Grow Together – INspire More

By Matt Donnowitz, Head of School

November 10, 2022

I recently heard a story about S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, and other senior leaders in the organization that inspired me as we have been discussing the school’s growth. In the 1990s, Boston Market, which until 1995 was known as Boston Chicken, had become a serious competitor to Chick-fil-A. Boston Market was growing rapidly and setting ambitious goals, which included hitting a billion dollars in sales by the year 2000. As a result of Boston Market’s growth, Chick-fil-A leaders felt increasing pressure to figure out how to keep up with this competitor.

Chick-fil-A leaders began conversations about how to grow bigger and faster. These conversations culminated in a board meeting at Chick-fil-A headquarters, which, as a former Chick-fil-A Vice President recounted, involved senior leaders going back and forth around the table, asking and answering, “How do we get bigger, faster?” The former Vice President also recounted how Truett Cathy was very quiet during these tense conversations, even appearing disengaged from the meeting. Finally, Truett Cathy pounded his fist on the table until he had everyone’s attention. He spoke up, “Gentlemen, I am sick and tired of hearing you talk about us getting bigger. What we need to talk about is getting better. If we get better, our customers will demand that we get bigger.” This statement shifted the whole conversation, outlook, and strategy for the organization. Rather than focusing on getting bigger, they would focus on getting better and trust that by doing so, their customers would demand they get bigger. Time would show that Truett Cathy was exactly right. By focusing on getting better rather than getting bigger, excellence ensued, and growth resulted. In fact, by the year 2000, Boston Market had filed for bankruptcy, and Chick-fil-A had hit a billion dollars in sales.

“If we get better, our customers will demand that we get bigger.”

At the beginning of the year, I stated how we, as a school, would be developing what it means to partner together, grow together, and serve together. The past two years have demonstrated—both nationally and locally—that more and more families are looking for and choosing private education for their children. During that time, we’ve focused on continued growth in excellence in every area of the school’s life.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been blessed to meet with our incredible new families in both group and individual settings. I’ve listened to their school onboarding experiences and the reasons they chose Hill Country for their children’s education. As one parent said, “We found that Hill Country aligned with our values at home. When we were on campus, we felt like it was a place our son would grow academically, spiritually, and in his character.” Another parent emphasized how faith and excellence permeate every area of the school’s life and said: “Hill Country offers a high quality, Christian-based education with a strong school community, athletics, and school spirit.” Another stated simply, “It is the most thoughtful and caring school in the area.”

In a recent survey, our new families were asked to select up to three main reasons why they enrolled their children at Hill Country. The top three reasons were clear:

  • Covenant Christ-Centered Environment
  • Christian Worldview Integration
  • Academic Programs

As Head of School, I am responsible for ensuring we fulfill our mission and purpose in line with our core values. In 2021, we published our Five-Year Strategic Plan, which focused on building initiatives and action items in four key areas:

  • Long-Term Financial Sustainability
  • Full Enrollment
  • Facilities
  • Teaching and Learning Excellence

We knew at that time that if we continued to optimize programs and invest in these areas, we would see an increase in enrollment demand. And we have. In fact, we’ve seen 30% growth over the past two years. On the first day of school in August, we welcomed a record 164 new students to the school. Out of those students, we welcomed 53 new PK students, 63 new Elementary School students, 30 new Middle School students, and 18 new High School students.

Due to this growth, Hill Country Bible Church has given the school additional classrooms, resources, and opportunities to use larger gathering spaces on campus. We recognize there is limited space in our current facilities for classrooms, offices, and assembling, and we are quickly approaching our maximum capacity in these facilities. As a result, we have been planning, receiving input, and determining how to grow well over the next several years.

Last February, my predecessor Dr. Jeff Marx announced that the school had entered into a contract with Spencer Pierce Architecture & Interiors (SP-ai Inc.) for architectural services related to the construction of a new campus academic building. We now have our preliminary schematic design for a building that will not only increase our capacity to welcome more mission-appropriate students, but create a space that inspires excellence, supports our growing programs, and provides opportunities for parents and students to gather together in Christ-centered community.

If we get better, our community will demand that we get bigger.

Growing together doesn’t just mean increasing student enrollment but increasing the ways we fulfill our mission with excellence. As we continue to grow and plan for the future, we will have more opportunities for our families to come together and invest in the lives of countless students and families that constitute, and will constitute, Hill Country Christian School. As a result of our work of faith, we will all “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). This is what it means to grow together. I’m excited to continue on this journey with you as we grow together for His name’s sake. Amen.

In Him,

Matt Donnowitz, Head of School