The first National Summit for Adventist Education was convened on La Sierra University’s campus from Oct 20-23. It received support from LSU, North American Division and the Pacific Union Conference. The theme was "Crossroads of Peril and Promise."
The 300 attendees were largely from Adventist academies and elementary schools with a few representatives from higher ed and church education personnel. The keynote address was given Wednesday evening by Dr Dale Twomley. Dr. Twomley, a long time educator turned philanthropist/school rescuer told the audience that the keys to turning Adventist schools around includes recovering a Christ-centered mission and collaborating with outside donors/businesses to help make schools financially viable.
The most radical suggestion he made was a proposal to change the way schools are governed. In addition to local boards, that there be a network board similar to the way Adventist hospitals are organized. He received loud applause when he suggested that while teachers and administrators should be held accountable they should also be paid competitive salaries.
Shane Anderson, author of “How to Kill Adventist Education” received a standing ovation after he suggested in his presentation that church pastors are the gatekeepers for Adventist Schools and should be held accountable by their conferences for making sure that the young people in their churches are in Adventist schools.
One presentation that stood apart from all the others was made by David Williams an Adventist professor at Harvard University School of Public Health. He shared research that pointed out the great need poor students, especially ethnic minorities have for higher education. He challenged schools to take as their mission the education of under-served populations. He said there should be much more need-based aid and far less merit aid and this could be a special niche for Adventist schools. I found myself thinking that this sounded like what Jesus would do, but wondered how this mission would fit higher ed’s competition among Adventist schools for the best and brightest by giving larger and larger merit scholarships?
There was significant time built into the schedule for discussion and feedback and a few themes emerged as potential foci for future summits.