Written by Dr. David Uth, FBO Senior Pastor
As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The First Academy, I want to express my gratitude for the impact the Royal Nation is having all across Central Florida. Day after day, I see clear evidence of God at work in the lives of our students and families. I meet regularly with our Head of School, Steve Whitaker, and I am deeply appreciative of my relationship with him. God has worked through him for the past 15 years as a visionary leader for our school and I am excited about the days ahead!
Our shared commitment to excellence is seen in our passion to spread the Gospel and in our eagerness to cultivate a strong church/school relationship. We recently established a Church/School Committee to help us stay focused in these two areas. The Committee is made up of The First Academy Head of School, First Baptist Orlando’s Senior Associate Pastor, and four church members, with two or more having connection with TFA. Together, the Church/School Committee and I have developed some guidelines for a healthy relationship. Let me summarize how it works in five simple paragraphs:
Spiritual Formation: We celebrated our school year theme, First Things First (Matthew 6:33), on several different occasions. I think it is the best theme we’ve had since my family arrived here in 2005. Building on our school year theme, I am confident that our highest priority is to lead every student to look more like Jesus when they leave TFA than when they arrived. The church and school have a common mission to share the Gospel and make disciples.
Admissions: We want to enroll students from Christian and non-Christian homes. I firmly believe this is the right posture for TFA because it allows us the best opportunity to accomplish our mission to spread the Gospel. Those who support our Great Commission philosophy, Biblical values, and who desire for their students to become Servant Leaders are welcome to enroll. We will unapologetically communicate to every family that our highest priority is for their children to develop a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Faculty/Staff Attending FBO: We have achieved excellence in classroom teaching, and school leadership by selecting the most highly qualified faculty and staff possible. Moving forward, we will continue to recruit school employees who are devoted Christ-followers, who meet job-specific requirements, and who faithfully attend the Bible-believing church of their choosing.
Conflict Resolution: As the Senior Pastor, it is my greatest desire and joy to pastor people. I am always willing to visit with any family or individual for prayer and encouragement. However, when a TFA parent, student, or employee brings a school complaint or problem to the church, they will be asked to first contact the Head of School, who will work to help resolve the issue as thoughtfully and quickly as possible. Conflict at TFA is best resolved by those most closely connected to TFA. This gives us the best opportunity to resolve issues in a manner that promotes Biblical reconciliation, restoration, and unity among church and school leaders (Matthew 18).
Governance: We enjoy a shared governance model. The Church/School Committee has authority over the founding framework (mission statement, statement of faith, ownership, and bylaws), the purchase of real estate, the approval of major capital campaigns, approval for large construction projects, and approval of School Board candidates. The School Board has authority over the operating framework including, but not limited to, strategic planning, the Head of School, financial management, athletics, arts, academics, all personnel matters, all student discipline issues, conflict/complaint resolution involving parents and employees, as well as policy development and implementation.
My heart as the Pastor of our church and school community is to support, encourage, and pray for those on this campus. The newly-formed process mentioned above will help resolve TFA student, personnel, and parent issues through the school leadership and School Board. The Head of School and the School Board are empowered and equipped to run the school and make the decisions they believe are necessary to achieve our shared mission and vision. On those rare occasions when the church needs to get involved in a particular issue, I am asking our Head of School and Senior Associate Pastor, Danny de Armas, to work together to facilitate that process so my focus can remain on teaching, preaching, and loving our people. In closing I want to underscore that in my view these are great days at The First Academy. With God’s continued help, I believe the blessings of the past will be eclipsed by the joys yet to come. Let’s keep putting First Things First!
David Uth, Ph.D.