By Tim Hunt
New superintendent brings diverse experience to valleyUploaded: Nov 10, 2015
When Valley Christian School Superintendent Michael Chen returned to the Bay Area last summer, he was coming back to his college roots.
After growing up in Taiwan, he came to Cal to study physics. After his under-graduate career at Berkeley, he figured out that there were many students smarter than he was so he turned to education. He taught math and science for seven years at a Concord Christian school before realizing he could affect many more people in educational leadership than as a teacher.
That took him to Boston for 11 years (more later) to earn his doctorate and lead an innovative school, the experiences that paved the way to come to Dublin as the superintendent of the school on the west hill.
Now a Pleasanton resident with his wife, Brittany, and their two young children, he is enjoying the challenges and opportunities of the Christian education in Dublin as well as being back where he can attend Cal games and root for the Cal Bears (a real challenge for the past four games).
His mission in Dublin is to alter direction so it continues the mission of rigorous academics, but also teaches students to engage with the society and be active members of it, while rooted in their Christian beliefs.
“Faith-based education was born out of a separatist movement—separating from the larger culture. Parents do not want their children influenced negatively by the culture (a particularly understandable viewpoint given the post-Christian American culture today). I believe that Christian culture is transformative and we are called (individually) to be valid players in transforming the culture,” he told me in an interview.
Chen led a remarkable Boston Christian school that he joined when it was a start-up after he arrived on the East Coast. After deciding he wanted to pursue a doctorate in education, he applied to the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia in New York City. Out of the blue, the start-up in Boston called him and invited him for a visit.
He agreed to join that school and ended up leading what was a remarkably diverse student body—both ethnically and demographically. The student body broke down in relatively equal ethnic groups (30 percent black, 30 percent white, 20 percent Asian) and the economics ranged from students who needed financial help to attend to children from the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. More than 65 percent of the students received financial help.
The school raises $750,000 in donations annually and 100 percent of the graduates (remember of the student body mix) go on to college.
“The basis of the school is Christ’s love with academic rigor,” he said.
Whether Valley Christian will find that demographic mix without drawing students from a wider area remains to be seen, but the more important goal is teaching students to engage with and flourish as loving disciples of Christ in a culture that does not know him.