Our CEO/president, Joel Westa
Who is Joel Westa?
- Born the son of a pastor, Joel spent his formative years in Brooklyn, New York, and northeastern New Jersey until college.
- He attended Kings College, where he was a music education major, and then served as a youth and music pastor in a church in Pennsylvania.
- From there he fulfilled a lifelong dream to become a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, eventually flying B-52s and becoming a wing commander. He progressed to become commander for an entire base with a population over 12,000. He became a professor at the Naval War College and later was the director of academic support at the Marine Corps University.
- In 2013, he became the superintendent of NorthPointe Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His career has spanned many continents and from one coast to the other in the U.S.
- Joel identifies his key attributes as being a Christ-follower, servant leader, and conscientious listener. He explains that the “only begotten Son of God serves as the example for how I am to live my life. He serves as the model for me of sacrificial service, obedience, and as the ultimate example of the servant leader.”
- Joel and his wife, Deborah, have four children and seven grandchildren.
How does Joel’s extensive leadership experiences benefit CSI?
- Joel had frequent opportunity to be involved in establishing effective organizational structure and design, which is something the board was looking for in order for CSI to continue to be a viable, relevant organization in the future.
- He has learned how to gather good people around him to provide knowledge and information that will shape a decision or initiative well.
- He is a listener and a collaborator, but he is also an implementer with courage and accountability.
- He has worked with a variety of other organizations that needed to discover ways to strengthen each other rather than duplicate services.
With limited time spent in a CSI member school, does he really “get it”?
- He is passionate about a reformed perspective that guides the integration of life and learning.
- He is a lifelong learner who desires to strengthen the connections the school has with the home and the faith communities around them.
- He is not blind to the challenges that culture places upon our students, staff and school families that move us away from our mission. He has experienced those same challenges at the school he serves presently.
- He chose to move into Christian education as a calling because he felt it provided the right preparation for the 21st century student.
What was the process that brought Joel to CSI?
The CSI board, after learning of Dave Koetje’s intention to retire at the end of the 2015 school year, began by considering both the present and the future state of CSI and also the leadership characteristics that were most needed by the next CEO to be well equipped to lead CSI into that future. The clear call was to create an organization that was relevant to our member schools and responsive to the challenges they are facing daily – to lead as well as serve.
The board then appointed a leadership transition team of CSI board members and others, including: Glenn Vos, former superintendent of Holland Christian Schools, Holland, Michigan (team co-chair); Henry Contant, executive director of the Society of Christian Schools in British Columbia and chair of the Christian Schools of Canada Board (team co-chair); Randy Kroll, head of school at Calvin Christian in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tom Dykhouse, representative for the US Pension and Benefits Board as well as head of school at Eastern Christian in North Haledon, New Jersey; Terry Kok, former CSI board member and head of school at Calvin Christian in Escondido, California; Jim Marsh, former chair of the CSI board as well as emeritus head of school for Westminster Academy in St Louis, Missouri; Diane Stronks, executive director of EDIFIED – the Ontario, Canada, teacher organization, a member of the Christian Schools of Canada board, and a representative for the Canadian Pension and Benefits board; and Jeff Blamer, vice president of member services at CSI.
The transition team interviewed every applicant by phone or in person. They interviewed six applicants in person and a few multiple times. They pursued references and finally made a recommendation to the board at its March meeting for a final interview.
Did we have a broad spectrum of applicants?
- The diverse pool of applicants had a variety of backgrounds and leadership experiences both including and outside of careers in Christian education.
- Experience in organizational structure and relevance as well as a broad range of leadership experiences was critical for any candidate that advanced through the process.
- A flexible timeline was outlined so that no candidate was eliminated on that basis.
- We also sought a number of suggested candidates to encourage them to apply and be involved in the process; we did not limit our process only to those who initiated the conversation.