Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dulles Meeting "Day Two"

Yesterday the afternoon session included a report on SDA education throughout the division. Statistics and information shared was both affirming to the mission as well as  highlighting the challenges. Larry Blackmer NAD Ed. supt., was the presenter.

In the 'affirmation ' category, there is enormous support for the mission of SDA education with almost all respondents prioritzing the value and contribution to mission and ministry. The areas of concern are known to most of us: Cost, and "mission" priority in the face of declining enrollments.

Blackmer noted that the solution to cost, is NOT reducing other areas of ministry and evangelism that the church is invested in. He noted what many believe: the church puts enormous financial resources into SDA education; far beyond any other endeavor, though, he noted how important SDA education is to growing the church.

More of the good. Our SDA test scores, across ALL grade levels, is consistently and significantly higher than the public sector scores.

We are the largest "collective"private school system in the world. The Catholics are larger numerically, but are divided in terms of structure.

89% of our SDA students in our schools, in the last survey, rate the "school experience" as the most important factor in their lives.

We are the only private religious school system that requires 100% of our schools to be certified. Now for the challenges . . . they were prefaced by Dr. Blackmer's comment that whenever he meets with his colleagues in private religious education leadership . . Jewish, Lutheran, Baptist, etc., the consensus is always the same . .

The two biggest needs present and in the future for the success of private religious education is:

LEADERSHIP and SUSTAINABILITY (I assume that means cost, etc,) Here are the stats:

1. In the last ten years, 170 (mostly small elementary schools) have closed.

2. There is an extremely sharp drop in enrollment that  progressively gets 'worse' from grade 4, through grade 12.

3. Only 26% of SDA families have school age children.

4. The median income for SDA families is around $25,000. Nationally, a low figure that underscores the challenge of family's to afford private education.

5. Though "younger" SDA members would vote to use tithe funds to subsidize education cost, Dr. Blackmer pointed  out that tithe contributions are largely from older members who strongly disagree in regards to funding education with tithe.

6. The average conf. subsidy to SDA boarding schools is $745,000 annually. KYTN is considerably higher though I don't have that figure in front of me.

7. The average 'total' cost, for a boarding academy student, once subsidy is factored in, is $24,000 a year. For elementary students, it is $9,000.

8. The average dollar "loss" per student in k-12 is $3,000 across the NAD. This means that $3,000 per student IS NOT covered by fees OR subsidy and must be made up in other ways. "Written off," or, individual fund-raising, etc.,

9. Finally, back to numbers, only around 33% of eligible SDA school children are students in our schools.

Dr. Blackmer told of one conference where a school owes the conference 7.5 MILLION! And the conference, he stated, wants the money NOW.

It was noted that we do not manage mergers and closings of schools well; it is done through 'attrition.' Dr. Blackmer offered a brief formula to be pro-active with this issue . . .

"Determine the LOWEST number of students acceptable for a school to remain open. If the school falls below that number for two consecutive years, it triggers a constituency meeting to determine the future. OR, a "upper limit' subsidy dollar figure is determined and IF that number is exceeded for two years (or three) it also would trigger an automatic constituency session.

This issue was a topic in our break-out sessions and it is clear that we all wrestle with how to manage the complexities of schools, cost, and managing - even guessing - God's will for continuing in the environment of declining enrollments.

The Morning session has begun with several interesting votes taken by the attendees:  Here are the three questions we voted on:

1. "Is the present organizational structure of the church optimal for succeeding in the mission?

85% voted "NO."

2 "Is the time to change the organizational structure NOW?"
81% voted "YES"

3. "Would you be willing to give up your present position if that was the result fo

The answer to this was quite interesting:

95% said "yes" meaning, no one wants to join the unemployment line, but a HUGE majority, (self included) said, "I'm willing to do something else if it might increase the effectiveness and success of the mission."

The remainder of the morning is spent in review of "how" the NAD is spending money and how that aligns with mission effectiveness and efficiency. Last year,$932 MILLION in tithe was contributed in the NAD with $163 million being forwarded to the NAD. The NAD has operated in a deficit budget position for a number of years.

The areas it supports are quite broad from evangelism to retirement, to the seminary, to various departmental ministries and functions. Also, a portion of NAD funds is returned to the GC; 8% which is far higher than any other world division. The other 12 divisions return 2% and the GC has agreed with the NAD that the NAD contribution will decline another 1% in 2017, on top of a present 1% drop.

Before lunch time, we will break into discussion groups.

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