Eight years. That’s how long I was principal at ACS Secondary. These eight years have been good years, with many wonderful people and some incredible experiences. I probably could list 50 things that I learned as principal at ACS, but here are five of them.

1. God Works Through Us, Regardless of Our Mistakes

This is an important truth because I make a lot of mistakes. I have told students,“Don’t be afraid to fail big. You will learn much more from your failures than you will learn from an easy success.” So take a leap of faith; have the courage to learn from your mistakes and move forward. Some of my mistakes have cost me dearly. But God works through me anyway. Students have come to know Jesus more deeply, international students continue to commit their lives to Christ for the first time, and teachers continue to engage minds and nurture hearts, to mention a few. A tremendous amount of great things have occurred in these last eight years despite many mistakes.

2. Great People Make a Great School…

We have a great staff, a wonderful school board and a beautiful community. We have hired 32 people in my eight years at ACS. We have made significant efforts to hire, recruit, and retain great staff in our secondary school. It’s not a perfect process but we (and it is a team who does the hiring at ACS Secondary) have worked hard to get the right staff in the right places. In the last three years, we didn’t receive any applicants for some positions and yet we simply recruited terrific people to our school from far and wide. Next year’s Secondary Admin Team is fantastic (Mike, Mike and Gaylene). They are thoughtful, caring, hard-working, passionate, and wholly committed to Christ. We are fortunate and should be thankful that God has blessed us with incredible people.

3. Fix the Problem, not the Blame (or Ask the Right Questions, In the Right Order)

When someone doesn’t deliver to the expectations that you had hoped for, ask the right questions:

  • Did they know what to do?

If they didn’t know what to do, then that’s on me, because I should have been more clear in laying out the expectations. Clear is kind.

  • Did they know how to do it?

If they didn’t know how to do it, then that’s also on me, because I should have taken the time to train them how to do it, or found someone else to train them.

  • Did something get in the way?

Surprisingly, this is often the case and one needs to be intentional about asking this question. Obstacles that get in the way of people accomplishing tasks are common and often difficult to guess. So asking this question is key to understanding what happened.

  • Are they competent to do this work?

Obviously we need competent people working in schools. But incompetence should never be the first assumption…it should always be the last.

4. The Fine Art of Truth and Grace

There have been many opportunities throughout my eight years to exercise truth and grace with students, staff, and parents. Too much truth and you can destroy someone; too much grace and you can deceive them. It’s a fine balance to get the recipe right. But when we do, community is built, people thrive and God is revealed.

5. The Grad Class of 2019 Will be Leaders of Leaders

I’m not supposed to compare grad classes. Every year I say the same thing at commencement, “This is a very special grad class this year.”

But, since I’m leaving, I’m just going to say it like it is.

This year’s grad class is special. I think that they will be leaders of leaders in the future. Not because they are the most gifted, although there are some who are spectacularly gifted. Not because they are the brightest, although there are some significantly intelligent students in this class. They are special because so many of them put God first.

They have decided to live their lives the Jesus-way and they are committed to a God-centered, others-focused approach to life. And that has given them grace, humility, compassion, maturity, love, and passion (and I hope the culture at ACS has cultivated this within them). I predict that when we look back in ten years, we will see that this grad class has an unusually high number of alumni who are the leaders of leaders.

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn these things and many more from my time at ACS. Thank you for allowing me to serve in this community. I wish you all God’s richest blessings for the future.

And Mike Riezebos, my dear friend, buckle up, you’re about to experience the ride of your life…let’s go for coffee in 9 years and see how it’s going….