Grace Lutheran studs pose together for a photo at signing day

Innovation Spotlight: Jonathan Dinger

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Interview with Jonathan Dinger, Grace Lutheran School, Pocatello
Bluum is excited to introduce you to the dedicated leaders and high quality schools that we are working with to ensure Idaho’s children reach their fullest potential.

Grace Lutheran School opened its doors to the Pocatello community over 60 years ago. Since then they have delivered on their mission to “promote excellence in education and to nurture each child in an environment of compassion reaching out with the Love of Christ.” This year they embark on a vision to expand from pre-K through 8th into grades 9 -12 over the next four years. Pictured here is a “signing day” celebration for their first group of incoming Freshman.

Why did Grace Lutheran decide now is the right time to expand?

Over the last 40 years we’ve been dreaming of this opportunity. Recently we were approached by leaders of the community who were struggling to recruit and retain professionals who seek high quality private education for high school children. From my research, Pocatello is the only town of 50,000 in ten western states that does not offer a traditional, full-featured private high school to its community. There is a real gap in Pocatello’s educational choices for parents of high school age children. A community of this size should cover the whole spectrum of choice.

How will the Pocatello community benefit from this new high school?

We are a diverse country with a long history of freedom of religion and expression. A Christian family in this town did not have an option to put their high school student in a school where their values would be taught. This expansion makes Pocatello a more attractive community to those looking to relocate or grow their business here.

Research shows that 250-300 students is the best size for a high school in achievement, engagement, and opportunities beyond the classroom. Being able to offer this smaller school option, we know we are closer to those best practices. Kids will get the personal attention they need – no kid will fall through the cracks here.

How has Bluum helped as you and Grace Lutheran tackle this expansion?

In our location as a faith-based, private secondary school it can get a little lonely. To have an advocate, someone who is cheering for us – it’s tremendous encouragement. When I call Terry with an idea, he listens; he really wants to hear our ideas and if it is something that would help kids. He is very enthusiastic and passionate. Terry and Bluum have offered us the opportunity to be collaborative in this process and have helped us make connections with the local university and others. Bluum helps make possible things that we could not have done on our own.

What advice would you give a school leader who is looking to improve academic outcomes?

My mantra, when making any decision, is to ask: “What’s best for kids?” Not what’s best for the institution, financially, or because of the community or demographics, but really what is best for kids. It’s kind of simplistic but can be challenging because it’s expensive or out of the box. Everyone in education needs to be asking themselves this – whether they’re a teacher, administrator, coach or development officer.

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