In the early years of CCS, staff and students held an annual Easter Parade, walking through the streets of their as-yet largely underdeveloped neighborhood. IMAGE PROVIDED
After 46 years in education, Creswell Christian School (CCS) Principal Becky Lake is retiring, and as a result, CCS will close at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
The decision to retire was one that Lake, 66, made privately last August.
”I’ve always prayed I’d know when it was time to retire – that I’d know without a doubt,” she said. ”I’ve thought about (retiring) many times, but didn’t ‘hear’ anything, so I kept going. But right before school started something happened, and it was definitely something I knew that I knew, and I haven’t looked back.”
Lake and business partner Debby Hisey opened Creswell Christian Child Care Center (5Cs) in January 1977, providing daycare, preschool and kindergarten. In 1982, the pair added CCS to offer elementary through high school education; Hisey remained as director of 5Cs while Lake, who majored in Christian education, became principal of CCS.
CCS first shared space with 5Cs, ”but after a year we outgrew that,” Lake said. Seeking a suitable permanent home as it expanded, CCS was housed at Creswell Church of the Nazarene, then for several years at Creswell Presbyterian Church before George Wilson, then-pastor of Creswell Christian Church (now Hillside Church), located at 635 Holbrook Lane, invited the school to ”live” there.
”He invited Debby and I over and said he’d like to see a Christian school in the building, and they were setting it up to be capable of being a school,” Lake said.
Thus began a lengthy and fruitful partnership.
Because 5Cs and CCS are bundled into the same nonprofit – Creswell Christian School and Child Care Center – that entity would need to be dissolved, the two ”sister” schools legally separated, and new nonprofits formed to enable someone new to take over CCS. Despite the sometimes-ugly speculation that erupted on social media after Lake notified staff and parents on Jan. 26 of the school’s impending closure, Lake says it is for that reason alone that CCS is shutting its doors.
”The only reason we’re closing is because I am retiring – that’s all there is to it,” Lake said. ”I’ve heard some of the rumors, and I can say if they’re about anything other than my retirement, they’re false.”
5Cs, located at 380 Kings Row, will remain open, offering daycare, preschool and kindergarten – and at least one new school, Creswell Christian Academy, plans to open next fall to help fill the local school choice void left by CCS’s closure.
”That option to choose the kind of education you want for your child is important,” Lake said. ”I feel we’ve had a really good working relationship with (Creswell’s public schools), so it’s not about ‘better’ – just choice.”
And contrary to what many might assume, families have not chosen CCS solely for religious reasons. Lake said as many as 50 percent of CCS students aren’t necessarily Christian; their families chose CCS for its academic focus, small class sizes, the personal attention students receive, etc.
”We’ve really worked as a team to provide those things,” Lake said. ”I always felt from the beginning that this school was all about the kids: highly academic, with a spiritual foundation. The kids work very hard, but it is a family; they are loved and cared for, as well as taught,” Lake said. ”The entire staff have relationships with the kids; if they’re sad or mad or need help in any way, we’re here for them.”
Lake said that while she was dismayed by the unfounded online rumors and conjecture surrounding the school’s impending closure, she understands that families were caught off-guard by the need to find new schooling options for their children.
”Parents were counting on CCS to be here for their kids through high school, and now it’s not going to be here,” she said. ”I just hadn’t prepared fully for their reaction.”
Once the initial shock of her announcement passed, though, Lake said she’s been blessed with warm retirement wishes from many students, staff and parents, and appreciation for her years at the helm of CCS.
Parent Vanessa Dalton thanked Lake for her years of giving to CCS, the community and the Lord. ”I think often, ‘How do they listen to all of us, with all our individual points of view, and still find love for us?’ Amazing!” Dalton said. ”We are all so thankful for all the time put into getting things ready for all the families that have made a choice to register their children through the years at CCS. There’s nothing like a choice.”
Amber Macauley will be part of CCS’s final graduating class. ”The time and dedication Mrs. Lake has put into the school and the students is truly an inspiration,” she said. ”I have been going here since kindergarten and can honestly say I wouldn’t want to go to any other school. The students here don’t just feel like friends, they feel like family.”
Macauley said she ”cried a lot” upon learning her principal is retiring but is happy for her: ”She has been such a blessing in my life, and I am so glad she will be able to relax and spend time with her family,” Macauley said.
”I would like to thank the school for giving me and my brother a great education. Every day I feel like I come home with something new to tell my family,” said fourth grader Karaline Glenn, who’s attended 5Cs/CCS since infancy. ”I would like to tell Mrs. Lake how much I love her and appreciate what she has done for the school.”
While she will continue working a couple days a week, doing some book and administrative work for 5Cs, and will continue transporting her young grandchildren to 5Cs, ”I’m looking forward to more leisure time to do things I haven’t had time to do, including volunteering,” Lake said. ”I’m playing around with a lot of different thoughts.”
She cited more freedom to travel and do activities with her husband, Marvin, whenever he’s on vacation from his job at Peterson Pacific of Eugene as another retirement perk.
Asked what she’ll miss most about CCS, the answer comes readily: ”The kids – loving them, being there for them, helping them, supporting them,” Lake said.
It’s a personal and educational legacy of love and care that has enriched the lives of several decades of CCS students.
Staff member Debbie Demanett quotes Isaiah 40:31 – adopted as CCS’s school verse: ”But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
That verse ”has always been so fitting, but even more now with Becky’s retirement,” Demanett said. ”The hope and love that Becky has poured into the lives of so many CCS students over the years has truly planted the seeds that have helped them to soar.”