Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 7:56 am
Nestled north of Beverly Hills is a small, but mighty school for parents desiring biblical education for their children.
St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church & School only has 72 students enrolled; however, they are academically competitive throughout the county.
“For the past three years, we have grown each year by 20 percent,” said Principal Kyle Bender. “With the Precious Lambs (the school’s preschool) kindergarten readiness testing, we have always done very well. Our preschoolers always score in the top 5 percent in the county.”
Recently, a Chronicle reporter interviewed Bender for an insight into the school.
“We offer challenging academics,” Bender said. “Parents coming in from other schools commonly say that it is more challenging here. One of the areas that we focus on is to progress the kids forward with academics by testing them and finding out where they are academically, and placing them at an appropriate level. For example, I have some eighth-graders taking high school math right now. It all depends on the student’s abilities.”
Bender said the kindergarten through eighth-grade school is a Christian school with a mission: “To share God’s love with the children and every day that happens in the classroom. We want to educate the children for an eternity in Heaven. The other part of our mission is to train them for a successful life on this earth.”
Academically, they hold students accountable.
“We make sure that if you don’t have your homework done, you get it done,” Bender said. “There is no taking an F and being done. You still have to do it. But it is teaching them to be responsible, independent learners through various means.”
And for the first time ever, students are now required to wear uniforms.
“Uniforms were implemented for unity, academic and behavioral reasons,” Bender said. “They build and encourage the school unity that we have here. It equalizes the children on the same level. And it improves behavior. Children are put into the work mentality.”
Uniforms are dresses (for the girls), or red or grey polo shirts with khaki or navy blue shorts or pants with belts.
Also, parental involvement is essential in the classrooms.
“We want our parents in the school,” Bender said. “At the end of the day, parents come into the classrooms to pick up their kids. We want the parents in the school. It is their school, too, not just our school. We want them to be able to see what is going on. We stress with our teachers that communication is vital. Every day we get to see the parent and touch base with them on how their student is doing.”
“As far as technology goes, we have interactive SMART Boards in every classroom from grades one to eight,” Bender said.” We also have a SMART Response System that encourages active student participation. Our lower-grade students use the iPads to complement the curriculum. We have enough laptops for every student.”
“Our teachers participate in in-service times throughout the year as we focus on skill strategy building that they can implement in the classroom,” Bender said. ”Over the past few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in active student learning.”
“The books you would find in a public school would be similar to what you would find here,” Bender said. “However, it is taught from a Christian perspective.”
No child forgotten
“We hold students accountable,” Bender said. “That’s what parents want — their children not to get lost in the school system. That is very easy in a larger school. But here it is easier here with the small school setting.
“We challenge students to use their God-given abilities to the fullest,” he said. “We like seeing the kids succeed and we acknowledge that.”
The school’s drama class will be performing the drama “Trial of the Big Bad Wolf” on Friday. For more information, call 352-489-3027.
Contact Chronicle education reporter Eryn Worthington at 352-563-5660, ext. 1334, or firstname.lastname@example.org.