Sounding Off: Mariners never forgets the 'non-negotiables'

As we are preparing to start a new school year at Mariners Christian School with many new changes, a recent event made me reflect on why the school continues to thrive.

Last week, my 6-year old son was helping my wife organize some photo albums when they came across our wedding album. We've been married for 19 years, so, as you might expect, Sammy didn't recognize either of his parents. While we laughed about this later, it also made me think about how we balance the familiar with the new.

If I were to run across the same wedding photo, I would immediately recognize my wife, but not just because I knew her at that time. Anyone who has had difficulty recognizing a former friend or neighbor after some years have passed knows this. I think there must be enough enduring features of my wife that make it possible for me to instantly recognize her image regardless of age, hairstyle, clothing, etc.

I would also argue that many organizations, like Mariners, operate under similar rules. On the one hand, the school is responsive to change and seeks to meet the needs of families through the introduction of new approaches to learning. This year, we are offering a full-day kindergarten option, along with the introduction of SMART Boards in all classrooms.

On the other hand, these changes must be seen as enhancing the elements of the program our families value and must not adversely impact the constituents' perception of Mariners.

If change is too rapid or unsettling, we run the risk of alienating our families, possibly to the point of driving them away. Just as with the image of my wife, people must still recognize us as Mariners Christian School.

Which leads to the deeper question: What makes a school recognizable?

I believe it is an enduring commitment to what all of its stakeholders would agree are "the non-negotiables."

For Mariners, it is an understanding that all of our actions will promote the academic growth and spiritual well-being of our students. If we make a change that strays from either of these goals, it will be perceived as a marketing gimmick or a significant departure from our school's mission.

With so much of modern life focused on the superficial, it is heartening to know that we still seek those things that endure. My prayer is that we always bear this in mind and seek to make changes that align with these goals.

TODD PERKINS is the chief financial officer of Mariners Christian School.

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