8 Oct 2014

It has long been the practice of the NCHE board to have an extended time together during the summer that includes an official board meeting. This meeting anchors the year, providing time not only for a debriefing from the May conference, but also for committees to work on strategies and plans for the upcoming year. This August 14-16 the board conducted its annual meeting, referred to as “the retreat,” at Haw River State Park in Brown Summit, just north of Greensboro. I’d like to share with you a little of the experience.

Before I begin telling you about NCHE activity, I’d like to give a big shout out to the staff at Haw River and say how much the NCHE board appreciates the North Carolina State Parks system and the public servants who maintain the sites. Haw River State Park is a real treasure, as is the staff who worked with NCHE for a successful retreat.

Now, I will tell you more about the 2014 “retreat.” You may have noticed that I placed the word “retreat” in quotations marks. I did this because it became an inside joke amongst some of the board members that this annual extended meeting is not very oriented toward relaxation. Rather, it is very work oriented and fast paced. In fact, it is less like a retreat and more like a triathlon. The event started Thursday evening with a nearly-three-hour board meeting full of updates, committee reports and motions. The first activity of the Thursday board meeting is prayer asking for God to guide the work of the board, and then families are introduced. It has long been NCHE’s tradition that the retreat includes families. Given that board members devote significant time to their NCHE duties, time that could be spent with their families, I think it good for the board members to be able to include their families on this long weekend. One of the goals of the retreat has always been to give board family members an opportunity to build relationships with each other. The other board meetings involve just the voting board members and possibly, their spouses. The board is blessed with supportive spouses and children. It is always a highlight of the retreat for me to be in the presence of those who are an inspiration to the individual members of the board.

Part of Thursday’s meeting is the election of several new board members. Over the last two years, the NCHE board has gone through a process of updating its bylaws and board structure. As a result, some new board positions were created and others were better defined. One significant change was that the regional director position was changed to regional liaison and the position is no longer a part of the board. This change helps to achieve quorum at board meetings and also to better signify the distinction between the director role board members play and the connection role of the regional liaisons with support groups in their geographical areas. Several board members who had been regional directors became regional liaisons, and several retired. Others were nominated and voted into newly created director positions. These changes resulted in several vacancies in the 2013-2014 board. I spoke about these vacancies at the annual conference and encouraged interested NCHE members to apply. I am happy to report that several members stepped up, and during the retreat, several positions were filled. You’ll be hearing and seeing more of these new board members over the coming months, but very briefly, allow me to introduce them to you:

Stephanie Cox will serve as NCHE’s first marketing director. Stephanie received her master’s in business administration (MBA) from Liberty University. In addition to homeschooling, she works with the North Carolina Community College System teaching a variety of business and entrepreneurship courses.

Brian Gilpin will serve as NCHE’s first development director. Brian works for Classical Conversations and has years of experience in relationship building.

Matthew McDill will serve as NCHE’s regional liaison for region three, which covers the state’s northwest counties. If you have attended NCHE’s annual conference, you may have heard Matthew speak. He passionately shares about the freedom believers experience.

Fran Jones will serve as NCHE’s regional liaison for region six, which includes much of the piedmont triad. Fran has long been active in support groups, as well as NC legislative matters.

I’m excited about working with our new board members and regional liaisons and the fresh insight they’ll bring to the organization. I want to commend Kathy Iandoli, our community relations director, and the nominations and election committee for doing the good work of vetting these candidates and welcoming them to the board.

Thursday night we receive the treasure’s report. Tanya Dickens is NCHE’s treasurer. One of the goals of the board is to be highly accountable for our spending, as we are funded by donations from members. Tanya is skilled in accounting and the board continues to appreciate her willingness to chair the finance committee and continue to keep the organization above reproach financially.

Friday was a busy day with various committee meetings and impromptu work. The conference committee, chaired by Debbie Mason, and the legislative committee, chaired by Spencer Mason, were in full swing. The Masons have long been leaders in NCHE, and they continue to serve, working hard to shepherd the organization into its second thirty years. While Spencer has a long history of legislative leadership, this is the first year Debbie has officially functioned as the chair of the conference committee in the new role of events director. Exciting changes are afoot, and I’m looking forward to the future of the NCHE annual conference. We have been encouraged of late regarding the impact the annual conference makes in the lives of NC homeschoolers. However, there are always things that we could do better, and the committee, under Debbie’s leadership, is working hard to continue to make the conference an experience that encourages and challenges parent educators.

Friday’s committee meetings took us late into the night. Board members were deep in discussion, planning and working, until well after 10:00 p.m. John Kirkland, a long-time board member, and NCHE’s first IT director, was one such person. Well into the night, I witnessed him actively studying our online systems to perfect our data, an ongoing and often thankless role, needed in any organization with complex information needs. For years John has served as NCHE’s secretary. I really appreciate John and his willingness to step into a new role.

I will say that the retreat is not all work. Late Friday afternoon I was able to play the nine-hole disk golf course with Bill Kreiling. Bill and his wife, Jolene, have served on the board for two years, and have assisted with the conference’s book fair. In addition, Jolene is employing her administration prowess as secretary. Bill is active on the legislative committee and great fun to be with. We wondered and laughed together at some of the crazy mushrooms we discovered along the golf course trails.

Saturday was devoted to the board meeting. At this meeting all the committees report to the board their plans and make motions on actions that are beyond the scope of their committees, e.g., their budget. This day is long and can be tedious at times, but that often is the nature of the service. Happily this year, we were able to finish slightly after 3:00 p.m.

Regardless of whether it is talking to new homeschoolers at the conference or voting on a committee motion, the service is full of life, and it is glorious. Two board members I have not previously mentioned, activities director Amanda Wares and homeschool helps director Rhonda Marshall, also provide examples of individuals who faithfully serve all year. I appreciate them both.

NCHE continues to keep an eye on legislative activity. Currently, we are working with legislators and other organizations on an issue where NC law has room for improvement in order to be more equitable and more in line with the best practices in other states. Statecraft is challenging work, and NCHE appreciates its public servants who are willing to listen to us, as we seek to protect the liberties we enjoy.

NCHE will host the bi-annual Capital Fest event in Raleigh on March 3, 2015. This educational event is always held during the legislative long session. We encourage you to come join us and plan to spend some time directly interacting with your legislators. You can visit the capital with us and perhaps bring some homemade cookies to share with your neighbors who serve as legislators.

I hope this column has provided you with some additional insight into the character of the NCHE board and their heart for homeschoolers. I ask that you pray for us and prayerfully consider how you might partner with us in our ongoing service.

Kevin McClain and his wife, Brea, started homeschooling in 2002. Kevin has a master’s in education, instructional technology, from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in educational studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he works as an educational technologist. In 2010, he joined NCHE's board as education vice president. He served as NCHE president from 2012-2016.