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Pastor Caine is newest religion teacher and chaplain

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Damali Caine

I believe that God is calling me to an in-depth, in-reach ministry, and that’s the classroom. I get the opportunity to look them in the eye, to see the questions, to figure it out and answer it together. We do Bible study together.

Intentionality. That word pops up frequently in conversation with Pastor Damali Caine when talking about what's important to her. "We have to be more intentional about helping each other and in turn as we help each other we draw closer to Christ. I am intentional about relationship so much that when I teach the students I want them to see Christ for who He is in real form. That He is just as much present as He is in the Bible."

This has so much value to her because she's seen many young people leave their Christian faith. While growing up, she realized that many Christians gave the appearance of being very spiritual without being transparent about their Christian walk.

"They made it seem like they just appeared to be very spiritual and it just happened overnight, not knowing that it took time. That discouraged a lot of my peers because you thought that Christianity was unattainable," said Pastor Caine. "I want the students to know that a walk and a relationship with God is attainable."

That's also why Pastor Caine has chosen to teach religion rather than doing pastoral ministry. "I believe that God is calling me to an in-depth, in-reach ministry, and that's the classroom. There are a lot of students that if I was preaching from the pulpit I wouldn't be able to have real-life connection with. Teaching in the classroom I get the opportunity to look them in the eye, to see the questions, to figure it out and answer it together. We do Bible study together."

A new offering in the religion department at SLA is the option for one-on-one counseling. There is a class period available each day for students to talk with Pastor Caine. Pastor Caine, who holds a master's degree in human services counseling with an emphasis on marriage and family, has set up a safe space in the back of the classroom with a couple of bean bags.

"It's a cozy little corner where they have the opportunity to come and relax, and if there's any questions or concerns or anything they want to talk about, that little corner presents a different space than the rest of the desks and tables here. We can chat about anything they're going through," said Pastor Caine. "If there's any student who comes and expresses things that I feel I'm not able to handle, immediately I will let the principal know so that they can seek some outside counseling."

Pastor Caine is impressed with the Campus Ministries program already in place at SLA. She's looking at how she can enhance it, such as additional community service initiatives. For instance, she plans to do Operation Christmas Child with the Samaritan's Purse and has the goal of packing 300 shoeboxes with the students. She also plans on organizing mission trips, hopefully beginning next year.

Pastor Caine and her husband, Eric, have a two-year-old son, Nathan, who keeps them busy. The family moved here from Pine Forge Academy where Pastor Caine taught religion and Eric was assistant boys dean for the past three years. Pastor Caine also taught at Greater New York Academy and Union Springs Academy.

New faces and a facelift

Each school year is ripe with changes and possibilities, and this year South Lancaster Academy has that in abundance. We are welcoming our returning and new students with some new faces in the faculty and a facelift to the parking lot, athletics fields and gymnasium. 

Faces
We are pleased to welcome two new administrators to our team:

  • David Branum is the Principal (see July 2018 Fiat Lux)
  • Ginnie Hakes is the Vice Principal (see story below).

SLA also has three new academy teachers:

  • Damali Caine is the Religion Teacher/Chaplain. She comes from Pine Forge Academy in Pennsylvania where she taught religion. She relocated with her husband, Eric, and their young son, Nathan.
  • Veronica Iria is the Business/Technology/Art Teacher. She is not new to SLA as she's taught art here part-time, but now she is a full-time teacher taking over the business, technology and yearbook classes as well.
  • Karl Hernandez is the Maintenance/Transportation/Vocational Arts Director. He is well-known at SLA as a popular substitute teacher, but now is our full-time Maintenance Director and teaches woodworking and home repair.

We are happy each one has joined SLA to continue to share God's love while they educate our students.

Facelift
Perhaps the most obvious changes is on the school grounds itself. A newly designed parking lot and pick-up/drop-off zone increase safety and efficiency. Both athletic fields, one by the elementary building and one by the secondary building, were leveled for improved drainage and usability. The gymnasium got a fresh coat of paint with the school seal and Crusader logo gracing the walls.

We are extremely grateful to Allain Sitework and Comley Excavating, both alumni-owned companies, for their work on the parking lots and fields.

Good things are happening at South Lancaster Academy. God is leading, we are following.

Welcome to Vice Principal Virginia Hakes

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"I am very passionate about Adventist Christian education. I consider it an ACE. It has to be Adventist. It has to be Christian. And it has to be an Education. If it's none of those or any part of those are missing, we have a problem."

Our newest vice principal traveled across the United States to join us at South Lancaster Academy. Virginia (Ginnie) Hakes comes from Thunderbird Academy's elementary school in Arizona where she was a teaching vice principal.

Mrs. Hakes began her teaching career as a student missionary in Micronesia where she learned early on how to adapt, make things work, think on her feet, and keep things exciting for her 33 first graders with very few textbooks. Since earning her education degree from Southern Adventist University in 1991 and later a Master's degree in educational administration from North Carolina Greensboro, she has taught in many public and Adventist schools throughout the country. She has also taught music along the way.

"When we moved to Arizona I didn't have a job. We've always moved for my husband's position, he's a pastor, and he poised the question, 'Why don't you get into the public sector this time?'" says Mrs. Hakes. "I said, 'Honey, I don't feel called to do that. I need to be able to share my faith because it's as much as who I am as I am breathing in and breathing out every day. If I can't share my mission with these kids and help them get passionate about being in a relationship with Christ, I don't know if I can do my job.'"

Mrs. Hakes is very passionate about Adventist Christian education. "I consider it an Ace. It has to be Adventist. It has to be Christian. And it has to an Education. If it's none of those things or any part of those aremissing, we have a problem."

This time, the Hakes moved for Ginnie. Her husband, Jim, saw the job posting at SLA and encouraged her to apply. Pastor Hakes was the senior pastor at Paradise Valley Church in Phoenix and is now the pastor at Worcester Airport Church and Quinebaug SDA Church in Connecticut.

Although Mrs. Hakes is new to Massachusetts, she has some ties here. Her great-grandmother, Marion Simmons, graduated from AUC in 1933 and served as Elementary Education Superintendent at Atlantic Union Conference in the 1960s. Also, the Hakes honeymooned in New England.

The couple have two children. Anna is a sophomore at Union College in the International Rescue and Relief Pre-Med Program. Robbie is a freshman at Andrews University studying flight management and business information systems.

"I really want to help on the elementary level support these teachers in helping them feel confident in their positions, to help them with their spiritual growth as well as their academic leadership roles," says Mrs. Hakes. "I'm really excited to work with PK to 12. I just want to be there to help make the educating process for our young people easier for all concerned, be there for parents and help bring a team effort to everyone working together to make the best opportunity for our students possible."

Meet Principal David Branum

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"Adventist education is about helping our students find and follow Jesus, grow in that relationship and offer the best possible education we can provide. We have to stay cutting edge in every one of those aspects."

David Branum is South Lancaster Academy's newest principal. He comes with more than 30 years experience in Adventist education and 20 of those years as principal.

"I've worked in Adventist schools because I've got a genuine interest in our kids, in our church. We do a really good job teaching them what our religion is about, our policies and our beliefs, but I think we miss helping our kids develop that relationship with Jesus and helping them to grow that relationship," says Mr. Branun. "It's all about having that relationship with Christ first."

Mr. Branum was most recently the principal at Greater Boston Academy. He and his wife, Jane, moved to Massachusetts three years ago to care for her father in Orange. She is a native New Englander and works as a nurse at a care facility in Baldwinville. When this position opened up it was a good opportunity to shorten the commute. 

"I think Mr. Lambert did a great job and I'm looking forward to picking up where he left off. Keep moving things forward," says Mr. Branum.

His desire to move forward pairs with his philosophy of seeking improvement. "I'm not a big fan of 'that's how we've always done it.' I don't ever want to hear that," says Mr. Branum. "We have a pretty decent program, how can we make it better." 

Mr. Branum goes on to say, "As far as I'm concerned the education and the spiritual both weigh the same in our school system. We gotta have a quality educational program. We can't just rely on the fact that we'rean Adventist institution anymore. That doesn't cut it with the Millennials and the Gen Xers. Adventist education is about helping our students find and follow Jesus, grow in that relationship and offer the best possible education we can provide. We have to stay cutting edge in every one of these aspects."

It's no surprise then that Mr. Branum strongly supports professional development and a positive school climate. "I'm making sure I'm taking care of my teachers and my staff, making sure they have what they need to do the best job they can do. That means I'm going to have a happy staff. When I have a happy staff, I have happy students. It just permeates right down to the classroom."

The Branum's have two children, Tiffany, 30, lives in Washington D.C. and Sam, 23, lives in Lincoln, NE. The family lived in Lincoln for many years when Mr. Branum was principal at College View Academy. "They're great kids in spite of their parents," jokes Mr. Branum. "Love 'em to death."

Mr. Branum originally graduated with an accounting degree. He worked in that field for two tax seasons and decided that he needed more people interaction and switched to education. His first teaching job was at Pine Tree Academy. He taught for ten years then went on to a earn a master's degree in educational administration.

"I do a lot of listening my first year," says Mr. Branum. "I welcome parents and alumni to come in and chat with me about how they see the school and what they'd like to see."

Farewell to six staff members

We are having to say good-bye to several staff members at the end of this school year. Each of them has left an indelible mark on South Lancaster Academy committing countless hours of service to our students. Their work here was more than a job as they made it a true mission. We will miss each one. Our prayers go with them on their future endeavors.

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Jeffrey Lambert
Principal
Years at SLA: 11
Moving to Florida

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Jonathan Nino
Religion/Chaplain
Years at SLA: 10
Focusing on mission work

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Jon Nosek
Maintenance/Transportation/Vocational Arts
Years at SLA: 13
Retiring

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Theresa Robidoux
Vice Principal/Registrar
Years at SLA: 13
Transitioning to Assistant Education Superintendent at Southern New England Conference

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Elizabeth Sassone
Teaching Assistant
Years at SLA: 18
Retiring

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Patti Vandenbroek
Business/Technology/Yearbook
Years at SLA: 22
Retiring