Park City Academy tinkers with mission statement
July 25, 2007
The Park City Academy is tinkering with what’s under the hood. For the 2007-08 school, the Academy has gained a new headmaster, a new admissions and marketing director and is implementing a shift in the school’s philosophy.
The school, founded by Fran Johnson and Pat Russell in 1988, has seen a series changes in its 20 years with six headmasters, and a change of name in 2002 from the Carden Christian Academy. Fifteen years ago, the independent school achieved non-profit status. Now, despite the shift in philosophy, as of June, the Academy will see no changes in curriculum, said Susan Radtke, the admissions and marketing director.
"We’re trying to be much more mainstream in our ethical and spiritual approach," said Charles Sachs, the headmaster of the school. "In past years the Academy moved to the right, to evangelical proselytizing," he said. "We want the school to be more inclusive. We’re independent and not affiliated with any particular church or philosophy."
The shift, he said, was in response to a board decision that "enrollment wasn’t what it should be," during the 2006-07 school year.
"In the early 1990s, before the school’s swing to the right, the enrollment was 200. Last year it was 123," Sachs said. "So far we have an enrollment of 109, but we’re expecting 135 students by the start of school. It’s my experience that many people enroll in late summer."
"There was a lot of contention in past months," Sachs said of teachers and parents unhappy with the former direction of the school. "We had many meetings and committees of parents with different perspectives," Sachs said. "We came to revise our mission statement in June. Earlier, some people left the school, but many have come back."
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"I’ve been around and I think our mission is tried and true for independent
schools across the country."
The new mission statement of the school reads, "Park City Academy is an independent school that embraces Christian principles and values, welcomes a diverse community of students and faculty, and challenges students to reach their highest potential, academically, spiritually, and physically in a safe, nurturing environment."
Although the statement differs little from the previous statement, Sachs said there will be changes in overall attitude.
"The school feels everyone doesn’t necessarily have to be Christian to experience spirituality."
Susan Radtke, the admissions and marketing director, said, "There is a shift in what is considered a good moral person to someone who is respectful of others.
The changes in the classroom may be subtle.
"The curriculum will still involve Bible classes every day," Sachs said, adding, "Typically those classes acknowledge moral and spiritual training. The Bible is seen as a touchstone. Those stories resonate in Western culture."
But, according to Sachs, study will be representative of all Christian religions. "We will have Bible study speakers of ministers and priests. No doubt we will take the time to pray in different ways."
"Christmas," Sachs said, "will still be called Christmas." I knew of one school that waffled. It became more problematic. People could bring in their own religious symbols, he said, adding, "It got to be, who could bring in the biggest and best symbols. We’re going to keep it simple."
The Park City Academy teaches students from preschool through ninth grade, and has financial aid available to qualifying students. The Academy prides itself on its academics, small class sizes and athletics.
"We believe in a healthy mind and healthy body," Sachs said.
Radtke said the Academy offers an array of experiential opportunities and outdoor programs, and the school has cross country, basketball and soccer teams, which compete with teams in the Wasatch Conference, from Salt Lake to Ogden.
Students may not even be aware of the shift in school philosophy when they return to classes on Aug. 27.
"We’re not here to promote a certain philosophy," Sachs said. It’s really not that different."