Valley Grande Academy Will Likely Close After This School Year

(Spectrumbot) #1

Just weeks after the announcement that Mt. Vernon Academy in Ohio will cease operations at the end of the current school year, news broke that another Adventist academy will likely close this year as well. Leaders in the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted on February 26 to close Valley Grande Adventist Academy, a K-12 school in Weslaco, Texas.

KRGV, an ABC affiliate in the Rio Grande Valley was first to break the news that VGAA was in danger of closing. The KRGV article disappeared from the organization's website soon after its publication, but a cached version of the report revealed that a key issue in the school's imminent closure was funding, as was the case for Mt. Vernon Academy. While Mt. Vernon Academy needed $3 million to remain in operation, Valley Grande needed a little over $1 million to remain viable. For conference leaders, that was $1 million too much.

According to KRGV's article, court battles that began in 2005 between Valley Grande Manor (a nursing home run by Elder Care Management Services, Inc. on the VGAA campus that helps fund the school) and the Texas Conference played an instrumental role.  Since 1960, when Valley Grande Manor was established, funds from the facility have subsidized VGAA's operations to the tune of $450,000 per year, managed by the Valley Educational Foundation, according to a 2011 report Jiggs Gallagher wrote for Spectrum Magazine.

KRGV quoted VGAA board chairman Stephen Gifford as saying, “However, over a period of time, the Texas Conference decided they would take it over.” According to school leaders, that also meant appropriating funds from the operation of the nursing home.

Gallagher wrote in his 2011 article,

Financial problems at ElderCare began in 2004 when [Glen] Hamel and his group chose not to renew insurance coverage through the General Conference’s insurance program. Hamel says the coverage was not mandatory; it appeared they were conserving cash at a difficult time. Rather than negotiating with Elder Care, the foundation directors sued ElderCare to force their eviction for alleged violations of their lease agreement.

Legal skirmishing went on for five years until Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor ruled the lawsuit had no basis. The cost of the legal battle neared $1 million for the foundation. Meanwhile, Elder Care continued making payments of $450,000.

The VGAA Alumni Association petitioned the Texas Conference to use reserve funds from conference coffers to refund the foundation's legal costs. Conference constituents denied that request. Since then, the Alumni and the school board have been locked in a struggle with the Texas Conference over the future of the school. 

“We want the conference to give us $10 to $12 million to make up for what they have siphoned away from us. They owe it to this school. Instead of trying to close it, they ought to be trying to figure out ways to keep it open,” Stephen Gifford told KRGV.

Valley Grande Academy was established in 1911 as a regional association of Christian home schooling. In 1937, it moved to its current home in Weslaco.

While conference leaders have decided that the school must be closed, the alumni association and school leaders won a temporary injunction preventing the school's closure, and so the battle over the future of Valley Grande Adventist Academy continues, at least for now.

See also: "I AM VGA," an appeal to save the school told from Valley Grande Academy's point of view on the Valley Grande Adventist Academy Facebook page.


Jared Wright is Managing Editor of

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

it might be time foe a large local church to set up an on-line school. The Youth a Pastor as principal and retired church members as mentors.Tom Z

(George Tichy) #3

If any business, like a school, is loosing* money it should be closed asap. There are public schools available around. And for those who don’t like them the church should create an online school. Why is it not happening yet? Or is it?

*I acknowledge that @sherlock1d called my attention for this typo. Please read “losing” instead of “loosing.” I am thankful that @sherlock1d was so nice and sensitive as he chose his words with such a finesse when he addressed me on this issue.


This article is light on detail.

How many students attend this school? What is the capacity and strategy to grow? Schools should become financially sustainable across the board and not be reliant on perpetual operating handouts for the long term. Handouts should be geared towards capital requests (buildings, land etc) and matched with strategies to grow and become a school of spiritual and academic excellence. But to achieve this the church leadership firstly need to recognize that you can’t run schools like you always have with poorly paid teachers and staff. Adventist schools are run like a poor charity. Fast food workers can potentially earn more money. We expect too much with little reward from the “workers” and meanwhile the administration who are chartered with strategy, operate with no vision or desire to change. More school closures are inevitable. Very sad.

(Steve Mga) #5

WORKING church members can ALSO be Mentors, or Tutors.

(Ian Cheeseman) #6

There is an online school in British Columbia that has been operating for a number of years.

(George Tichy) #7

This is good to know.
But, you know…, I am not sure that the American Pride will be that easy to overcome. Closing schools that run on increasing deficit is just common sense. And as technology evolves, people need to stop being stubborn and start to keep up with the modern technological resources. Why not, isn’t it?

(Winona Winkler Wendth) #8

Online education, especially on the secondary level, is complex and expensive—even training for college professors, whose relationships with their students is less immediate, is extensive, for example (some for-profit schools short-change their students by requiring relatively little and are constantly monitored by various agencies because their graduation or completion rates are unacceptably low). And here we bring up accreditation issues, as well: educators are not only expected to know their content, but pedagogy, as well, from formative and summative assessments throughout a course, which, in turn, must begin with appropriate expressions of goals, objectives ,and outcomes. Learning is a complicated process that can’t be reduced to those booklets The Home Study Institute used to put out fifty years ago, and finding certified teachers, to begin with, is difficult, let alone those trained in online education. Think, too, of requiring students to have access to appropriate hardware at home, providing texts, adapting them to online learning, and monitoring educational activities. And then, secondary students do not have a cohort of others who are studying the same things at the same time—a valuable part of being an adolescent student. Online education is not a series of emails. It can be done at some expense, but strategic planning and provisions for person-person interaction on a regular basis requires quite a bit of time and a team of teachers and administrative personnel to do it. Not a bad idea if one knows how to do it and has up-front money and a good strategic plan. Retired or currently working church members are not any more able to teach high school students online than a good mechanic can put together a functional Prius.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #9

I am suggesting that the General Conference expand their offerings at a reasonable price. I had a daughter, due to illness completed a year at home. the cost was less than a boarding Academy… Tom Z

(Winona Winkler Wendth) #10

These extenuating circumstances are quite different from putting together an online curriculum for teenagers. I believe that the GC does operate an online series of courses precisely for those circumstances that take someone away from campus for a while through Andrews. But they might be only college courses, which wouldn’t have helped an academy age student. Extending those offering to students who are out of school for a semester or two would be a good idea. Has anyone brought this up to Andrews / Griggs? The ideal would be something for academy aged students that is like the Adult Degree Program that AUC had run successfully until the institution closed; I believe that it moved to Southwestern. This program was a low-residency one that both delivered a curriculum and provided an in-person cohort and extended (10-14 days a semester) exchanges with professors. The overall costs would be less than a boarding school, certainly, but would still give students a foundation in Adventist education and our unique approaches to Truth.

(Elaine Nelson) #11

When something is dying, it cannot be continually given life support as it will only prolong the death. SdA academies are dying, although at a different pace, but it will not be long that their costly maintenance will be too much but only a few that are in large institutional areas.

The parents are speaking: they no long consider only SdA academies as THE choice but know that there are great public high schools that allow their very young children to live at home under Mom and Dad’s eyes, not some RA. With more parents preferring non-SdA academies, it is inevitable that more will be closing in the future.

ONLY if the church realized that evangelism begins with their youth would this change. But their focus has always been on new, former “worldly” to convert. This is definitely not working in the NAD and other first world countries.

(Ian Cheeseman) #12

I guess American Pride would not allow you to accept government aid like we do in some of the Canadian provinces. In fact, in BC the government gives 50% of the amount it gives public schools for operating, to qualifying private schools. Qualifications for such aid are administered by an Independent Schools Department in the Ministry of Education. They have normally evaluated the school’s operation on the basis of what the school’s objectives were. I believe they have some stipulations as to how the grant can be used; mainly operating areas as I recall. When we started getting the aid about 1984 there were those who commented that if you get government aid, the government can close you down. The problem with that line was that the government of the province could close you down whether you were accepting aid or not.

(Sherlock1) #13

Costs, federal and state law changes, and politics within the church have made a large contribution to the diminishing of the SDA boarding school. Even so, the cost of warped curriculum and indoctrination within the public schools is an even larger cost when considering the life of the developing mind of one’s children. Sure, public schools do have their good points, but the negatives can be very costly and life affecting, so parents make their choices.

Our SDA schools have been given life support from their very beginnings because it took the believers everything they had to start them and maintain them in terms of finances and time. That is still the case today but materialism and greed has been gradually creeping into the hearts of many. Many people send their children to academy and do not pay the bill to do so, creating a perpetuation of financial issues.

Homeschooling is an excellent choice but it is not for everyone for many reasons, and good high school years are even more limiting for families. Abilities and time are major decision makers and the cost to have only one income earner so the other can do the homeschooling is far more costly than sending a student to a boarding academy. Many households require two incomes to keep up with the economy, which in turn affects so many other decisions within one’s home.

Seems to me, that we are experiencing what we were warned about years ago.

(Sherlock1) #14

“loosing” money… closed asap. ? Really George?? Jumping to the final option is your answer?

If you went to public school and they taught you to use the grammar of “loosing” rather than the correct grammar of “losing” then they failed you in your education. So much for public school.

(jeremy) #15

what was the rationale for the texas conference stepping in to manage the funds flowing from eldercare’s valley grande manor to valley grande adventist academy…was it really because eldercare elected not to renew its insurance through the conference…to me, this looks like the beginning of the slide south…

(George Tichy) #16
  1. Why don’t you make a “smart” comment in this blog every time there is a typo?

  2. I am the product of SDAs schools, from grade 1 to end of college.

  3. I know very well the difference of those two verbs. Like in this generic example: “It seems that your tongue is a little ‘loose’ and sometimes you ‘lose’ your mind and make inappropriate comments.”

  4. Even if I had made a mistake, I would still have a kind of an excuse: It may happen when people speak FIVE languages fluently. (You may not have known this). English was the one I learned last (still learning).

  5. I am correcting the typo. And crediting you for the immense help and finesse.

(Carolyn Parsons) #17

Spectrum covered the constituency meeting that dealt with the political turmoil around this issue.

(David Read) #18

I talked to Glen Hamel last Monday for an article on this I was preparing for ADvindicate. Hamel is an Adventist and was the head of ElderCare, the company that was operating Valley Grande Manor, and paying the lease payments to Valley Educational Foundation for the support of the Academy. Hamel and I discussed the insurance issue, and he stated that at that time in Texas (2005) nursing home insurance was simply unavailable, because of a slew of “bed sore” cases. He stated that for one million in coverage he would have to pay MORE than $1 million dollars in premiums. (If you look on page six of Justice O’Connor’s opinion, she states that more than half of Texas nursing homes were going without any malpractice insurance.) Hamel stated that, for the operator the conference wanted to replace him with, they were willing to allow only $250,000 in insurance and allow that operator to self insure. So Hamel very credibly insists that the insurance issue was pretextual; the conference officials just wanted a different operator, one more to their liking. And ultimately Sandra Day O’Connor agree with Hamel that the conference did not deal with him in good faith:

The bottom line is that most Adventist academies would absolutely love to have $400,000 coming in every year before tuition and before local church and conference educational subsidies. If we can’t make a go of an academy with that kind of advantage, then Adventist parochial education is dead indeed.


Is that really correct?

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #20

Any comparison to Mt. Vernon leads to misunderstanding of the issues at Valley Grande. It’s a legal hot mess at the Texas academy.