An end-of-year tradition, our Petra Academy Field Day is scheduled for Friday, May 24, beginning with team introductions on the playground at 8:45 a.m. followed by the mile run at Bronken Field. Families are invited to watch in the morning and/or join us at 12 p.m. with sack lunches for an all-school picnic on the playground. All students will be released for a 1 p.m. early dismissal and the Memorial Day weekend (no school Monday, May 27).
Friday will also be our final Spirit Day, so please wear Griffin Gear with jeans or shorts and tennis shoes in which to compete.
While Friday looks to be the one bright spot in the week (sandwiched between two wet days), it also looks to be chilly. Should Field Day be cancelled, we will call off school for the entire day. We will make this decision and communicate via email and social media no later than 5 p.m. Thursday so everyone has a chance to adjust plans for Friday.
Petra Academy seeks applicants for the role of Community Coordinator (formerly Office Manager). This person will be outgoing, energetic, and enthusiastic in helping new and returning families connect with and experience our classical Christian mission in deeper and meaningful ways. Applicants should be comfortable with multiple software platforms, as well as recruiting and coordinating multiple teams of volunteers while overseeing the functions of Petra’s office and assisting the Headmaster and leadership team in the promotion of the school. Click here for information about pay and how to apply.
As announced in this special email last Thursday and at Grandparents’ Day on Friday, a current family (who wishes to remain anonymous) has pledged a match of up to $75,000 for funds raised for Petra between now and May 31, 2019. Donations go directly to our general fund, out of which we allocate student scholarships, pay teacher salaries, and keep the lights on.
Since Thursday’s announcement, we’ve seen $10,150 pledged, which doubles to $20,300. Regardless of the amount or how you contribute, all gifts are tax-deductible and will be acknowledged with our thanks so you know we received your contribution. We can only apply the match to your initial gift if we receive it by May 31, 2019, so don’t delay!
With just three weeks of school to go, many of us eagerly anticipate summer and the change of pace it brings. But summer often brings other kinds of changes, too, and this can be especially true for members of our staff.
Thankfully, Proverbs 19:21 reminds us that, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Transition can be scary, but we can be confident the Lord is not wringing his hands about what is going on; rather, he is very much in the midst of the changes, guiding our plans according to his will.
With this reassurance in mind, I’d like to tell you about what’s on the horizon for five of our staff and ask you to pray for them and for our school in the midst of their upcoming transitions. We love and wish them only the best as they seek God’s purpose in their future endeavors.
Secondary Humanities/Latin teacher Thomas Banks is in the process of packing his bags for a move east to North Carolina, where he will wed his bride-to-be, Angelina Stafford, after having taught 10th grade Humanities and Secondary Latin for nine years at Petra. Our seniors have asked Thomas to give the commencement address at graduation this year, so we look forward to hearing from him before he heads out in June.
Office Manager Karen DeGroot has served in our Petra office for 12 years and is one of the few staff who has worked with all three headmasters at two different locations (Discovery Drive and Classical Way campuses). A mother of three Petra graduates, Karen is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Tad, as well as being able to more fully enjoy her hobbies and interests when she retires from Petra later this summer.
5th grade teacher Kate Gannon is planning a move to Salt Lake City this summer, where she will be pursuing further training in the field of special education. Kate started at Petra as a long-term maternity substitute before becoming our 5th grade teacher for two years, and while she is looking forward to the next chapter, she says the transition is a bittersweet one as she leaves Bozeman and Petra.
Pre-K teacher Joan Kempf is looking forward to watching her daughter, Hannah, walk across our graduation stage later this month, and with that an end to her time teaching at Petra. Joan has taught Pre-K at Petra for five years and is looking forward to a new challenge in moving from Pre-K to possibly working with MSU college students as she pursues helping them personally prepare for the future.
Secondary Spanish teacher Giuliana Rodriguez is taking a break from teaching to pursue new career options to allow her to invest more time for her art after 13 years of language education (including running her own Spanish tutoring business out of her home). Just last week, Mrs. Rodriguez took and passed her citizenship test and is soon to become an official U.S. citizen. We are glad to have had her teach Spanish to our Secondary students for the past two years.
As I tell staff and families in the midst of transitions like these, roles change but relationships don’t have to; yes, such anticipated departures will be bittersweet, but that’s exactly how we want them to be (after all, who cries over a place and people you won’t be sad to leave?).
To honor these departing staff, we’re planning two special gatherings: the first is an after-school reception on Wednesday, May 22, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Cafeteria, during which parents and students are invited to come and go to say thank you and goodbye; the second is as part of our Final Assembly on Friday, May 31, from 10:30 a.m.-noon in our Petra Performance Hall, during which we’ll honor these departing staff in front of the entire student body.
We’re grateful for the contributions each of these staff members has made and encourage you to express your own gratitude, either by attending the reception or by writing a note or email (you can click their names to email them directly). We’re in the process of hiring for their roles for next year and are encouraged with the progress we’ve made (more to come on that), but as you might imagine, they are big shoes to fill!
Here’s a look at what’s still ahead in May:
14-15: Senior Thesis Presentations
17: Elementary History Fair/Parade (8:45 a.m.)
24: All-School Field Day (8:30 a.m.)/Picnic (early dismissal at 1 p.m.)
27: Memorial Day (No School)
28-30: Secondary Semester Examinations
29: Kindergarten/6th Grade Graduation (8:30 a.m.)
31: Final Assembly (10:30-noon)/Senior Graduation (7 p.m.)
Our Petra Academy Ultimate Frisbee team went 5-0 in last weekend’s opening tournament in Helena. The team beat Helena Christian 11-0, Heritage 5-2, Hellgate 6-1, Mission Valley 9-1, and a come-from-behind victory over Home School 7-6 for a 5-0 start to the season!
This coming Saturday, May 4, Petra hosts our home tournament, starting at 9 a.m. Come support our athletes!
As headmaster of a school accredited by the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, I serve once a year on an ACCS accrediting team that visits one of a number of schools seeking ACCS accreditation or accreditation renewal.
The process involves an extensive evaluation of a school’s self-study, two full days of onsite observation, meetings with the school’s board, administrative leadership, and individual faculty and students, and then culminates in the writing of a report that commends, recommends, or points out discrepancies between the school’s performance and the rigorous ACCS standards.
Petra went through this renewal process in 2017 and will do so again in 2021 for our third five-year renewal. While it’s a tremendous amount of work for a school and takes almost a year to complete before the on-site visit, it’s also a very helpful process that yields much fruit, not only from the preparation of the school’s self-study, but also (and especially) in the interaction with members of the visiting accrediting team, each of whom is a headmaster, principal, or other administrative leader at another ACCS school.
This year, my assembled team was asked to visit St. Stephens Academy, a K-12 school on two campuses in Beaverton, OR. After the intensive work of the two-and-a-half day visit, the team and I also visited two other schools (Veritas Classical Christian School and Cedar Tree Classical Christian School) in the area, as well as George Fox University, a Christian liberal arts university twenty miles outside of Portland.
Upon returning from the trip, I’ll say this: classical Christian education is alive and well. I could comment on dozens of aspects of why I’m encouraged with the state of the classical Christian movement, but let me narrow it down to three: people, place, and pedagogy.
Like any institution, a school is not a living entity itself, but a collection of committed people who make it up and give it life. One would have to look far and wide to find a group of people more dedicated to an increasingly counter-cultural movement than those involved with classical Christian education, but I found a number of such folks in the Portland area:
– the grandmother who volunteers at the school four hours a day – everyday – despite the fact that her grandchildren no longer attend
– the retiring 70-year-old elementary principal whose passion for the school fuels her 60-hour work weeks
– the uber-successful business executive whose love for the school manifests itself in tears when answering the question, “Why are you involved?”
These examples are just from St. Stephens; I met plenty of others at the other schools, including teachers and administration members with their own stories of sacrifice in doing what they do in the name of classical Christian education. Like our faculty at Petra, these caring, educated, hard-working staff don’t make a lot of money to fully compensate them for their efforts, but that doesn’t stop them from giving their best.
St. Stephens meets in two different church buildings 20 minutes apart as they look for land to build and re-locate to one place their growing school; Veritas and Cedar Tree each are on their own campuses, but both meet in a configuration of portable modulars while they raise funds to build central spaces that will meet their need for all-school assemblies and community meetings.
However, the mentality of each of these schools is hardly one of “making due”; rather, they make the most of their places, filling and using every square foot of space as needed in order to carry out their mission. Students and staff rotate classrooms, books line both permanent and makeshift shelves, athletic facilities are rented and scheduled, and student drop-off and pick-up would be more of a challenge than it is if it weren’t for the patience of parents. In the midst of it all (whether in the outside landscaping or the bulletin boards on the walls), there is an effort made at excellence and beauty.
“Pedagogy” – a fancy word for “method or practice of teaching” – counts for much in educational circles, but no more so than in classical Christian schools. One of my favorite “pedagogical” moments of my trip was Cedar Tree’s morning matins, held outside – rain or shine – at the beginning of each day. As school leaders are currently raising funds to build an enclosed building large enough to hold their school and begin the day, the entire K-12 student body and staff line the sidewalks around their “quad” to read Scripture, pray, and sing, a portion of which I happened to catch in the video below:
It was gratifying to see familiar practices like matins and prayer, memory and recitation, discussion and debate, thesis preparation and presentation (just to name a few) in these schools so different from (and yet so similar to) Petra. To see students, teachers, parents, and board members in Oregon committed to so many of the same goals and objectives that we are here in Montana was a welcome encouragement I wanted to bring back to share with our folks for our remaining five weeks of school.
We are not alone in our efforts to train our students in truth, goodness, and beauty! As we head into the month of May and run across the finish line of the 2018-19 school year, may we consider these schools’ examples even as we remind ourselves of our own mission at Petra Academy: