Head of School
Our Head of School search has successfully concluded and we are elated to announce Heather Harrison as our next Head of School, effective immediately!
Starting in December 2019, the Search Committee, Advisory Committee, our search firm (Job Fit Matters), and an organizational consultant launched a thorough, extensive national search process which generated 40+ initial candidates. Our Search Committee and Advisory Committee were composed of current and former parents, school staff, current and past MCS Board members, and a current MCS grandparent. They met regularly and often throughout this process. After multiple rounds of interviews, the Search Committee presented the unanimously-supported recommendation to the Board that Heather was the ideal choice for the next MCS Head of School. The Board approved this recommendation with a unanimous vote. Throughout this past school year, she’s demonstrated grace, humility, excellent communication, and exemplary, prayerful leadership, all while maintaining a sharp focus on God and His direction for MCS. She’s led her team fearlessly and successfully, as evidenced by the 100% of our teachers’ intent-to-return rate for the 2020-21 school year.
Heather brings 19 years of distinguished experience in education to this role, including 10 years of teaching, and 9 years of administrative leadership experience. She has served as Middle School principal at MCS since 2013, and most recently has also served as Interim Head of School after obediently answering God’s calling to that role in August 2019. She has a deep love for MCS, and she has clearly demonstrated her strength as a godly, prayerful leader during this school year which has presented many significant challenges. Heather holds a Masters degree in Education from Vanguard University. She and her husband Josh have three children: two MCS alum daughters Buze and Marta, and one current student son Elijah in Kindergarten. Josh is the co-lead pastor at Canopy Church and Heather serves in ministry with him.
Our Board’s focus has been and remains selection of a godly leader, revision of Board governance/policies and investment in building a high-trust culture. These efforts are intended to develop a lasting working partnership between the Head of School, Board, administrative team and staff and to maximize school leadership longevity. We’re committed to continuing a godly and supportive relationship with Heather and her team, laying out clear expectations and providing guidance and resources as needed. Importantly, our approach remains steadfast in maintaining MCS’s mission to build a firm foundation through Christ-centered education. Accordingly, we’re confident that His school is on a solid path with a strong strategic plan that’s been formulated in partnership with school leadership and staff.
We are deeply grateful for the support, feedback, and prayers we’ve received from the community throughout this search. Thank you!
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10
We’re sincerely appreciative of the time and energy that our Search Committee and Advisory Committee members have put into this rigorous process: Mark Nowlin (Co-Chair), Ruth Sanchez Kobayashi (Co-Chair), Marc Aneed, Tim Bahadoor, Lewis Brewster, Bob Bernatz, Clifton Chang, Melinda Choi, Jennifer Crowell, Sharee Pfaff, Jim Harmon, Aaron Hudy, David Giunta, Keven Kroehler, Susan Morehouse, Chris Stratton, Eleanor Tang, and Mitch Vance.
MCS Mission Prevails through COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 12, MCS announced a proactive school closure in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. In the weeks leading up to this decision, teachers and students were being prepared and trained to transition our TK-8th grade students to a full-scale remote learning program, which put us in a strong position for the closure. Within 72 hours, our administration, teachers, and IT team successfully launched the plan. Rooted in our Core Values, our remote learning program allows all MCS students to continue progressing through the 2019-20 school year in spite of present circumstances, connecting our MCS Community in Spirit and purpose as we walk this unprecedented journey together.
The MCS Mission is now more important than ever. Whether remote or in person, our staff is “building a firm foundation through Christ-centered education” in the hearts and minds of students. We are harnessing the power of Next Generation technology to ensure that each child’s academic and spiritual growth continues uninterrupted during this season.
Parent Preparation Key for Remote Learning
Preparation of MCS parents was paramount to a successful transition to home learning. Through a dedicated webpage, we provided parents with a central place to locate all necessary resources, including Daily Schedules, Community Updates, Enrichment Class Board, and 14 Helpful Tips for Supporting Remote Learning. Our parents have expressed their gratitude for the level of prayerful, intentional care provided by our staff during this sudden shift to home learning.
Foundation of Next Generation Technology is Springboard
Because of our historically strong integration of technology within academic programming, the vast majority of our students were well-equipped to make the transition. Middle School in particular had a solid foundation of student-ownership in learning via Schoology and a 1:1 iPad program, allowing for the switch from on campus to off to transition more smoothly. We quickly integrated the Zoom video-conferencing platform to support our instructional needs in all grades, while elementary teachers walked students through the process with loads of patience and TLC.
Continuation of MCS Exemplary Academic Program
To-date, every student has been equipped with the necessary technology and resources to continue learning pathways in all subjects, including enrichment classes for Whole Child instruction. Our specialist teachers created a phenomenal Enrichment Learning Board with videos, lessons, and options for students to supplement their core curriculum each day.
Students have been provided with daily schedules that require them to login to a video conferencing platform for lectures, group discussions/activities, and more. Their daily school schedule is supported by teachers who are dedicated to building relationships with each student, including 1:1 facetime and small group instruction with students who need extra support. In fact, our Student Support Program, which provides vital academic support for many students, is in full swing with study sessions and individual check-ins scheduled throughout the school day.
Parent feedback to our Remote Learning Program has been tremendously positive! Social media comments, emails, and texts have poured in with supportive feedback on the homefront. Passionate about their students, our teachers have been burning the midnight oil to build a program that is engaging and comprehensive as well as fluid and responsive to the present quarantine.
Prioritizing Spiritual Enrichment
MCS teachers and administrators have gone above and beyond to partner with parents and ensure students are including time to pray, worship, and study God’s word.
Our Bible teachers are producing a video curriculum for TK – 5th grade, as well as teaching two interactive middle school Bible classes every week. In addition to studying God’s word in the classroom, teachers are continuing to start each class with prayer, and incorporating times of worship when possible.
Daily Devotionals are being offered to students and parents. Each day, a new morning devotional is posted so that families can begin their day with encouragement and teaching from God’s Word.
Maintaining Connection as an MCS Community
MCS will not be deterred in our efforts to build community during this challenging time. In addition to providing daily devotionals, we’re leveraging our social media to maintain a connected community. We recently launched MCS Community Challenges which encourage families to share short videos of themselves participating in challenges like sharing something they’re thankful for or showing off their best dance moves. To read up and join the challenge, click here.
Even our Parents in Prayer committee has embraced the remote concept, and they are continuing to meet online weekly, lifting up prayer needs within our school community as well as requests for our nation and our world.
Coming soon will be “Acts of Service,” an opportunity for MCS students to be the hands and feet of Jesus, salt and light, to the hurting community around us. Our staff will provide practical ways for them to serve and encourage their neighbors and the world, even while social distancing.
Without question, this has been the biggest global crisis of the Century — yet as a Christian community, in all communications, we encourage each other to continue looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. We may not know what will happen next, but we know that HE knows, and we can find comfort and peace in that simple yet irrefutable fact.
Community Health Updates
This post contains all of the school-wide communications that have been sent concerning our response to the COVID-19 virus.
Remote Learning Update – Thursday, March 19
Dear MCS Parents,
Two days of remote learning are in the books and we are continually working to improve, refine, and adjust as necessary. Thank you for the extension of patience and grace as we learn and grow together. Even with this learning curve, we can be proud of what has been accomplished! This week is evidence of a loving community unified in action together and I am grateful for how everyone has stepped up and stepped in to conquer remote learning!
The purpose of this update is to address common questions, concerns, and confusions that have been brought to our attention. As we endeavor to resolve all encountered issues, we are also committed to providing consistent and timely communication to ensure you remain informed. Feedback from parents and students is helpful in this process so please do not hesitate to share thoughtful and constructive feedback. Next week, after a full week of remote learning and a little more settling in, a Parent-Student Survey will be conducted to gather general feedback from our community. Look for that to come your way toward the end of next week. For today, the following information may answer some of the pressing thoughts and questions:
Location of Daily Zoom Session Links
For the first couple of days of remote learning, teachers provided emails that included the links to Zoom sessions. Moving forward, parents and students will be able to locate daily Zoom sessions following these steps:
TK-3rd Grade: Each teacher will post the daily links in Google Classroom. To access the most recent link, log into Google Classroom, click on “Classwork”, click on “Zoom Meetings” and the day’s link will be at the top.
4th-8th Grade: Each teacher has created a folder that can be found at the top of each Schoology Course Page titled “Zoom Sessions”. Simply open the folder at the beginning of each day/class and click on the day’s Zoom link.
While Zoom is a public platform, we have taken the following steps to ensure the safety and privacy of our students and teachers:
- Enabled the highest privacy settings possible
- Teachers will only post Zoom sessions in password protected school platforms (Schoology and Google Classroom)
- We ask that provided Zoom links (live or recorded) are never shared outside the students and parents within a class
- Only the host (teacher) can record and download sessions
- Only Zoom sessions including instruction will be recorded and all recordings will be automatically deleted after 2 weeks
- If parents have continued privacy concerns, the video can be turned off only allowing a student’s voice to be heard
We are confident that the safety and privacy of our students is well protected and will continue to prioritize and update all safety features.
Video Access and Delays
You may have noticed some hiccups with posted videos including our daily devotion, videos posted on the Enrichment Resource page, or videos teachers have shared. We have had to make some changes to our filters to alleviate the issues. During the hours of 7am-8pm, filter restrictions have been modified to allow for greater access. However, from 8pm-7am, our full filter will be in place. Because of the lessened restrictions, it is important that parents monitor student use. School issued devices should only be used for learning and personal devices for personal use. We are continuing to resolve the issues and hope to change the lessened restrictions soon. In the meantime, it is important parents are aware and monitoring use.
Enrichments and Daily Devotions
We encourage every student to begin the day with the devotion posted on the Enrichment Resource Board. In addition, each student’s daily schedule, TK-8, intentionally includes enrichment time. During these times, we hope all students will take advantage of the many opportunities provided on the enrichment board.
We value community and relationship at MCS. It is one of our distinct core values and the launch of remote learning has proven that to be true! During this time, we want to remain connected and find creative ways to do so. With that in mind, today, we kicked off our first MCS Community Challenge. To learn more, visit Instagram, the Enrichment Resource Page under the MCS Challenges tile, or click here.
Do not hesitate to contact any of our admin team or our tech team. We are here to help!
In all things and at all times, rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Interim Head of School
Community Update: Preparing for Remote Learning – Monday, March 16
Dear MCS Parents,
How To Prepare Your Middle School Student For Remote Learning – Friday, March 13
- We are learning and figuring it out together. There will be some bumps along the way. Teachers are ready but there will be a learning curve for all. Patience, grace, and flexibility are key as we launch remote learning! Staff is committed to providing these and we are asking students and parents to join us in the same posture.
- We ask that parents provide a designated learning space at home that is as distraction free as possible. Consider creating a “home classroom” space intentionally set aside as a learning environment.
- Speaking of creating a learning environment, we HIGHLY recommend parents eliminate technology distractions. Consider implementing the school’s rule of “bell to bell no cell” at home. When students are completing their school work or Zooming in, do not allow cell phones, TV, or personal devices to be used. Preserve and protect instructional time just as we do at school.
- We ask all parents to monitor students closely particularly in the initial days of the launch. Ensure students are joining the live Zoom sessions, taking advantage of office hours, completing the assigned work, and submitting work based on established due dates. Typically, one of the benefits of middle schoolers is their ability to self-manage resulting in less of a need for parents to monitor grades and assignments. This will NOT be the case as we adjust to remote learning. Parents will need to monitor students closely. The need for students to be monitored should hopefully diminish as they settle in but it is extremely important parents provide accountability. Attendance will be monitored and teachers will reach out to parents if a student misses two or more days of online instruction but we are hoping to avoid “absences” as much as possible. We appreciate your support!
- It is also important to understand remote learning cannot and will not be able to fully replace the classroom experience and teacher guided learning. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality education possible but there will be differences. Our teachers will focus on the essential grade level standards to ensure learning continues and that students gain proficiency across the content areas based on what they need to know and understand this year and next.
- Monday: An all school communication will be provided with high level details to successfully launch remote learning. This will include information on parent resources and tutorials as well as additional home enrichment offerings.
- Tuesday: Parents and students will receive direct communication from teachers including their daily remote learning schedule and individual classroom expectations. Grade level teachers will host their first live Zoom Session together to give parents and students a little practice “Zooming In” before learning begins.
- Wednesday: Remote learning begins!
How To Prepare Your Elementary Student For Remote Learning – Friday, March 13
- Monday: The entire MCS staff will be having a staff development meeting and prepping the launch plan for each grade level. Upper and lower elementary plans may look a little different.
- Tuesday: “Our Soft Launch” You should hear from your child’s teacher and receive a resource guide from our Head of School. During this launch you will practice a Zoom meeting, and get tutorials and information about your child’s online schedule.
- Wednesday: Remote learning begins!
Community Health Update #3 – Thursday, March 12
Dear MCS Families,
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, presents our world and the MCS community with an unprecedented public health challenge that can be intensified by uncertainties associated with its spread.
The first, and most important, piece to share is a reminder of God’s constant truth no matter the situation or circumstance. We can find comfort and peace through scriptural promises. And, as a Christian community, now is the time to now only hold to these truths as individuals, but to display them to the world. We are Kingdom citizens and our response can and should reflect the Kingdom. What does that mean? God’s word has plenty to say about this but here are just a few promises to hold on to: 2 Timothy 1:7, Isaiah 41:10, Joshua 1:9, Matthew 6:25-34, and Philippians 4:6-7.
As we hold on to these truths, knowing God is still in control and He is with us, we also must be aware, informed, and wise. We must consider all factors to make decisions that are in the best interest of not only our community, but beyond. Though there are no documented “community transmissions” in Orange County, and the risk remains low, expert analyses of proactive vs reactive school closures have been reviewed and feel it is prudent and responsible to join efforts to help reduce the spread.
It is with this in mind that I share today’s update to the MCS community. Based on multiple factors, it is the belief that proactive community cooperation is needed to stem the spread of this virus. As always, the objective to carry out our educational mission, while ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and families remains. Rest assured, all decisions have been made through great prayer, discernment, research, and discussion.
Monday, March 16th, the MCS campus will be closed to students and families.
Tuesday, March 17th, MCS will migrate to remote learning with teachers providing the initial launch including all necessary details of daily schedule and expectations.
Wednesday, March 18th full implementation of remote learning will begin.
In these ever-changing and uncertain conditions, this is the best decision. Transitioning to online learning will bring about some challenges and bumps along the way. We recognize this will bring significant disruption to normal routines. We also recognize the hardship and impact this will present to many families, particularly to households with two working parents. We desire to work closely with all families not only to continue the education of our students with minimal disruption, but to provide flexibility to support the new routines families will have to implement to support online learning.
- Friday March 13
- teachers will be training our students on how to use the online tools for classwork
- all students will be sent home with a Home Learning Kit with necessary supplies, curriculum, workbooks, etc.
- 3rd – 8th grade students will also bring home their school-issued iPad.
- TK – 2nd grade students will need their own device with internet access and a camera. If you are in need of a home device, a Google form will be sent shortly for you to let us know.
- Students will be taught virtually through Zoom Video Conferencing, Google Classroom, and Schoology depending on grade level. All platforms are compatible with any device (iPad, laptops, Mac, Windows) and are both web and app-based. Teachers will provide more specific information Tuesday, March 17th.
- Tuesday March 17, online training tutorials for parents will be available
- Divisional Principals will communicate additional details specific to grade levels tomorrow.
- At this time, all field trips and large gathering events through April have been cancelled. We will continue to monitor the situation making decisions regarding May events as we arrive closer to that time.
We are not sure how long our campus will remain closed, but anticipate a minimum of 2 week closure. Information will be provided to ensure all families are updated accordingly. Of course, we understand that there are families for which this unforeseen closure presents challenges and we will do our best to accommodate and provide support to those families. We appreciate your prayers and patience as we roll out this program.
Let us all be in fervent prayer together, trusting God is in control.
Interim Head of School
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/
World Health Organization FAQ: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
Community Health Update #2 – Friday, March 6
Dear MCS Community,
As communicated last week, we continue to closely monitor guidance from local, state, and federal health authorities regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact within the community. Since this last communication, the following steps have been taken to ensure MCS is as informed and prepared as possible:
- Communication with several administrators from local public and private schools, district personnel, and the OCDE to align to best practices and decision making protocols
- Consultation with Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) and participation in an update call offered to k-12 schools with continued participation in their weekly update calls to ensure most current guidance is followed
- Consulted with health care professionals including pediatric specialists
- Continual research monitoring guidance from reputable sources including CDC, WHO, and OCHCA to ensure we are as informed as possible during these rapidly changing circumstances
- Update of MCS Emergency Preparedness Plan with a newly established School Closure Response Plan to ensure we are as prepared as possible with a flexible response
- Multiple school team meetings to ensure all staff are informed, appropriately trained, and equipped to implement procedures and plans as necessary
According to guidance from the CDC, which can be reviewed here, we continue to follow the direction of local health agencies. Currently, the Orange County Health Care Agency states the risk to the public is low and there is no recommendation to cancel schools, business, or social events. Rather, OCHCA is recommending no change in daily activity. Be assured we remain vigilant and committed to prioritizing the health and safety of the entire MCS community.
Proactive and Preventative Measures
Increased deep cleaning and sanitizing of the school will continue indefinitely. As a reminder, the following measures are recommended to help prevent the spread of viruses, including the coronavirus:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Click here for handwashing tips from the CDC
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Cover cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
We continue to advise the following to all students, staff, and parents:
- As always, remain home if symptoms of fever, body aches, chills, respiratory issues are present
- Remain home until symptom free for 24 hours
- Students or staff with an absence longer than three consecutive days are asked to provide a note from a physician releasing the student back to school
- If symptoms present during the school day, the student or staff member will be sent home
- All illness-related absences are excused and attendance monitoring procedures have been adjusted accordingly
We would also like to remind you to please take all necessary precautions to protect yourselves and our community from this and any illness. MCS can not and will not monitor travel of families but we do ask that all travel advisories and guidelines from the CDC and US State Department are followed.
At this time, there are no plans to alter daily school routines. Any future changes, if necessary, would be made in consultation with CDC and OCHCA. In an effort to be prepared, we have established a sound School Closure Plan and all faculty and staff are being actively trained for implementation. This plan includes virtual, or remote, learning alternatives so that we are prepared should the situation change. Just as the safety and health of our community is paramount, we are dedicated to preserving high-quality education and support. We will always remain fervently committed to the academic success of each student despite any challenge posed.
We will continue to closely monitor this situation and work with appropriate agencies. Additional updates will be provided as necessary. In regards to the upcoming Sacramento trip, 4th grade parents can expect a seperate communication later today.
In times of uncertainty, we are thankful that we can rely on God’s sovereignty and peace. We pray for protection and health for our community and for the world. We pray for Divine intervention as we trust in God’s mighty power. We also pray for God’s peace to rule and reign over our hearts and minds casting out all fear.
We are grateful for a community that joins together in these prayers and grateful for a community that is willing to be flexible and supportive of our efforts in an unpredictable time. Thank you for your continued support and confidence.
Additional Resources for Educating Children on the Coronavirus:
Community Health Update #1 – Thursday, February 27
Dear MCS Community,
As you are likely aware, on Tuesday, February 25th, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gave a press conference updating the country on the current status of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and what steps should be taken moving forward.
As the CDC emphasized, there is not currently a coronavirus pandemic in the United States. A pandemic occurs when a disease is spreading from a variety of sources across a large region, and the number of cases across the US is still small. Additionally, the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) has noted that there is “no evidence of person to person transmission occurring in Orange County and the risk to the public remains low at this time.”
However, given how quickly the global situation is evolving, we are monitoring new developments and will follow directives from public health organizations. We will continue to evaluate steps and actions daily. MCS is prepared to alter procedures should the situation change. Any changes will be effectively communicated as necessary.
In the meantime, MCS will continue the increased weekly deep cleaning and additional sanitizing that was implemented during the height of the flu season. As previously communicated in December and January, we also ask that all staff and students who are feeling ill remain home until they are symptom free for 24 hours.
We also encourage every member of our community to follow these best health practices as the most effective way to stay healthy and minimize the spread of infectious disease:
Enforcing great hygiene including regular and thorough washing of hands and covering up coughs/sneezes
Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer where possible
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
Rest assured, the well-being, safety, and health of the entire MCS community remains our top priority. Together, we pray for God’s healing, protection, and intervention.
Though our circumstances have changed dramatically over the past 10 days, we absolutely do not want to miss the opportunity to give PRAISE to God and thanks to YOU for His good gift of “MCS Gala 2020: An Evening of Community and Celebration!”
As we reflect back on March 6, we are truly in awe of God’s perfect timing and plan. In His infinite wisdom, He knew exactly what our community needed, and He provided an extraordinary night of love, laughter, and generosity toward the MCS Mission. Though our current worldwide situation is weighty and difficult, the MCS Mission is now more important than ever. Whether remote or in person, our staff is “building a firm foundation through Christ-centered education” in the hearts and minds of our students. We are harnessing the power of Next Generation Technology to ensure that each child’s spiritual and academic growth continue uninterrupted during this season.
First and foremost, we would like to gratefully acknowledge the remarkable parent volunteers who served with their whole hearts as they dreamed, planned, and executed an unforgettable celebration, accented with beautiful and intentional moments throughout. This event was parent-inspired and parent-led from start to finish, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of their leadership and passion! Amazingly, this team has already begun to dream for the 2021 MCS Gala.
MCS Gala 2020 was an authentic expression of this year’s theme as our school community “REFLECTED THE SON” together:
- Joyful parents, grandparents, and guests enjoying time set aside for encouragement and a united purpose to advance the MCS Vision
- Loving teachers and staff building relationship with parents and each other, sharing their passion for Christian education
- Faithful Administrative leaders warmly welcoming every guest, ushering them into an atmosphere of fun and excitement
- Generous sponsors and donors, giving above and beyond to ensure that our Mission is thriving now and for many years to come…
We are humbled to share that God provided in abundance with a net total of over $300,000 to support MCS spiritual and academic programming needs for the 2020-21 school year! This includes $152,000 in designated funding through our Fund a Need program, which met our goal to equip all 50 MCS classrooms with Next Generation Technology beginning Fall 2020.
As we look to the future that God is building at MCS, we are in awe of His goodness and so thankful to have a supportive body of believers investing in His vision.
Please enjoy a slideshow of professional images showcasing the evening’s festivities!
Also, click here if you would like to watch the “complete” student-produced video from our Fund a Need presentation — you will love the extended version!
Please know that our faculty and staff are in continual prayer for your families as we walk through this uncharted territory together in the coming weeks and months.
With hearts full of gratitude,
Heather, Keven, Julie
On behalf of MCS faculty and staff
Our Pastors Chapel has become a special tradition here at Mariners Christian School. Each year we invite pastors and leaders from the churches our MCS families attend to come and enjoy a breakfast together, and then worship with our students in chapel.
This year our Pastors Breakfast and Chapel is on Monday, March 16.
Our MCS families attend over 75 churches in Orange County, and we’re so grateful for the spiritual impact the church community has on our school community! Each year we send an invitation (via email) to the pastors who work with our middle school and elementary students at these local churches, as well as to the senior pastors.
7:30: Church Leader Breakfast (without students)
8:40: Chapel with MCS Students