted that faculty show children love as a parent would. She considered the school as a partner in parenting and is confident that teachers share the values of her family. She indicated that Lutheran schools allow parents to keep their children in a safe bubble and at the same time prepare them well for
high school.

In the ten individual interviews, stakeholders discussed the special culture of moral code, Christian values, and Lutheran identity as a moral purpose or mission of the church and school. Pastors, principals, and teachers identified the moral purpose or mission of the school in terms of foundational understandings and being rooted in the Word of God as provided in Scripture. They perceived this as being played out in the schools as religion and Christian behavior integrated into curriculum and the entire culture of how stakeholders, including students, act toward one another in all places. Several study participants gave examples of Christian behavior on the athletic playing fields; Lutheran-school students have been known to pick up injured players on opposing teams, and study participants noted this goes with them in public and private high school settings. Stakeholders noted that a part of their mission is the outreach or drawing people into the church, and is seen not only through the school, but also through outreach efforts of the church. Moral purpose or mission was one of the eight elements of sustainability; all levels of the system must uphold the moral purpose or mission of the school and system leaders need to model the moral purpose (Fullan, 2005).

A characteristic of a sustainable Lutheran school is that of continued professional learning through lateral networks. Although this was not a defined theme stemming from all participants, the quality of teachers was a subtheme. Teacher A described the dedication to professional learning through observations in public schools, attending curriculum writing at the NID (Northern Illinois District) and the Lutheran Education Association (LEA) professional-development workshops and conferences. They learned from their peers in the field. Teachers at School A attend the state reading conferences each year and prioritize participation through closing the schools on state reading-conference days. In Schools A and B, early childhood teachers laterally network every six weeks within the NID system. All teachers in schools A and B participate in professional development such as summer curriculum work through the NID. They attend and present at LEA conferences.

Participants discussed the need for a well-rounded education for the whole child and a breadth of program offerings. Sustainable Lutheran schools met the needs of the community and established a good reputation in the community through quality programming. Schools in this study offered not only Christ-centered, integrated, accelerated, and differentiated academic programs, but also a wide variety co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities. Continuity emerged as a characteristic of sustainable Lutheran schools. Participants saw sustainability in Lutheran schools through the continuity of generational school attendance. However, Principal A noted that, in an LCMS school where she taught prior to her call to School A, that piece was missing. In her former urban setting, the school population was mobile but there was a strong continuity of school and church staff; thus, the continuity of staff moved the school forward and the school sustained. She perceived that whether the continuity is through school population or faculty and staff, sustainability will be present. Discussions were also centered on the importance in the quality of leadership, that of both faculty and staff.

Both principals described their policy-based governance as a successful model that was effective for their respective schools. While School A had a board called the Parish School Ministry to develop policy and School B does not have a board, the policy-based structures serve the same purpose. Decision makers created policy, and the leaders of the schools carried out school operations. School A’s governance policy stated, “The Parish School Ministry is the policy-making body for the school. The principal is charged with carrying out those policies and programs with the aid and support of faculty and staff “(Parish School Ministry, 2017, p. 1).

Research Question 2:

To what extent do extraneous variables affect the sustainability of Lutheran schools?

In the focus group conversation, Pastor/Parent B described the change in demographics as an obstacle that all Lutheran churches and schools faced. He described the change of posture from the old German way of thinking; formerly, church leaders asked congregation members to bring their children to Lutheran schools and became angry when parents did not comply. He emphasized the importance of figuring out how to connect today’s families to the schools. He explained that it is difficult for a century-and-a-half old organization to change its thinking about how to connect with families they currently have and how to discontinue traditional German ways of doing things. Pastors and principals in this study had a good understanding of the need for unconventional thinking with new perspectives and they acted on their creativity as they responded to community trends.

Principal B in his interview expressed the importance of visionary leadership and strategic planning to ward off barriers or obstacles that might prevent sustainability. He stated that strong leaders need to look at the big picture and lead people in a unified direction. He referenced a unified ministry that is communicated verbally, both publicly and internally; he insisted that this is what needs to happen for a sustainable and accessible school. He feels his school is blessed to have that.

Stakeholders from both schools identified financials as a variable they must continually monitor. Human resources and technology are the biggest financial factors. Technology must be constantly updated and supported to provide a quality education and to serve as a platform for curriculum. The need to provide multiple sources of income is perceived as necessary to sustain. Income sources not only include tuition, but also include fund raisers, grants, endowments, and (estate) planned giving. One of the schools is in the planning stages of partnering with local businesses. Both schools have recognized the importance of this strategy and have planned multiple sources of income and dedicated funds for quality education including technology equipment and technology support. Several stakeholders from both schools stated God will provide, when speaking of school needs, and acknowledged that when needs arise financials become available. “…God will supply every need of yours…” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).

Since tuition is one source of income for the schools, it is essential for schools to maintain enrollment. Often parents enroll their children with the intention to transfer enrollment to the local public schools. This often happens after kindergarten and around grades five or six when parents feel the need to prepare their adolescent children for secondary school. According to the perceptions of participants, parents rationalize this, often citing middle school students need to make friends in the public school prior to high school; parents also report that their adolescent children must adjust to the size of the public school, number of students in classrooms, and different programming.

Principals reported strategic responses to the obstacle of enrollment decline. Principal A perceived internal marketing as an important strategy. An example of the internal marketing came about when the principal noticed she was regularly guiding school tours to local public-school teachers who were considering private schools for their children. Principal A and teachers in her Lutheran school strategically displayed creative student projects accompanied by Common Core State Standards (2018) and other standards addressed in the project. Potential parent/public-school teachers valued alignment to the posted standards and spread the word that school A is a quality school. Principal B addressed the latter variable of middle-grade students transferring enrollment to the public schools. His strategy was to hire an energetic middle grade expert as an assistant principal; she has much experience with and understanding of not only the age ten-through-fourteen adolescents’ needs but also middle school philosophy and organization. The assistant principal for middle grades strategically organizes developmentally-responsive master schedules and
social events.

A need for leadership in Lutheran schools is also an obstacle to face. LCMS Ministry provides a pool of administrative candidates; the interviewee anticipated that by 2018, 40% of Lutheran school administrators would retire (Krull, 2015). Although participants of this study did not speak directly to the potential lack of leadership in LCMS schools, this is a threat to all Lutheran schools and has been addressed by the synod (LCMS, 2016). Proactive leadership development is evident in both Schools A and B. Principal A has created a rotating shared-leadership model for teacher leadership, which is job-embedded. Opportunities for teacher-leaders include but are not limited to professional development, curricular, co-curricular, extra-curricular, and administrative leadership. Principal B created shared leadership and job-embedded leadership opportunities for teacher leaders; his leadership team consists of teacher leaders who do not think inward. Teacher leaders have earned Principal B’s trust, so he does not micro-manage. He meets regularly with his leadership team to collaborate on short-term and long-term vision and planning. Both schools intentionally provide parental and student leadership opportunities as well.

Limitations

This study was narrowed to two LCMS suburban schools in the Northern Illinois District. These schools are unlike urban schools. Demographics have not changed much over the decades in one of these schools, funding practices will not be like urban schools, and missions may be different. Likewise, it would be difficult to generalize to Lutheran schools in different states due to differences in funding practices. As an illustration, Milwaukee, Wisconsin offers Private School Choice Programs, or voucher programs, that several Lutheran schools participate in, so the research in this study will only generalize and transfer to a limited number of Lutheran schools.

Conclusions

This study examined the perceptions of stakeholders in two Midwest LCMS suburban Lutheran schools through a qualitative multi-case study. Participants responded to focus group and interview questions to help the researcher explain perceived qualities of sustainable Lutheran schools and how school administrations faced external variables. Findings confirmed that perceptions of the characteristics of Lutheran school sustainability include commitment to Lutheran identity, modeling Christian behaviors, outreach, and moral purpose/mission. Church and school unity and the creation of a sense of family are perceived as necessary characteristics of a sustainable Lutheran school. Stakeholders perceive that it is necessary to offer a quality program to the community, strong leadership, and excellent faculty and staff to earn a positive reputation. Extraneous obstacles were perceived as variables which include financial burden, constant change in technology needs, location surrounded by excellent competitive schools, high local taxes supporting public schools, changing demographics, economic trends, and changing attitudes toward Christian education.

The theoretical framework of this research, including both the lifecycle theory and the sustainability theory, supported the findings in this study. Therefore, future researchers will find this study suitable to examine further the sustainability of Lutheran schools and strategies to combat declining sustainability especially in the face of external variables

Implications

Often when reviewing Lutheran school sustainability, the discussion revolves around finances and enrollment. While lack of financial resources and declining enrollment are the obvious answers to the inability of Lutheran schools to remain sustainable, much more encompasses sustainability. To embrace sustainability of Lutheran schools, Lutheran educators must embrace the topics of mission/moral purpose, vision, governance, communication, leadership, community, quality, change, stakeholder involvement, continuous improvement, and accountability. The two sustainable Lutheran schools in this study exhibited strong connections to their moral purpose; their mission is foundational to all programming. Lutheran-school stakeholders will find value in regularly revisiting their mission and moral purpose to ensure teachers, staff, parents, and students are well focused in all they do. The mission and moral purpose should be central to all activities and offerings; mission should be stated often in writing, stated vocally, and demonstrated in actions.

The two schools in the study either moved toward or relied upon effective policy-based governance structures. It would be wise for Lutheran-school administrations to reflect upon their governance model and ask questions concerning the governance model used for the school; likewise, they need to review policy on a regular basis and give practical input and recommendations. In addition, they need to question whether school officials have the freedom to leverage their educational expertise and experience to make day-to-day school-related decisions. These may be difficult questions to address, but certainly worthy of discussion.

Lutheran schools wishing to become or remain sustainable support intentional teacher, student, and parent leadership. The synod addresses the necessity to grow new leaders, as in Resolution 8-02 from the 2016 LCMS national convention, Upon This Rock (LCMS, 2016) synod directed the Office of National Mission and the LCMS School Ministry to prepare leaders for early childhood to secondary levels of Lutheran schools. Stakeholders are more likely to embrace change if they are a part of leadership.

Considering the findings in this research, Lutheran-school administrators should consider themselves change agents in their roles as executive directors, principals, directors, and assistant principals. Whether early childhood, elementary, middle grades, or secondary it would behoove school leadership not only to adhere to best practices, but also to communicate thoroughly and often about best practices, the research behind those practices, and how the school implements best practices in their program-renewal cycles. Reeves (2010) emphasized the need to put learning from professional development into practice. Informed leaders will follow up on professional development to ensure educators have opportunities to apply their newly learned strategies, best practices, and curriculum. On a regular basis, Lutheran school administrators must respond to community needs by surveying the internal and external community to gain a sense of community needs, form task-force groups to collect informational data, assess these needs, and recommend changes.

During NID school administrator’s regular conferences, a lifecycle model has been presented. Through reflection and self-analysis, coupled with outside vertical evaluation, this process can be a starting point to knowing lifecycle status as it relates to the sustainability of the Lutheran school. Through the study of lifecycle theory along with sustainability theory, organizations can strategize to move their Lutheran schools forward toward sustainability. LEJ

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Parish School Ministry (2017). EDITOR’S NOTE: This report contains non-public information regarding the school and its student base. For specific information relating to its use in this article contact the authors. See contact information at the end of this article.

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Appendix A

Focus and Interview Questions

Research Question #1: What makes a Lutheran school sustainable to the perceptions of stakeholders?

Focus Group Question #1 What are the qualities of a Lutheran school that create sustainability?

Interview Question #1 What do you believe are qualities of a sustainable Lutheran school? Please describe.

Interview Question #2 To what extent are these qualities present in your school? Please describe in detail.

Interview Question #3 What does moral purpose in a Lutheran school mean to you? Please describe in detail.

Interview Question #4 Which of these qualities of moral purpose do you observe in this school?

Interview Question #5 What are your perceptions of the resources and programs available of NOT in your school? Please describe in detail.

Research Question #2: To what extent do extraneous variables affect the sustainability of Lutheran schools?

Focus Group Question #2 How does your school respond to extraneous variables?

Interview Question #6 What obstacles or barriers has your school faces? Describe.

Interview Question #7 What proactive measures has your school put into place to combat potential obstacles?

Interview Question #8 How have these proactive measures been addressed?

Interview Question #9 Give some examples of how obstacles have been resolved.

Interview Question #10 Describe the outcomes.

Interview Question #11 Describe parental involvement in the school.

Interview Question #12 To what extent does parental involvement affect the sustainability of Lutheran schools?

Interview Question #13 Why do you believe parents choose public schools over private or private over public?

Author Information

Joy A. Mullaney is an assistant professor in the College of Education at Concordia University Chicago. Previously she served as a teacher and school principal in public and LCMS schools, PK-12. She earned her B.S. in Junior High Education from Illinois State University, an M.S. in Secondary Education from Northern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. from Concordia University Chicago in Educational Leadership. Joy.Mullaney@cuchicago.edu

Paul Sims is the chairperson of the Educational Leadership Department at Concordia University Chicago. He is entering into his twelfth year at CUC where he has taught Supervision and Evaluation and Instructional Leadership in the Illinois Principal Preparation Program at the master’s level and Strategies of Educational Leadership and Supervisory Theory and Practice at the doctoral level. Recently, he celebrated his membership on 96 dissertation committees. Previous to graduate level teaching, he was a teacher, dean of students and principal in three parochial high schools on the north side of Chicago. He is also an avid Cubs fan. He has a BA from the University of Waterloo, Ontario; an M.Div. from the Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis, Mo); an M.Ed. in Curriculum Development from De Paul University, Chicago and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago.

Angela Tagaris is an Associate Professor at Concordia University currently teaching education courses to undergraduate students, educational technology and teacher leadership courses to graduate students, and supervising student teachers. She also serves as a methodologist for doctoral dissertations. Dr. Tagaris is a retired middle school teacher who has taught science, social studies, language arts, and music for 35 years. After obtaining her BA/MS in Education from Northeastern University, she went on to earn her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from Olivet Nazarene University and a Doctor of Education in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She currently serves on the Mental Health Association Board for Greater Chicago and has been instrumental in the development of the curricula for the Learning2Live Program for mental-health awareness. She is also an avid Cubs fan.

Ardelle A. Pate is a Professor in the Department of Educational Technology at Concordia University Chicago. Her background is steeped in educational experience from K-12 teaching to higher education. A graduate of Valparaiso University (BA), Kent State (MS), Northern Illinois University (MA, Ed.D.), and other institutions of higher learning. She believes that technology will continue leading an egalitarian movement to transform education in the years to come; however, as a Christian, she believes it is not only her task to teach, but also to inform, as moral and ethical issues within our world and the digital world most certainly exist and need to be addressed by an active, Christian voice.

L. Arthur Safer is currently Professor of Leadership in the Department of Leadership, College of Graduate Studies, Concordia University Chicago. He is also Professor Emeritus, Loyola University Chicago. His area of specialization is policy analysis and organizational behavior. Safer received his B.A. from Miami University of Ohio, his MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

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