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Another Year in the Life of LSA

This week, we held our 40th Annual Corporate Meeting. Below is the text of the Executive Director's report, which provides an overview of the past year in the life of Lutheran Schools Association! 

I regularly encounter people who are not familiar with the work of Lutheran Schools Association, in both my work and personal lives. Since its founding in 1977, forty years ago, the focus of LSA’s work has necessarily shifted, though much of what it was founded on remains, four decades in. Still, the work of LSA is not something that is readily obvious to people I meet, even if they work in a similar entity. Every organization really has its own, nuanced approach. So, how do I explain the work and value of LSA?

A brief aside, for illustration. My daughter is 5 and very interested in drawing, coloring, building, and stories. Caveat: This is not an advertisement, but we have so enjoyed GoldieBlox, a series of engineering sets designed specifically for girls, in the interest of expanding the presence of females in the field. We love that the sets engage Isabelle in problem-solving in a medium that fits her interests. For me, GoldieBlox has become a metaphor for the work of LSA.

Connector. In GoldieBlox, all of the pieces serve a purpose, but if the axles were to disappear, the objective of the design would not be possible. As it pertains to Lutheran schools, LSA serves as those connecting pieces, helping the whole move a bit more smoothly. A core function of LSA is connecting schools and educators with one another, with opportunities for funding, programming, professional development, cost-savings, collaborations, and more. As a Pan-Lutheran organization, our connections allow us the opportunity to dialogue and share with many more peers in the Lutheran education world, a huge advantage to being part of something a bit bigger.

Innovator. For Isabelle, rules and instructions are paramount. So, the step-by-step instructions provided with the engineering sets are very helpful in building her confidence. But, we want her to think outside of the box and try new things, so we like that GoldieBlox encourages the development of new designs and ideas. One of LSA’s core functions is to be aware of and exposed to what is out there and what’s coming next, and then, to connect members with those possibilities, and even assist where needed and possible. In this day and age, it’s important to know what is possible, and then to consider one’s own unique circumstances in ensuring that innovating is mission-driven, rather than just grabbing on to the next, newest shiny thing. Innovation, in LSA’s eyes, means purposefully pursuing possibilities.

Collaborator & Listener. It’s necessary to be tuned in to what it is that is possible for the varied ministries in LSA membership. When Isabelle works with GoldieBlox, we read her the associated book/journal that comes with the set, and we talk with her about the different pieces. By doing this, she sees possibilities and we can encourage her, by modeling, to consider how she might work within those possibilities. LSA has a similar role: we listen and we work alongside our members, and this links directly to the first two roles; all three are inextricably linked.

During the 2016-17 school year, LSA actively engaged in these capacities, under the yearly theme, Imagining Possibilities. Internally and externally, there has been much progress. But, there’s still more to be done. Below are some highlights from the past several months, and an idea of what we’re exploring as we move into year 41.

In its capacity as Facilitator, LSA highlights include:

  • Offered 5 full-day conferences: 8 attended Effective Employment Practices, 550 attended the Annual Conference in November 2016, 18 attended the Leaders Conference in February 2017, 62 attended the Workshop Day in Rockland County, and, we look forward to the April 2017 Leaders Conference.
  • Continued its Future Leaders Academy, now in its 2nd year, thanks to generous grant funding from three different organizations (Metropolitan New York Synod of the ELCA, the Good Shepherd Fund, and the Crusader Fund). Our cohort is currently finalizing action research projects, and will share their results via blog posts in the coming weeks.
  • Provided 5 early childhood workshops, in an effort to increase depth of learning in areas of interest. These 2-4 hour sessions were held in a variety of regions and received fantastic reviews. The focus on early childhood over K-12 is related to need and lack of Title funds for early childhood.
  • Online, we continued to build our blog and quarterly teacher resource emails in order to bring valuable information to more educators.
  • Worked with a variety of programs in visioning for teaching and learning, including through Curriculum Trak.
  • LSA became an approved sponsor of Continuing Teacher and Leader Education through New York State.
  • Saw increased attendance at cluster meetings. Thank you to the Cluster Coordinators for their work.

In its capacity as Advocate, LSA continues to serve and represent our schools on the state and local levels. Highlights include:

  • NYS Commissioner’s Advisory Council & Coalition of Independent and Religious Schools: Most notably, this year schools were able to access CAP funds from 2003-04 and 2004-05, closing a longstanding gap. Additionally, communications related to funding programs and other developments at the state and federal levels have been shared. LSA has been involved in planning for the use of state-level Title IIA funds, including helping plan the RISE conference in Albany each year, as well as
  • NYC Committee of Independent and Religious School Officials: This committee continues to oversee use federal title dollars for appropriate services, used each year to support instruction and professional development in multiple areas. LSA continues to be an active participant.
  • Early Childhood: Thanks to connections with various groups, more opportunity for OCFS licensing support has been made possible for preschools that are pursuing licensing.

In its capacity as Partner, LSA’s highlights include:

  • Website program with our partner Firespring. We have two schools working with this new program!
  • Human Resources hotline and support through AIM Resource Group, Inc.
  • Cost-savings with various partners, on items like copier leases, supplies, and more.
  • Continued work on innovation and personalized learning opportunities with Center for Urban Education Ministries.

As we approach the end of this school year, we are actively planning for the future. We look forward to:

  • Increased opportunities for learning, including a top-notch annual conference (save the date: October 20, 2017) and regional workshops for deeper dives into areas of interest.
  • An administrators’ retreat this fall. More information to come.
  • A low-key celebration of LSA’s 40th year of mission in ministry.
  • Taking a look at membership structures, and imagining possibilities. More information to come.
  • Starting our parenting webinar and article collaboration with the Lutheran Counseling Center.

I’d like to extend a thank you to LSA’s Board of Directors. Over the past year, this group of volunteers has been engaged in thinking flexibly and imagining possibilities for the future of LSA. We are thankful to this group for forming some action teams recently in order to move LSA forward, meeting the needs of its members in the ways that matter most, while remaining true to its history. Especially at this point in the year, I thank Dell-Ann Benson, Andy Gove, Pastor Eric Olsen, and Wanda Walters for their years of service to LSA as members of the board for the past several years. Don’t go too far; you are part of the LSA family and always will be!

This evening is one I look forward to each year; it provides an opportunity to recognize the service, diligent and purposeful work, and commitment to sharing the word of God and love of Jesus with young people and families throughout the Metro-NY region. I leave each year inspired and refreshed for the year ahead, and pray that the examples of those honored here tonight also leave you feeling equipped and energized as you return to your schools and classrooms for the remainder of this school year. We look forward to imagining possibilities with all of you in the years to come! Thank you for being here!

Respectfully submitted,

Jessica H. Raba

Executive Director

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