Edifying the Christian School Movement

The Need For CESA

The need for high-quality Christian schools is compelling. Enabling students to learn within the framework of a Christian belief system is a necessity for families who value such a distinct and valuable education. Therefore, providing a distinctive education to students has been and must remain a characteristic of Christian schools. Dr. Charles Glenn of Boston University suggests faith-based schools that are clear about what they stand for are successful because they have a clear vision for education. This vision includes a focus upon Christ and the virtues that pervade all activities within the Christian school. Likewise, this vision includes an understanding that all that is done within the Christian school is done with excellence, as if unto Christ.

As a result, Christian schools must be institutions of academic excellence. The reason for a Christian school’s existence is to be a school, a place of academic learning. Therefore, Christian schools must be institutions that seek excellence, providing the rigor and support necessary for students to thrive and the programs required to enable students to engage with and impact culture and society.

However, there has been a real tension between the values of academic rigor and discipleship. In many circumstances, Christian parents have been forced to choose between high academic standards in public or non-sectarian independent schools and their local Christian school’s desire to nurture the faith of the child, but not the intellect. Too often a commitment to discipleship and a commitment to academic excellence have stood in opposition to one another.

The Council on Educational Standards and Accountability insists that academic rigor and programmatic excellence in all areas are inherent to discipleship, not contradictory. As a result, CESA schools demand quality, commitment, rigor, and excellence in every facet of the school. CESA therefore works in conjunction with schools to enable growth, provide resources for improvement, and to hold accountable all schools who strive for programmatic distinction and excellence, for the glory of God.

Dr. Katie Wiens

Dr. Katie Wiens


Katie has an intimate history and knowledge of CESA. She played a role in its founding, and served as its original Director of Academic Advancement. In that position, Katie co-wrote the original CESA standards and helped develop the initial institutional review process. She also played a major role in organizing the early CESA symposia and heads retreats.

Through her work at Cardus, Katie wrote the Christian Education Survey, the famous “Cardus Study” that was part of the impetus for the creation of CESA. Katie has served on the faculties of Wheaton College, Boston University, Cairn University, and Kennesaw State University. She also served as Fellow and Scholar with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, working with Ashley Berner and James Davison Hunter on a 5-year study investigating moral formation in different school sectors. A portion of that work has recently been published in The Content of Their Character: Inquiries into the Varieties of Moral Formation (Hunter, J.D. and Olson, R. Eds. 2017).

Katie also has extensive experience in K-12 Christian schooling, having served as an administrator and faculty member at Boston Trinity Academy, The Clapham School, and Delaware County Christian School. She has her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of St. Thomas, and her doctorate from Boston University.

Katie can be reached at: kwiens@cesaschools.org

James C. Marsh, Jr.

James C. Marsh, Jr.


James C. Marsh, Jr. served as Head of School at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, Missouri for twenty-eight years before stepping down in July 2013. Jim currently serves as the Director of Reviews and Recruitment for the Council of Educational Standards and Accountability. He is a product of Christian elementary and secondary schools in northeastern New Jersey, and graduated in 1969 with a B.A. in Education from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1979. Jim has served as Board President of Christian Schools International (Grand Rapids, Michigan), member of the Board of Directors of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (Chicago, Illinois), Board member and president of the Independent Schools of St. Louis, and member of the faculty of the Van Lunen Center. He is a contributing author of the book Schools as Communities (James L. Drexler, Editor).

Jim can be reached at jmarsh@wcastl.org

Board of Directors

CESA exists as a Council, and therefore, after schools pass the Institutional Review, they become  Member of Council and a member of the Board of Directors (the Council) of CESA (the Council).  The Executive Committee of the Board is nominated by the Council and elected by the sitting Executive Committee.

Barry Giller

Head of School, Charlotte Christian School
Charlotte, NC

Tom Konjoyan

Head of School, Village Christian Schools
Sun Valley, CA

Vice President
Curt Masters

Headmaster, Brentwood Academy
Brentwood, TN

Past President
Jay Ferguson

Headmaster, Grace Community School
Tyler, TX

At Large Member
Kurt Unruh

Head of School, Valor Christian School
Highlands Ranch, CO

Bill McGee

Head of School, Legacy Christian Academy
Frisco, TX

At Large Member
Julie Ambler

Head of School, The Woodlands Christian Academy
The Woodlands, TX

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Barry Giller

Barry Giller serves as the vice chair of the Board of Directors for CESA. Barry joined the faculty of Charlotte Christian as Head of School in June 2010 and ushered the school into its 60th anniversary. As head of school Mr. Giller oversees the college preparatory school’s 180 employees and 1055 students grades JK to 12. A 1994 graduate of Wheaton College, he received his Bachelor of Arts in history/social science and a certification for secondary education. He also holds a master’s degree in educational leadership in Nova Southeastern University. Mr. Giller currently resides on the board of directors for North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association and Teaching Fellows Institute. Mr. Giller served six years as headmaster at Christian Heritage School, a private K-12 interdenominational Christian college preparatory school, in Trumbull, Conn. He joined Christian Heritage in 2001 as the upper school principal and was promoted to the headmaster position in 2004. Barry and his wife, Lisa, have seven children and are active members of Church at Charlotte.

Mission Clarity

CESA member schools are accredited, mission-driven, Christian institutions aspiring to be academically, programmatically, and institutionally excellent. 

Effective Goverance

CESA member schools commit to a model of leadership that includes a governing board, which formally (policy statement) and informally (daily practice) delegates the daily operation of the institution to the head of school who supervises the administrative team, faculty, and staff.  

Institutional Viability

CESA member schools follow best practices that demonstrate astute financial management, appropriate budget forecasting, and thoughtful short and long-term financial planning processes.  

Academic & Programmatic Distinction

CESA member schools shall provide high quality academic, artistic, and athletic programs designed to meet the mission of the school and to distinguish the institution as one of high quality.  

Sense of Coherent Christian Community

CESA member schools shall develop a Christian ethos rooted in a commitment to the Nicene Creed and/or Apostles Creed, the foundational tenets of Christian orthodoxy, that distinguishes them from other local public and independent schools and we should have a nice sense of community.

Schedule of Events

Monday, Jan 20th

Tuesday, Jan 21

Wednesday, Jan 22