Submitted by Orcas Christian School
Under new principal Kirk Haley, Orcas Christian School is working to help its students thrive in the workforce after their education — whether as capable tradespeople, professionals with graduate degrees, or anywhere in between.
“I tell my teachers, ‘Do not indoctrinate,’” explained Haley. “‘Teach the students to think; make them explore. Give them tools to be successful, whatever career they choose.’ I tell my students, ‘Find something you want to do, and do it well — better than anyone else.’”
Haley said he’s appreciative of the close collaboration provided by Orcas Island School District Superintendent Eric Webb and Orcas Middle and High School Principal Kyle Freeman. Together the administrators are working to ensure that all island students have access to the best resources the island has to offer.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Haley. “It has to be, or we’re not doing our job. They’re all our kids. The parents choose where they attend school, and our job is to give the students the skills to be successful.”
Some OCS students already utilize the public school bus system, and next year OCS will hold all core high school classes in the morning, which will give the students more choices. They will be able to attend afternoon electives at Orcas Christian or at Orcas High School, their choice.
Haley is also developing skills-based programming for OCS students, like firefighter and EMT training at the Eastsound fire hall this spring. Each semester OCS will provide a new opportunity for students to access a different skill set that could lead to a future career.
OCS students now have multiple opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school — not just through the state-funded “Running Start” program at Skagit Valley College, but also through online classes from Seventh-day-Adventist (SDA)-affiliated Walla Walla University and Andrews University (Michigan). Next year OCS will offer live Walla Walla University classes on campus taught by certified professors.
Counselor Trillium Swanson visits the school to provide counseling, and trained SAFE San Juans counselors visit OCS twice a week to ensure the students’ emotional and physical safety; a proactive way to help keep issues from derailing a child’s education.
“It’s not just about academics here at OCS,” Haley is careful to note, “but about choices in life. Who are you as a person? How can we make our community better? How can we learn empathy? How can we develop socially and spiritually, develop character?”
OCS has a student-teacher ratio of 10 to 1, which helps teachers to notice if a student needs extra help to stay on track. A free after-school study hall is offered Monday through Thursday until 6 p.m.
When Haley examined OCS’ Iowa testing records from recent years, he found something interesting: “Each year that a child attended OCS, they progressed higher, above the national norm,” he said. His focus now is to build on that success, encouraging students and teachers alike to “step up the game.”
To learn more, visit http://www.oics.org/ or call the school at 360-376-6683. Need-based tuition scholarships are available upon request.