Dayton Christian School System marking 50th year

Michael W. Smith concert will celebrate anniversary.An alumni reunion precedes the concert.

Popular Christian singer Michael W. Smith will headline Dayton Christian School System’s 50th anniversary celebration with a concert on Saturday, March 9.

The concert is part of Smith’s “World Tour,” which had him in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates last month. His concert here will be only his second following his return to the United States. (He’ll be in Akron on Friday night.)

The Grammy and Dove Award winner is perhaps known best for “Friends,” a song from his first album in 1983. He has also penned patriotic songs marking the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America at then-President George W. Bush’s request.

The school considered many speakers and artists for its anniversary celebration, said Bob Elliott, president of Dayton Christian School System, and narrowed the selection down to a “top three.” Smith was one of the three, so the anniversary committee was happy to secure him for a performance. About 150 Dayton Christian and Xenia Christian School students will sing as Smith’s backup choir on some songs.

Prior to the concert, rooms will be set aside in Cedarville University’s Dixon Ministry Center for reunions of Dayton Christian’s alumni, present students and former and current faculty and staff. The beginning of the concert will feature videos recounting the school system’s history and looking ahead to the future. Despite being an anniversary celebration, the concert is also open to the public.

The school system has attracted celebrities for past events, too, including radio personality Paul Harvey, columnist Cal Thomas, former presidential candidate Bob Dole and musicians Steve Green and Larnelle Harris.

Aside from the upcoming concert, the school has celebrated its 50th with a worship service at the beginning of the school year and by declaring this a “year of service” with hopes of amassing 50,000 collective hours of community and international service on the part of students and staff.

Starting a school

More than 50 years ago, Patterson Park Grace Brethren Church tapped Claude E. “Bud” Schindler, then an NCR executive, to head a committee to consider starting a Christian school. What rose out of that committee was a 14-member kindergarten class that met in the church in the fall of 1963. At the time, it was known as Patterson Park Christian School; eventually it morphed into Dayton Christian, and Schindler left his NCR job in 1971 to become the superintendent.

Forty-two years later, as president emeritus, he still maintains an office at the school and can be seen walking the halls and chatting with students.

The school system’s present schools are Dayton Christian in Miamisburg and Xenia Christian in Xenia. Both extend from preschool through high school. In the past, the system has included additional schools that have either closed or become independent.

Wide influence

Perhaps what is noteworthy about the school system’s history, however, is its impact beyond the Dayton region. The school was instrumental in starting the Association of Christian Schools International, which now unites and provides accreditation for almost 24,000 schools worldwide. The school has also hosted foreign exchange students and sent its own students on mission trips to other countries. In 1990, more than 30 faculty and staff members began traveling to train public educators in the former Soviet Union over the course of a decade. And Schindler has traveled the world, speaking at schools and conferences and helping to promote Christian education, as well as writing books on the topic.

Schindler attributes Dayton Christian’s relative longevity for a private religious school, apart from being “ordained of God,” to its nondenominational status, which allows it to receive support and endorsement from many churches around the community. The school system has produced more than 5,000 graduates and presently has some third-generation students.

As he looks at the school system’s future, Schindler believes its biggest challenges will be “our culture,” which he fears is losing a sense of the need for Christian education even among Christians, and finances, which have been challenging for all 50 of his years of involvement with Dayton Christian — “but that’s what keeps us on our knees.”

Of the school’s history, he says, “God founded it; I was just a witness to that.”