C.S. Lewis Academy swiftly changes leaders
In a letter to parents May 26, C.S. Lewis Academy board chairman David Beasley officially announced that principal Michael Wenger was leaving to assume the same position at Westside Christian School in Tigard.
Just 10 days later, the small Christian school had a new leader in place, as it revealed June 5 that West Hills Christian School vice principal Clay Swanson will take over as lead administrator.
"We're feeling blessed right now that maybe there was some intervention in not having to go through a full search and find a guy of that quality," director of development Steve Wallo said. "He's been on campus a few days now and he's very relational."
Both Beasley and Wallo credited Wenger for helping bring some stability to the school amid a period that has seen some major transitions, including the merger with Open Bible Christian School prior to the 2013-2014 school year.
Wenger, who replaced longtime secondary principal Mike McConaughey two years ago, helped lead the consolidation of grades K-12 onto a single campus for the first time in the school's 31-year history after the closing of CSLA's elementary campus on Wynooski Street this school year.
"It's doing well and we have room to grow," Wenger said of the move. "We are going to have a new library/media center. We're excited about that because we left our library over at the Wynooski property, so bringing over some of the hard-bounds for the elementary and having some of the media pieces for the sixth through 12th grade is going to be great."
Wenger said he is also proud to have helped the school transition to a seven-period schedule, which also allowed high school and middle school students to take career and technical education classes offsite at nearby Anvil Academy. With instruction being one of his strengths, Wenger helped facilitate unity among staff that had never worked on the same campus before.
"I think the main thing is bringing the teachers together and it's just been a real family," Wenger said. "For instance, our Spanish teacher in the high school integrated her Spanish 4 class with our elementary to have an intro Spanish piece for them. It was a great opportunity for these Spanish 4 kids to practice their Spanish with their teacher and mentor. We were able to do that as a small school, so it was a great offering."
The small size of C.S. Lewis Academy was new for Wenger, who came from Fremont Christian School in California, which was also pre-K through 12th grade but had a high school population around 200, which is pretty similar what he will oversee at Westside Christian.
Fortunately for the school, Beasley has family who attended West Hills Christian in Portland, so he was familiar with Swanson and quickly identified him as someone who could potentially step in immediately. In a letter to parents included in the school's weekly email newsletter, Beasley said he felt the opportunity to recruit Swanson was "divinely orchestrated."
"Just a couple of days later we had him on campus meeting with the faculty and the board," Wallo said. "It happened really quick."
Swanson spent the past 15 years as vice principal at West Hills Christian and prior to that taught physical education for 10 years at Valley Christian School in Auburn, Wash. After graduating from High School in Detroit, Mich., Swanson spent 12 years in the Air Force before receiving a degree in management from Northwest College (now university) in Kirkland, Wash.
Wallo said he also has the requisite spiritual background to lead C.S. Lewis and is also an experienced operations manager.
"Our faculty just really felt he was so positive and everything we heard about him was great," Wallo said. "He's a problem solver. If somebody has needs, somebody needs help, somebody needs whatever, he's with them until it's taken care of. Comments like that go a long ways in a culture like ours."
Aside from traveling on some mission trips with members of Newberg Christian Church, Swanson doesn't have any connections to Newberg, but there is a measure of cycling to the recent moves as West Hills Christian is K-8 but feeds into Westside Christian, which has taken on Wenger.
"It's a great school," Swanson said of C.S. Lewis. "I'm kind of shocked. You come on to this campus and they do so much with so little. They do things so well, so that was an attraction. Then I just got more and more excited about what they're doing and how they're doing it."