First national SDA education summit to brainstorm change

La Sierra’s School of Ed will host the National Summit on Adventist Education this fall for k-12 and higher ed teachers and leaders.
La Sierra’s School of Ed will host the National Summit on Adventist Education this fall for k-12 and higher ed teachers and leaders.

August 4, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( Survey results from the La Sierra University-based CognitiveGenesis project show that Seventh-day Adventist education in k-12 schools is producing well-rounded, high-achieving students. Despite these successes, major funding gaps, school closures, sluggish staff recruitment and other issues continue to stymie the church’s education system at all levels across the nation.

In response to such pressing challenges, the La Sierra University School of Education, home of the groundbreaking CognitiveGenesis Adventist education project, is holding a first-ever National Summit on Adventist Education Oct. 20-23. The summit will bring together principals, teachers, professors, pastors and top education leaders from around the country to forge creative methods of transforming current obstacles into system-enhancing opportunities.

“A national conversation is needed on where we are and where we need to be going,” said Dr. Clinton Valley, dean of La Sierra’s School of Education. He and Dr. Elissa Kido, professor of curriculum and instruction and CognitiveGenesis project director, brainstormed the national summit last fall. “It’s not just a meet and greet session. We want some practical solutions and recommendations for the improvement of the education system nationally,” Valley said.

The summit is titled “Crossroads of Peril and Promise” and is co-sponsored by the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and La Sierra University. The conference will explore four areas of Adventist education: identity and mission; membership involvement; marketing and enrollment; and funding.

Researchers may submit papers based on these four conference themes for potential inclusion on a flash drive that will be distributed to all conference attendees. Or, they may be among those selected to present their findings to the entire conference. Additionally, some papers will be included in an upcoming conference-themed issue of the Journal of Adventist Education. The three-day event will also include three panel discussions by groups of principals, pastors and college/university presidents.

Valley hopes the summit will lead to additional events and conversations on the identified educational challenges and recommendations.

The North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists has 8,582 k-12 and higher education teachers and 879 schools including 15 colleges and universities. The Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists employs approximately 1,300 k-12 teachers, principals and superintendents in 150 schools.

“There are many, many people who think they can run Adventist education better than Adventist education, and we need to, as a system, listen to some of the voices,” said Larry Blackmer, vice president of the North American Division’s Office of Education. He believes several key issues are pertinent for discussion at the summit including the relevance of Adventist education to the Adventist church, and “vindicating the quality of Adventist education in the minds of our consumers,” such as through the results of the CognitiveGenesis study.

After Blackmer became vice president of education at NAD, the division decided to “start from scratch” with the educational system, he said, looking at how curriculum is developed, listing objectives and ensuring that proper decisions were being made for the right reasons and in quality ways. “We need new eyes to make sure we’re doing that in a manageable, intelligent, wise way. I’m hoping the variety of voices around the table at La Sierra will help us find ways to best do that,” he said.

“It’s a great way for principals and other education leaders to network and share ideas,” said Kelly Bock, director of the Pacific Union Conference Office of Education. “The whole issue of financing Adventist education is critical for us to consider. And we need to continue to return to our spiritual mission.”

“We hope people who come will leave with an enhanced ability to lead the future,” Bock said, that they will gain “confidence and a sense of urgency and mission for the future.”

Author and Pastor Shane Anderson will deliver a summit keynote address on Oct. 21 titled “Re-emphasizing the Essentials, Recognizing the Threats.” Anderson has written for a variety of Adventist publications and is the author of the recent book, “How to Kill Adventist Education (and How to Give It a Fighting Chance!).”  

Anderson is senior pastor of the campus church at Shenandoah Valley Academy and Shenandoah Valley Adventist Elementary School in New Market, Va. A frequent presenter at camp meetings, schools, and conference retreats, Anderson conducts training seminars in the areas of Adventist mission, post-modern ministry, lay-led churches, and most recently, school revitalization. He previously served 10 years in the Washington Conference as pastor and church planter.

The roster of presenters includes Harvard public health Professor David Williams. He  serves as the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health in the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Williams, a Seventh-day Adventist, is the most quoted African-American social sciences researcher in the country and is a sought after speaker internationally.  His talk, titled “Adventist Education in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities of a Changing Social Context,” will take place on Oct. 21 at 3 p.m.

Edwin Hernandez, a national researcher, will follow Williams with a presentation on “Diversity and Community.” Hernandez is the senior program officer for Research, Education and Congregation Initiatives at the DeVos Family Foundations and serves as the director of the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Hernandez is a member of the CognitiveGenesis advisory committee.

Additionally, the following education leaders will provide insightful and informative presentations: Lisa Beardsley, education director, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; Dale Twomley, principal of Fletcher Academy in North Carolina and former president/chief executive officer of Worthington Foods; Richard Duerksen, creative consultant for the North American Division and assistant to the president of Maranatha Volunteers International; and Richard Osborn, associate director, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

For further information about the La Sierra University National Summit on Adventist Education call Dr. Marilyn Beach, project assistant at 951-785-2997. Cost to attend is $195 per person for registration by Sept. 30. Conference attendees may receive a special $75/night rate at the Riverside Hampton Inn on Riverwalk Parkway. For future information about hotel accommodations and a summit event schedule, check the summit web page at


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)


  • Last update on  October 03, 2010