Category Archives: ISACS Schools: Secondary

Crossroads College Preparatory School

Crossroads 2

Having visited many times during my years in St. Louis, a return visit to Crossroads College Preparatory School with conversation with Head of School Jason Heisserer was a highlight of my recent time in the city.

Founded as an independent middle school in 1974, Crossroads School (as it was known at the time) added high school grades in 1981. Today, Crossroads College Prep serves 223 students in grades 7-12.

Crossroads 3A hallmark of the school is its inclusive culture as evidenced by a student body diverse in race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and gender identity, and economic status — with more than 50% receiving need-based tuition assistance. The school mission states:

Crossroads College Preparatory School offers an academically challenging curriculum to a diverse and inclusive community of students in grades seven through twelve. Crossroads College Prep encourages its students to engage their imaginations in every endeavor, ranging from the sciences to the fine arts, and strives to develop respectful citizens, who apply scholarship, imagination, and critical thinking to civic and social responsibility in their communities and beyond.

A new addition to the school program and facilities is the Crossroads Makerspace, opened in December 2015. As a result, the school has created a new middle school robotics activity, an expanded role in the curriculum for makers and builders activities, an upper school introduction to engineering course, and direct instruction in design thinking for grades 7, 8 and 9.

Crossroads 1

What one aspect of Crossroads would my host most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Says Jason:

The highlight of our school is our students. They are smart and good and committed to one another and to Crossroads.

Westminster Christian Academy


As a former resident of St. Louis, I always find returning to the area for school visits to be a pleasure — as it was last week and, also, in early 2015.

In my first visit to Westminster Christian Academy,  I enjoyed a school tour with Head of School Tom Stoner followed by good conversation with Tom and with past Head of School Jim Marsh.

DSC_0005Among the 26% of Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) member schools with a religious affiliation, Westminster serves 1009 students in grades 7 through 12 from families in which one or both parents identify as a professing Christian.

Founded in 1978, Westminster moved to a new, spacious campus in Town and Country,  Missouri, in 2011. Says Tom about the new campus: “The new campus literally and figuratively opens doors for us to provide students and families in greater St. Louis with a first quality, comprehensive educational program rooted in the convictions of Christian faith and permeated by a Christian worldview.”

What one aspect of Westminster would Tom Stoner most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Tom points to the school’s philosophy:

“Westminster’s philosophy holds firmly to the long-established educational tradition which acknowledges the interdependence of knowledge and virtue: the cultivation of the mind is inextricably bound to the cultivation of the heart.”


Scattergood Friends School

Scattergood 1
What ISACS school is based on a working organic farm? That would be Scattergood Friends School, the second stop on my Iowa tour. There, I was graciously welcomed by my hosts, co-heads Christine Ashley and Thomas Weber. Since the time of my visit, Thomas has assumed the full headship and Christine has moved on to other ventures.

Photo courtesy of Scattergood Friends School

Scattergood is nestled in West Branch, a community with deep Quaker roots and perhaps best known as the childhood home of President Herbert Hoover. The school was founded as an intentional boarding school by the Religious Society of Friends in 1890 and was meant to provide education for the group’s children.

ISACS-squash brigade (3)
Photo courtesy of Scattergood Friends School

Today, Scattergood serves an average of 40 boarding and day students in grades 9-12, 20% of whom are Quaker-affiliated. 1/3 of the students hail from Iowa and another 1/3 are international. Scattergood’s mission: to challenge students with a college-preparatory curriculum, farm experience, a shared work program, and community living in the spirit of Quaker faith.

Scattergood’s 126-acre campus includes a main campus and farm with organic vegetable garden, greenhouse, and livestock. My campus tour with Academic Dean Louis Herbst included a visit to ongoing agricultural research, including an impressive explanation from Socrates Bassuk ‘15, as she examined soil samples, about the effectiveness of worm output as a fertilizing agent. Obviously, school tours are not for the faint of heart!

What one aspect of Scattergood Friends School would Thomas Weber most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues?  He responds:

Scattergood is a school experience you can’t find elsewhere. We’re intentionally small. We’re farm-centered and college preparatory in a hands-on community setting. Everyone is heard and valued.

Saint Thomas Academy

2014-12-11 12.01.16

Next I made my way to Mendota Heights, MN, for two school visits. First: a meeting with Matthew Mohs, new Headmaster at Saint Thomas Academy,  among the first schools to be accredited by ISACS (circa 1969).

Founded in 1885, Saint Thomas serves boys in grades 7-12 in a Catholic, college preparatory, military day school environment. Its focus is to:

  • Develop and nurture the intellectual, spiritual, moral, and physical potential of each young man.
  • Foster the knowledge and practice of leadership so that a young man has confidence in being a leader and in choosing which leader to follow.
  • Establish the foundation for responsible leadership within the Academy, the Catholic Church, and the community.

2014-12-11 11.00.44Shortly after arrival, I enjoyed watching “formation,” the school’s daily meeting that includes military tradition, announcements, and, often, a senior speech.

After a quick tour, Matt Mohs and I enjoyed some time to talk about Saint Thomas and his first months of headship. As an alumnus of the school (’90), he brings a distinct perspective to the head’s role.

When asked what aspect of Saint Thomas Matt would most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues, he responded:

This school year, the Academy finishes its 99th and final year associated with the Army’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Program (JROTC). By transitioning to an independent military school, the Academy will be able to preserve the best of its military traditions while enhancing the curriculum for its all-male student body.

The cadets of STA often comment on the sense of brotherhood instilled in the student body. At its best, this brotherhood permeates the school with a strong spirit and camaraderie.



University High School


After several years as head of school at Roeper School in Bloomfield, Michigan, Chuck Webster and his wife moved to Indianapolis to start a new high school. That school became University High School, founded in 2000 in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel.  This was my stop on the eve of the ISACS Annual Conference.

Today University High School serves 280 students in grades nine through twelve. Its mission is to “expand the hearts and minds of students and to nurture excellence through academic, creative and physical achievement.”

DSC_0036 (2)As we walked through the campus, I enjoyed Chuck’s easy interaction with students, sharing an observation, following up on a recent conversation, commenting on a shared moment in class. I had the opportunity to observe Chuck’s sophomore English class in session — including a Hamlet soliloquy! Toward the end of the class period, Chuck turned it over to me. I asked the class: “Why are you here? What makes this school special?” The resounding theme was that this is a school that empowers each student to be an individual.

DSC_0033What one aspect of University High School would Chuck most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Chuck points to the school’s January Term, or J-Term, a three-week period between semesters when students immerse themselves in a single area of study, often involving field experience and travel and always including hands-on, active, applied learning. He sees this program as a model for 21st Century teaching and learning.

J-Term courses this year include:

Culver Academies


En route to the ISACS Annual Conference in Indianapolis last month, I detoured a bit east of my usual route in order to visit Culver Academies. As is often my routine, I arrived a few moments early, found the visitors’ parking area, and took a few moments to get my bearings. To my surprise, I found myself on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckie, a sizable inland lake.

DSC_0020I  found the Culver Legion Memorial Building, home of the Head’s Office, and introduced myself to Head of Schools John Buxton. Soon  we were off on my second campus tour by golf cart since beginning my tenure in July.

DSC_0029I learned that Culver, founded as Culver Military Academy in 1894, added Culver Summer Schools and Camps in 1902 and the Culver Girls Academy in 1971. Today, the school serves 830 students in grades nine through twelve and 1400 summer students on a campus that spans 1700 acres. The program offerings are wide and deep: 23 Advanced Placement courses and electives in every discipline, more than a dozen vocal and instrumental performing groups, and over 50 athletics teams including marksmanship, sailing, and rowing. Its mission has remained focused on leadership development:  Culver educates its students for leadership and responsible citizenship in society by developing and nurturing the whole individual — mind, spirit, and body — through integrated programs that emphasize the cultivation of character.

We wrapped up my visit with a meeting with the academic leadership team, where we discussed Culver, the school’s history and experiences with ISACS, and the needs of independent schools in general. What one aspect of Culver Academies would the team like to highlight for their ISACS colleagues? Ultimately, they pointed to their emphasis on faculty growth — including significant release time for collaboration and mutual support and a robust faculty portfolio program.