A School Without a Building

(originally posted at LoudounLiberty.com)


For those of you who have been following the drama surrounding Dominion Academy and Leesburg Christian Church, who decided on April 10th to close down the school, there is some good news for Dominion Academy parents.
The owners of the property surrounding Destiny Church has offered their new 26,000 sq ft building, set to begin construction next year to the school.  Greg Wigfield, the pastor at Destiny Church hosted an audience of teachers, parents, and other interested folks on Friday night.  Over 200 people crammed into a barn and listened to Marie Miller (the fearless leader of the new enterprise) and several other committee heads give an update on the school.  Mr. Wigfield said he had no desire to control the school, so whatever the relationship with Destiny Church is going to be, it sounds like it would be a hands-off one.

The catch is, of course, that the building which Mr. Wigfield is providing for the cause wouldn’t be available (theoretically) till Fall 2015…which means the school is looking for a two-year home.  Now I don’t know much about commercial Real Estate, but it seems to me that a 2 year lease might be something of a challenge.  The head of the Real Estate Committee cited three prospective properties which looked promising, including the Loudoun Parks and Rec building near Downtown Leesburg, along with the Sheriff’s office on Harrison St. which will be left vacant in time.

None of these locations are a sure thing yet, but one thing was clear from the meeting, and that’s the feeling that a school has way less to do with buildings and facilities than it does dedicated teachers, committed parents with kids who are eager to learn.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting the author of a book (not excessively new, but new to me) called “The Beautiful Tree” in which the author, James Tooley, makes a discovery while studying private schools in India which launches him on an unexpected journey through for-profit, private education in the third world.  He discovers that hundreds of thousands of children amongst the poorest of the poorest of the poor in the third world were getting their education, not from their governments but their neighbors seeking to provide a service and make a living…and the quality of education exceeded that which the government – through financial support from the developed world – was able to provide.

Story after story after story is told of: negligent teachers, greedy government bureaucracies, and frustrated parents who would rather spend from their meager means for a real education than send their kids to a school which doesn’t really teach their kids much of anything…when they show up. In other words, all the horror stories and implications of public education in the U.S.–which are really only true some of the time, and in good school systems like Loudoun is the exception to the rule (at least the negligent teachers part) and to a very small degree–are the rule in the third world.

“The Beautiful Tree” is a fascinating read, but the biggest thing that it leaves the reader with is the unmistakable reality that education has nothing to do with technology or fancy buildings or nice playground equipment and “programs” but the relationship of one child with one teacher one lesson at a time in which the child furthers their knowledge of the world.  This is true in Loudoun just as much as it is in Kibera. And it’s important that we…all of us…begin to think outside of the boxes of classroom sizes and 90 acres school plots.

Which brings us back to Loudoun…the barn as the setting of the meeting made a few people joke, “why not just have the school right here in the barn?” At a previous meeting a parent had made the statement that people used to be taught under trees and turned out just fine.

On another note, there are a couple things that the press (even the latest article from Leesburg Today which very fairly covers the above mentioned meeting) keeps getting wrong is the idea that “declining enrollment” was the main reason for the school being closed down in the first place.  According to one spokesman from the new school, the capacity of Dominion Academy was between 268 and 284, they’re currently at 238, and as of the end of March they were already at 218 with another month left before the application deadline for the 2013-2014 school year. They’ve had previous years with less than their current…so enrollment doesn’t seem to be the main driver behind the decision. Besides, the press release that the school board sent to parents and staff didn’t indicate declining enrollment as the issue, but instead only that the church was no longer able (willing?) to subsidize the school, and that the school would not be able to survive without that subsidy. Period.  That was the reason.  There was no reason given (by the church leadership or the school board — kind of the same thing) why the church was no longer able or willing to support the school…just that it wasn’t.

One of the most concerning parts of the whole affair has been the church’s position that none of the equipment –including desks, a full library, and interactive whiteboards (donated by an ardent supporter of the  school not the church, necessarily) — since it was the property of Dominion Academy, Inc., would revert back to the church once Dominion was terminated. The “New School” committee decided that it was more important to focus on finding a new location and getting all the other pieces in place than getting involved in a protracted legal battle.  So they’re operating under the assumption that they’re working from scratch from an equipment standpoint.

The most disturbing thing, though, is the name battle.  It seems that once it became evident that Virginia Academy was not going to come in and take Dominion Academy’s old space (presumably without aforementioned subsidy from the church) — because most of the parents, teachers, and the Chief Academic Officer (Ms. Miller) were lining up behind a new school — that the church took it upon itself to call down to the State Corporation Commission in Richmond and reserve every name possible for a school that included the word “dominion” in it.  Since the original idea was to name the new school “New Dominion Academy,” this put a damper on things, but the committee for the new school decided on a different name…within a day or two: Providence Academy. This little SCC stunt, though, together with the new school’s insistence on focusing on the positive and “turning the other cheek” on the classroom equipment issue, has the school looking like the adults (Christian adults) in the room, and the church leadership looking a little petty.  Maybe none of this happened the way they intended, but they’ve handled things quite poorly.

And the new school, Providence Academy, in less than three weeks: has some options for a temporary home, has an offer for a permanent home at a sprawling new campus within the town limits of Leesburg in a couple years, has 175 enrollees already confirmed for the 2013-2014 school year, almost all of the current teaching staff at Dominion having expressed interest in continuing with the new Providence Academy, and to top it off, a relationship with a church (which, as Mr. Wigfield pointed out in his presentation, can provide a tremendous amount of help when it comes to zoning and special exceptions for schools) that doesn’t seek to control the school as their previous church did.

For more info and updates on Providence Academy, go to: providenceacademyva.org 

UPDATE: Some of the details involving enrollment numbers a few paragraphs up have been adjusted and clarified.

UPDATE 2: There is more news on the horizon, so stay tuned.

Hypocrisy in the “Village”

(Also posted on LoudounLiberty)

It takes a village…right?

That’s what we’ve heard, anyway. That’s the mantra of many who feel that schools and “communities” should help parents make better decisions about what their children watch, read, eat, etc. They feel that parents – families – are inadequate, and even harmful, if not buttressed by the undying and committed support of the collective “village.” There was a recent hullabaloo about Melissa Harris Perry talking about how “children belonged to the community” which got her a lot of attention, and she is still quite adamant about.Harris-Perry/Gosnell

OK, then what about the victims of Dr. Gosnell, the Pennsylvania abortion doctor (who had some of his charges thrown out yesterday by the judge, but still faces first-degree murder charges) who allegedly committed blatant infanticide in his clinic by simply snipping the backs of the neck of infants who managed to be born alive? Where was the “village” then?

Seriously…either life begins at birth or not. If THAT’S the line, then that’s the line. It should be a “takes-a-villager’s” dream. Here is a parent who has made the ultimate decision of not wanting to be responsible for their child. Where is the team of villagers with “We Love Hillary” badges swooping in and protecting innocent child victims? Where is the outcry of community responsibility and collective love?

No where…silent. Or in some cases outright defiance (not in relation to Gosnell, but infanticide in general) in the case of Florida Planned Parenthood.

One can’t help but believe this is more than simply intellectual inconsistency, but a moral hypocrisy when kids born…alive…with explicitly no one willing to take care of them, are allowed to be simply slaughtered.  This is not a legal line that is complicated to thread.  The far left is either serious (in the case of infanticide REALLY serious) about  a woman’s “right to choose” how (and of course, when) they want to raise their families; or they’re in unabashed support of children “belonging to the community.”

It’s fair to ask: are parents ultimately responsible for the life, growth, education of children?  If they can simply toss the life away by having their doctor snip the back of their neck, then they can certainly choose how they are educated…right? Alternatively: if children, basically from birth, “belong to the community” then it stands to reason that there should be a team of “villagers” standing in front of any abortion clinic offering them their home…right?

Which is it?

Meatless Mondays…Meet Open Carry Wednesdays

If ever the reader desired to look at the slow decay of reasoning skills and sensibility in our country, one need look no further than the article in Leesburg Today (and especially the comments) about “Open Carry” night in Downtown Leesburg, VA.

cajunexperienceFirst, let me tell a story.  I’m chatting with a good friend of mine a few months ago about “green” this and “green” that, and how, though I believe we should be good stewards of our environment, that it’s the not the first thing on my mind in the morning and that the constant preaching about Mother Gaia bugged me about as much as Jimmy Swaggart would bug him.  He then said, “It’s not always about politics…” To which I responded, “Then why can’t I go to my local Deli [Puccio's New York Deli] without seeing a RESOLUTION from our TOWN COUNCIL that it’s bad for the planet for me to eat meat?”

No answer.

Flash forward to today, when another Downtown Leesburg establishment decides to inaugurate “Open Carry Wednesday” to support its customers in the law enforcement community (and otherwise) who believe in upholding and protecting their second-amendment right to bear arms.

The first reaction one might have is that it’s just not right to compare these two things…they’re SO different.

Well…that’s a proper reaction, because they ARE different.

First, with “Meatless Mondays” the businesses themselves didn’t have the idea…someone who doesn’t eat meat did.  And they sold it to the businesses as a way to be “community oriented” and save the planet.  ”Open Carry Wednesday” was completely the idea of the business owner.

Second, with “Meatless Mondays” the folks who don’t eat meat (who don’t need a meatless Monday…because they don’t eat meat) strive to convince municipalities to ENDORSE their idea...to bless it…complete with a Mayor’s signature.  The restaurant who started “Open Carry Wednesdays” asked for no such blessing.

So they are different.  But there are similarities:

In both cases, the customers have the choice to eat at these establishments on Mondays, on Wednesdays, both, or not at all, and second, they can do so based on their beliefs in whether the restaurant in questions adheres to their political or philosophical views on the subject…or based on the food.

The first time I saw the Meatless Mondays ad at Puccio’s I thought, “Holy Schneikes, what is the world coming to.”  Then I ordered the Gyro sandwich.   You see, they made the choice to still provide meat for those who still want it…even on Mondays, and I made the choice to eat there, even though they expressed to me, through Town edict, that I was contributing to the collapse of the ecosystem.

When I heard about “Open Carry Wednesday,” I decided to show up…NOT carrying, and eat there anyway, because a) I support the idea, and b) I like the food. But they still served me even though I wasn’t packing. Imagine that.

Frankly, I believe everyone is simply taking themselves too seriously if they think that carrying a gun is “creepy”…my favorite comment on the Open Carry article, responding to someone else’s thoughts on how disappointed they were in the “civilized” DC Metro area having such an “uncivilized” establishment as this :

As civilized as the DC Metro area? Really? Are you including DC in that area? When did such a high crime rate become civilized? Which part of the DC population do you consider civilized? The criminals carrying the guns, or the law abiding citizens who can’t?

Not necessarily the safest place in town? Let’s watch and see who gets robbed or assaulted on Wednesday nights. And likely the victims (1st responders) will call 911 for some good guys with guns (2nd responders) to come help them.

I don’t know much, but I know that the safest place to be in Leesburg on Wednesday night is likely at the Cajun Experience, and that Puccio’s still has the best Gyro’s.  So there you go…EQUAL…OPPORTUNITY.

One last thing: since that first Meatless Monday experience at Puccios, I’ve actually tried some vegetarian meals around town.  Some of them are great.  I fiercely still support the eating of meat, but it’s a learning experience. It would be encouraging for those who don’t know much about guns to show up at Cajun Experience on Wednesdays and chat it up with those who are openly a part of the “gun culture” (which means they know more about guns than those who aren’t) and ask their opinion about, I don’t know…THIS.  You might learn something.

You see, being “open-minded” and deliberate in your thinking and making sure you’ve looked at things from all angles and listened to those who disagree with you and understand their thoughts on controversial topics…that door swings both ways. Doesn’t it?

(BTW, be sure and vote on the page (to the left) whether you would be more likely to go to the restaurant or not based on Open Carry Wednesday).

Rural Economic Development

I’ve seen a couple presentations from the Rural Economic Development staff of Loudoun County lately, and there are a few things that strike me:

1) There seems to be a lot of talk about “value added agriculture”…there being a built in assumption that we should be telling farmers how much they can or cannot be “processing” the food that they produce, and whether ancillary products and services should be treated the same as agriculture.

2) There is also a lot of talk about “amenities” that we should be providing for horses and other farmers, lest they decide to move elsewhere.

Though I’m EXCESSIVELY excited and enthusiastically in support of allowing farmers to do whatever they damn well please on their own property and making a living however they see fit within what is moral and legal anywhere else in the County, I’m NOT completely sure they should be able to provide the same services and “value-added” anything without being subject to the same regulations and taxes as everyone else in the county.

Which begs the very simple choice:

Do we force agriculture businesses to be subject to the same guidelines as the rest of the county, or do we finally acknowledge that all the fire codes, permits, zoning regulations, etc, etc, do very little to actually improve or guarantee public safety? If they don’t need it in Western Loudoun on a winery, then they must not need it in Ashburn at Clyde’s…right?

Palm Sunday a Critical Reminder

The Importance of Rule of Law vs. Rule of Men…and Why a Secular Legal Authority is Necessary.

This Palm Sunday, we should all be reminded of the importance of Rule of Law. Below is the Passage from Luke 23 which details the whole process by which Pilate and Herod saw absolutely no reason to sentence to death a man whose actions were viewed as simply heretical. Censorship, taken to its extreme:

23 Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus[a] before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”[b] 3 Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5 But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9 He questioned him at some length, but Jesus[c] gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12 That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”[d]

18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19 (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23 But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

Now, notwithstanding the spiritual purpose that this act — and Jesus’ eventual Crucifixion — serves for Christians’ Faith and Salvation, it is important to note that it was the Secularists, not the “Spiritual Leaders” which sought to treat Jesus fairly and justly. It is a reminder that there is a limit to: a) how much sway religious matters and religious leadership should be allowed to have on our judicial system, and b) that the populist demands of “the people” should never take the place of the rule of law, whether they be laws protecting religion, property rights or speech — or any other rights of a free people.