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Principal promotes quality' Christian education


August 01, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Looking for a school offering a "quality Christ-centered education"?

Try Grace Lutheran School in El Centro.

Grace Lutheran Principal Joe B. Dickerson said, "Quality means that our education curriculum is equivalent to or better than that the public sector in terms of standards expected. We strive for excellence in both our faculty and students; excellent meaning for us and better than average or better than expected.

"Christ-centered education refers to the fact that, although we use the state curriculum, our purpose for being is based in the Bible. Parochial schools like ours … strongly believe that education of children is the parents' responsibility. Our job is to help them provide that education in a Christian setting.

"Religion isn't a class that they take just once a day," Dickerson, 50, said. "Christian living and Christian expression … happen as a matter of course all day."


The school is state-accredited, adheres to state educational requirements and is eligible to receive federal monies. Qualified applicants from all races and religions are considered for enrollment.

"We follow the same nondiscriminatory policies that everybody else follows," Dickerson said.

Grace Lutheran is part of a system of 2,000 Lutheran schools in the United States run by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

"We're the largest Protestant school group in the world," Dickerson said, adding the system includes pre-schools, elementary and high schools and universities. "We aim to not only serve our own children that are members of our church but also the children who are members of other churches that don't have the opportunity to have a school."

The school has been in operation since 1984.

Dickerson said the school is undergoing changes, including the addition of a computer lab that will accommodate a full class of students and serve as a center for an after-school computer club, the addition of computers in certain classrooms, the reinstitution of Wednesday Bible school after school, cosmetic changes and the addition of two new faculty members.

One is Marcie Mallinger, who will teach first and second grade, and the other is Lonnie Mendenhall, who will teach seventh and eighth grade.

As principal, Dickerson is responsible for all of the church's educational services, such as Sunday school, Wednesday Bible school, vacation Bible school, adult Bible study and the school's educational services.

The school has about 100 students, with room for about 16 more. Dickerson said classrooms are shared by two school grades, except for kindergarten, a situation he expects to change in the next couple years as admissions in the lower grades increases. Grades K-2 are full, he said.

He suggests anybody interested in enrolling their child call the school for an interview appointment — with the prospective student. At the interview the school's programs will be explained. An application would then be filled out. There is still room for about 16 students in grades three through eight. Classes begin Sept. 5.

Dickerson said he and his wife, Joylyne, came to El Centro because they had traveled through the area many times on their way to a preaching station in San Felipe, an 800-mile round trip.

He's been principal since July 15.

"We were familiar with El Centro, familiar with Grace, and the opportunity opened," he said. "We love this kind of weather. We're used to the desert. We spent a number of years doing mission work in Australia."

Dickerson has 29 years in a teaching ministry, with 21 years as a principal. He most recently came from teaching eighth grade at Ascension Lutheran School in Torrance.

The Dickersons have two children: a son in Marine Corps boot camp and a daughter who is a junior at Concordia Lutheran University in Mequon, Wis., studying to be a Lutheran social worker.

Dickerson has a doctorate in educational administration from Nova Southeastern University in Fla. He earned a master's degree in educational administration from the University of Michigan.

He is involved with the education committee at the El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau.

For more information call Grace Lutheran at 352-4204.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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