Grace Chris­tian Academy wel­comes new direc­tor

Wen­zel brings over 30 years ex­pe­ri­ence in school ad­min­is­tra­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

Lorne Wen­zel didn’t be­gin his ca­reer in ed­u­ca­tion, but has since de­vel­oped a ca­reer in reli­gious ed­u­ca­tion based on im­prov­ing en­roll­ment and de­vel­op­ing well-rounded stu­dents.

Wen­zel, a school ad­min­is­tra­tor with more than 30 years ex­pe­ri­ence, is the new direc­tor of Grace Chris­tian Academy in Wal­dorf.

Wen­zel said he be­gan his ca­reer in school ad­min­is­tra­tion in the early 1980s, when his church elders asked if he would take over the ad­min­is­tra­tion of their school.

“I quickly got a burn­ing for what school­ing could be and should be, and that mo­ti­vated me to go get my master’s [de­gree] and doc­tor­ate,” Wen­zel said.

Wen­zel has since been a school ad­min­is­tra­tor in Florida, Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., and Van­cou­ver, Canada.

Most re­cently, he was direc­tor of Foun­da­tion Academy in Win­ter Gar­den, Fla., and learned of the search for a new direc­tor at Grace Chris­tian Academy.

“I liked the fact that it was a very di­verse com­mu­nity, I liked the fact that staff and fac­ulty seemed very in­ter­ested in build­ing peo­ple, not just teach­ing ma­te­rial but really get­ting in­volved in the lives of stu­dents, that it was very non­de­nom­i­na­tional and wasn’t try­ing to push a par­tic­u­lar sect, and it really felt like a place that was open to new ideas,” Wen­zel said.

Wen­zel said Grace Chris­tian Academy fit in well with his own per­sonal be­liefs.

“I dis­cov­ered the peo­ple here, and the board here, were a good match for my per­son­al­ity, and vi­sion and my strengths, and it’s all proven to be true,” Wen­zel said.

As an out­sider, Wen­zel said he brings a dif­fer­ent, more worldly, per­spec­tive to the school. Wen­zel served on the ex­ec­u­tive board of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Chris­tian Schools In­ter­na­tional for eight years.

The ACSI is the largest Protes­tant ed­u­ca­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion in the world, ac­cord­ing to its web­site, with 24,000 mem­ber schools in 100 coun­tries.

“They’ve had a his­tory of hiring from within, and I felt that not only do I have years of ex­pe­ri­ence, but I’ve got a lot of con­tacts in­ter­na­tion­ally, and I felt that I could bring a lot to the ta­ble that had been miss­ing,” Wen­zel said.

Grace Church Ex­ec­u­tive Pas­tor Den­nis Fay said Wen­zel stood “head and shoul­ders” above the other can­di­dates for the po­si­tion, due to his vast ex­pe­ri­ence in Chris­tian ed­u­ca­tion and his ex­pe­ri­ence in turn­ing around schools with low en­roll­ment.

“When we in­ter­viewed Dr. Wen­zel, he was calm, cool and col­lected, and that was what I really liked about him,” Fay said. “He is very calm un­der pres­sure and that is an im­por­tant fac­tor here.”

Grace Chris­tian Academy’s en­roll­ment for the cur­rent school year is 311, and Fay said Wen­zel has a proven record of boost­ing school en­roll­ment at the schools where he’s been direc­tor.

Fay said he was also im­pressed with the depth of Wen­zel’s faith.

“He is a fam­ily man, and a man of deep faith, which as a Chris­tian school is very im­por­tant,” Fay said.

Wen­zel is mar­ried and he and his wife have three adult daugh­ters, two in Florida and one in Mary­land.

His first se­mes­ter is pri­mar­ily about “learn­ing the ropes,” Wen­zel said, he ex­pects to an­nounce some new ini­tia­tives and pro­grams for the next school year in Jan­uary.

“We’ll be do­ing a lot of things to help stu­dents un­der­stand them­selves and what it is to be hu­mans. To build char­ac­ter and healthy iden­tity, self-con­fi­dence, recog­ni­tion of their unique tal­ents and gifts, as well as those of oth­ers,” Wen­zel said. “Aca­dem­i­cally, I really want to in­clude pro­grams that in­volve more col­lab­o­ra­tion, writ­ing, de­bate, think­ing, and not just stu­dents sit­ting be­hind a desk ab­sorb­ing lec­tures.”

Wen­zel said he sees part of his role as bring­ing to­gether the best and bright­est staff.

“I’ve al­ways thought that my role as a direc­tor was like an orches­tra con­duc­tor,” Wen­zel said. “I rec­og­nize the tal­ents in oth­ers and get them to play a tune to­gether.”

Wen­zel said that his own ex­pe­ri­ences have helped shape his phi­los­o­phy as an ad­min­is­tra­tor.

“I re­al­ized how much time I wasted in school just go­ing af­ter grades, not really learn­ing, and I want to make school more of a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, in­spir­ing kids and help­ing them to be be more pas­sion­ate about learn­ing, and help­ing in­te­grate the dif­fer­ent sub­jects, so that they come away not just know­ing pieces, but really hav­ing a sense of what the whole is,” Wen­zel said.

Wen­zel said hav­ing stu­dents work with tech­nol­ogy is im­por­tant in the 21st cen­tury, but it’s also im­por­tant to bring about the over­all char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment of stu­dents.

“In or­der for 21st cen­tury stu­dents to thrive in life, they need to pos­sess the qualities of a great soul that go along with the knowl­edge and skills that schools of­fer,” Wen­zel said. “Suc­cess in life will not sim­ply be based on what stu­dents grad­u­ate with, but on the per­son they have be­come at grad­u­a­tion.”

Lewis Twine, chair­man of the school’s board, said Wen­zel has brought a “big pic­ture” vi­sion to the school.

“He’s really been off to a great start and I can’t say how grate­ful we are to God for bring­ing Dr. Wen­zel to our school,” Twine said.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Lorne Wen­zel is the new direc­tor at Grace Chris­tian Academy in Wal­dorf.

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