How to Create a Mission-Aligned Student Culture in a Collaborative Model Upper School

If culture eats strategy for breakfast, then what are some strategic initiatives we can devise for consumption that will replicate within our student bodies (their culture) the altruistic elements and distinctives of our classical, Christian, collaborative (CCC) schools?

At Veritas Academy (Austin TX), we make no apologies for surreptitious efforts to season our student culture with the core values and virtues of the school. In this workshop, we will present ideas and efforts that are intended to promote an atmosphere in our school and mindset in our students that reflect what we desire for them and their student community, highlighting in particular those opportunities that our unique model of CCC schooling better affords us.

We will also share freely of our failures, as well as our designs to end certain popular but non-mission-aligned events and traditions of our students, while encouraging the sharing of similar stories of successes and failures from other schools. This should be an engaging and constructive conversation between colleagues.

Jef Fowler

Jef Fowler is the long-time Head of School at Veritas Academy, a classical, Christian, collaborative school of more than 650 students gathered on its 97-acre campus at the southwestern edge of Austin in the bucolic Texas Hill Country. After unsuccessfully attempting to “kill this deal” 18 years ago when his wife, Starrla, said she was serious about pioneering this unique school model, Jef was soon prayed into the venture and co-founded the academy. He and Starrla continue to serve on the School and Trustee Boards as Jef attempts to put himself out to pasture, literally, on a tractor down in the valley field as the school’s next generation of leaders has emerged and is assuming greater responsibilities. (He has spent years watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette with his daughter (for training purposes), so he knows how to, like, use the word “literally.”) Jef & Starrla’s three children have all graduated from Veritas.

Troy Schuknecht

Troy Schuknecht is the Associate Head of School and long-time School of Rhetoric Head since he first joined Veritas in 2008 and effectively built the high school from scratch. Previous to that, Troy had taught science in public schools for six years and attended The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary before eventually completing his MDiv in 2016. Troy and his wife, Stevi (the school’s Director of College Advising) have four children, all of whom attend Veritas.

Head of School Panel Discussion for Collaborative Schools

Neil Anderson

Neil Anderson is the head of school at Trinity Classical School in Houston, TX.

Jef Fowler

Jef Fowler is the long-time Head of School at Veritas Academy, a classical, Christian, collaborative school of more than 650 students gathered on its 97-acre campus at the southwestern edge of Austin in the bucolic Texas Hill Country. After unsuccessfully attempting to “kill this deal” 18 years ago when his wife, Starrla, said she was serious about pioneering this unique school model, Jef was soon prayed into the venture and co-founded the academy. He and Starrla continue to serve on the School and Trustee Boards as Jef attempts to put himself out to pasture, literally, on a tractor down in the valley field as the school’s next generation of leaders has emerged and is assuming greater responsibilities. (He has spent years watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette with his daughter (for training purposes), so he knows how to, like, use the word “literally.”) Jef & Starrla’s three children have all graduated from Veritas.

Bret Billman

Bret Billman has been the Head of School since 2011. He and his amazing wife Sarah, have a son, Maddox, and a daughter, Olivia, who both attend Providence Preparatory School. The son of two educators, Bret grew up in Wichita, Kansas and attended Baylor University, where he received a BA and an MA in English Literature. At Providence, he has taught various levels of English and Logic, and continues to enjoy leading the school-wide Morning Chapel. Over the years, he has developed a passion for supporting family discipleship, and he leads a cyclical four-year program for students and parents to grow in their understanding of Scripture. He loves working with Providence teachers, students, and parents, and finds himself overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to serve in this position. Bret enjoys learning new things with his kids, playing board games, rooting on the Baylor Bears, shooting hoops, reading, and multiple other hobbies and interests that seem to change with the seasons. He lives in Temple and worships at Temple Bible Church with his family.