Image: About NLA

Head of School Search

Head of School Search

The Governing Council (GC) is fully committed to finding the best leader for New Life Academy. The GC, along with the Head of School (HOS) Search Committee, have embarked on a national Head of School Search with the objective of identifying the most qualified and most experienced leader for our school.

Communication Archives

Dear NLA community,

It is with great joy and a grateful heart for God’s gracious provision that I share with you we have selected Mr. Clark Gilbert to serve as NLA’s Head of School for the 2017-18 academic year and beyond.  After many months of diligent process and prayer, with input from our parent, faculty and administrative advisory teams tied to our earlier NLA community survey and focus group work, the Search Committee unanimously and enthusiastically recommended Mr. Gilbert to the full Governing Council and New Life Church Elders.  That recommendation has been received and affirmed, so we are eager to introduce you to our next Head of School.

Mr. Gilbert comes to us from Tri-City Christian School in Vista, California, a PreK-12 school, where he has spent the past 10 years serving as Head of School.  Prior to that, Mr. Gilbert spent 22 years at Santa Fe Christian School in Solona Beach, California, a premiere K-12 Christian School, where he served as a teacher, Athletic Director, High School Vice Principal and Middle School Principal. His deep personal faith, his passion for Christ-centered education and his wealth of leadership experience make him an outstanding choice to lead New Life Academy into its future.

Mr. Gilbert holds a Master of Arts in Education Administration from San Diego State University, CA (1991) and a B.A. degree in History and Secondary Education from Wheaton College, IL (1985). Mr. Gilbert met his wife Beverly when they were both students at Wheaton. They have been married for 29 years and have two grown children that are products of a K-12 Christian education. Beverly is also an educator, having spent many years teaching math and computer science in the public-school system.  She is currently Director of Professional Development for a national Charter School organization. They both enjoy reading, sports and being outdoors. Having both grown up in the Midwest region, they are looking forward to returning to the Midwest and making Minnesota their home.

Clark Gilbert

Thank you for your prayerful support during the search and selection process!  We are confident that God has responded to our prayers and will continue to empower the Academy to energize and educate each of our students and community to impact the world for Jesus Christ under Mr. Gilbert’s experienced leadership.

Please join us at the NLA “Game On” Auction on April 1, 2017 where you can meet Mr. Gilbert personally and help us welcome him to our school community.  It is going to be an exciting evening you won’t want to miss!


Steve Tourek, Chair
NLA Governing Council

Dear New Life Community,

Our Head of School search is progressing and we continue to be prayerful and hopeful as we look for the future leader of our school.  As of today, our search consultants have contacted over 600 school leaders on our behalf and continue to have conversations with prospective candidates and networking contacts.  Both the Parent and Faculty Search Advisory Teams were formed following your nominations and are listed on the right. These Advisory Teams have met together for an orientation session, crafted their interview questions and are prepared to interact with candidates that are invited onsite for in-person interviews.  The Search Team has reviewed candidate materials and will begin to interview several pre-qualified candidates in the next few weeks.  As we continue to move ahead in the search process, we invite your prayers for God’s wisdom to lead and guide each step of the way.  Also, please pray for wonderful administrative team, faculty and staff who provide an amazing educational experience for our students and all who are part of the NLA community.  

Thanks for the part you play and for joining with us in prayer for our next Head of School.


HOS Search Committee

Dear NLA Community,

As you know, our school is in a search for its next permanent Head of School. We ask that you continue to pray for the search as we actively seek qualified candidates. In preparation for this next phase, we would like to form a NLA Faculty and a NLA Parent Search Advisory Team (SAT). These teams will participate in an interview with each of the candidates invited to an onsite interview at our school.

We would like to invite you to nominate someone you know to serve on this team. Each SAT (one for parents, one for faculty, one for administration) will be comprised of nine representatives. Qualifications for this role include:

  • Available . Able to make participation a priority. This includes attending an orientation meeting with the consultant, 1-2 group planning meetings, and 2-3 candidate interviews. In total we are asking for 6-8 hours of time.
  • A good team member.  Willing to engage and participate without dominating. Does not have to speak first. Draws out and encourages the participation of others.
  • Listens to others and values their input .
  • Communicates appropriately. Willing to speak up, but not given to emotional responses, rather thoughtfully and respectfully expresses questions and ideas.
  • Follows through. Feedback from SAT members is essential, so the SAT member must be willing to follow through and provide the needed feedback to the Search Team in a time sensitive manner.
  • Seeks unity. Is not driven by personal agenda and places the needs of New Life Academy and unity within the team above personal preferences.
  • Able to keep confidences. Much of what will occur within the selection process will be confidential. If you must talk about something outside a team meeting, please call a fellow team member to discuss rather than talking with your spouse, friend or fellow school constituent. Some people struggle to keep confidences. If that is true of you, then please decline to participate on the SAT and choose to serve the school in another way.
  • Willing to pray . The ideal SAT member is willing to pray for the search, for the search team, the next HOS, and for their discernment in the process.

Please submit your nominations to by Friday, November 4 at noon, five days from now.

Nomination does not guarantee participation. As there are only nine spaces, it is likely that some who are nominated will not be called on to participate on the Search Advisory Team. The NLA Search Team will be looking to balance representation on the teams so that a broad cross-section of our school is represented in the process. This balance includes things like elementary/secondary representation, gender, age range, student grade level, tenure at the school, etc. Once nominations have been closed the Search Team will review prospective names and contact individuals personally to extend an invitation to participate. Once the teams have been formed, they will be announced to the school community.

Thank you for your continued investment in New Life Academy. We welcome your input and look forward to gathering your nominations.

NLA Search Committee

Dear NLA Community,

Thank you to everyone who completed last month’s survey regarding our search for a permanent Head of School. The level of participation was impressive, with 337 responses, and the Search Committee is grateful for your feedback and insights.

The survey results indicate a vast majority of what is happening at New Life Academy is effective, positive and satisfying. When compared to the same assessment results from 2011, NLA showed improvement in every area. The school has made real progress over the past five years and these results show that our school community is eager to continue that positive momentum, and to be energized through a clear vision and improved spiritual and academic focus. NLA is healthy and blessed, with tremendous potential for an even greater future.

Below are a few key themes that emerged from the survey that will be used to guide us during the search process.

Our community values:

  • Spiritual, character and value development of students.
  • Academic excellence and continued progress.
  • A connected school community that fosters close relationships with like-minded families.

Top-ranked priorities for the next Head of School:

  • Strengthen the spiritual development of students.
  • Continue to Improve academic performance.
  • Develop more effective and creative approaches to reach our vision.

Most important professional qualifications for the next Head of School:

  • Demonstrated ability as a Head of School with significant experience growing a school.
  • Capacity to provide decisive leadership.
  • Ability to build a team, retain high quality staff and work collaboratively with various groups.

Most important characteristics for next Head of School:

  • Spiritually mature faith.
  • Outgoing and personally engaging with the ability to bring out the best in people.
  • Focused on excellence with the ability to innovate to move the school forward.

Areas of greatest potential:

  • Growing in service to others outside our NLA community on both a local and global level.
  • Enforce internal consistency on all policies.
  • Improve communication of our vision between all NLA constituencies (parents, teachers, administration).

The response to the survey, including the many valuable comments that were provided during the focus groups, reinforces the Search Committee’s belief that the Governing Council, Faculty, Staff and the larger NLA community are very much aligned in our expectations for our next permanent Head of School. You can be assured your thoughts, concerns and desires are at the forefront of our minds as we conduct our search.

Please continue to pray as we now move into the next phase of our search. Under the leadership of the right Head of School, exciting days await.

Steve Tourek
Chair of Search Committee
Chairmen of Governing Council

As you know, the permanent Head of School Search process is underway. This week you were emailed a link to a survey. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, we ask that you please do so soon.

In addition to the survey, a consulting team from NL Moore & Associates will be coming on site Sept 14-16 to gather insights and gain an accurate description of the candidate who will “fit” the culture and expectations of our school. Following this on site visit they will develop an accurate candidate profile for our next Head of School. As a valued part of our school community we want to hear your thoughts and perspectives as we develop this profile, so we invite you to participate in a focus group. No preparation is needed and each group will last about 45 minutes.

If you did not receive the link for either the survey or the focus group, please contact

You are invited to help New Life Academy’s Governing Council prepare for the permanent Head of School Search. Please click on the link below to complete the Listening Post Assessment for New Life Academy. Your input is very important to this process and we appreciate your willingness to participate.

We ask that you take the on-line assessment as soon as possible, but before Friday, Sept. 16 at 9 p.m. All answers are confidential. We have no way of matching any assessment to a particular person, so please feel free to candidly share your perceptions, opinions and experiences. The assessment will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Please set aside enough time to complete the survey all at one time. This email link is not transferable, so please do not forward it to others.

(note: the link has been removed for this webpage to limit the survey access to the NLA community. If you did not receive an email with the link, please contact

As with any journey, we have to know where we are in order to plan the best route to where we intend to go together. With God’s blessing and your participation, exciting days are ahead!

Thank you,

New Life Academy Governing Council

Dear NLA Community,

As you may know, New Life Academy’s Governing Council is engaged in a season of discernment as it searches for our new Head of School (HOS). We are grateful for the service and leadership of Lynn Atkinson this year as Interim Head of School. This gives the Governing Council the opportunity to listen and learn what is needed in the next leader of NLA. Your input is an important part of this process. We are asking for your help to better understand

We are inviting all of our parents, faculty, staff and administration to participate in an online assessment called the Listening Post. The results of this assessment will provide insight as we craft next steps in our search process. Your response is very important to us.

In a few days you will be receiving an email with a link to the Listening Post assessment. Parents from the same household are welcome to use a single electronic link to participate in the assessment, but each individual should take the assessment only once. Please watch for this important email on Monday and respond immediately.

In the meantime, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact , Chair of Search Committee and Governing Council.

New Life Academy Communications

Dear New Life Community,

As we begin to launch the search process for a new Head of School, we are delighted to announce that the following individuals from our community have agreed to serve on the Head of School Search Committee. The committee members represent our parent, alumni and GC communities and are enthusiastic about serving in this role.

The committee members are:

Steve Tourek, Chair
Parent (Charles ’18, Olivia ’12)

Gary Maas
Parent (Jacqueline ’13, Madeline ’16)

Mike Brocker
Parent (Joshua ’14, Danielle ’19, Bethany ’21, Rachel ’23, Zechariah ’25, Ben ’06, Jenni ’06, Matthew ’10, Jonathan ’11)

Jim Kirkwood
Parent (Kelly ’03, Kristin ’05)

Michelle Schumacher
Parent (Lauren ’19, Blake ’23)

Susan Frazier
Parent (Morgan ’13, Ty ’15, Noah ’17)

Keith Freeburg
Grandparent (Lindsey ’23, Jeremy ’14, Trevor ’13)

Nancy Moore
Parent (Katie ’08, Ashley ’11)

The Goal of the Head of School Search Committee is to conduct the search and at its conclusion, recommend a Head of School candidate to the GC for review and approval. The Search Committee, along with NL Moore & Associates search firm, will actively engage the NLA community for input and participation during the search process. The first opportunity for participation will be a survey at the end of August so please watch for an invitation at that time.

The Search Committee will keep the NLA community informed about the search process while respecting the confidentiality of the candidates. A webpage has been established as a central place to provide updates, news and frequently asked questions.

In addition to active participation, we invite all parents and students to pray for God’s wisdom to lead us in selecting our new Head of School.


New Life Academy


We are here to educate and energize each student to impact their world for Jesus Christ and to reach their full potential in scholarship, leadership, and service out of love for God and one another.

Purpose and Role of the GC:

The Governing Council was established in 2010 to function as the equivalent of a board of directors providing oversight over the mission and operations of NLA. Its primary responsibilities are to validate the financial and operational strategic plans to ensure the long term viability of the Academy, and to select and oversee the performance of the HOS. The Council meets monthly to provide guidance, support and feedback to the HOS when desired and to discuss long term strategic issues of importance to NLA. There are four standing working committees of the GC which meet regularly: Finance, Development, Trustees and Head Support and Evaluation. Committees consist of Trustees (Council members) and invited members from the NLA community at large with interest and expertise germane to the work of the committee.

Role of New Life Academy Governing Council

Search Firm and the Search Process:

We will be working with Nancy Moore and the team at NL Moore & Associates, a consulting group that works nationally with Christian schools and churches in leadership search and selection. NLA worked with Nancy in 2010 in the search that brought Cade to NLA 5 years ago and we look forward to a similar successful partnership in this transition. Nancy has 10 years of experience and a terrific national network in Christian education. But more importantly she knows and cares about NLA. She and her family have been part of the NLA community for years as both her daughters are graduates (2008 & 2011), and she is a current member of the Governing Council and the Head Support & Evaluation Committee (HSEC). We know she will do her utmost to ensure we have access to the very best potential candidates. For more information about NL Moore & Associates you can visit

NL Moore & Associates takes an evidence-based approach to leadership transitions. It is an inclusive, transparent front-end process that invites your input and listens to the “common voice” that emerges at NLA. Look for further communication throughout the process that invites your participation. The steps included and typical timeline is outlined below.


Head of School Search Process

Dear New Life Community,

The Governing Council is responsible to make certain that there is a thoughtful plan in place that will accomplish New Life Academy’s mission of delivering an exceptional Christian education and to ensure that its leaders are capable of executing it. In other words, we’re accountable for validation of strategy as well as leadership selection and succession. In 2011, we led the search which brought Cade Lambert to NLA and put in place the long-term strategic plan which has guided our collective efforts over the past 5 years.
With a firm trust in God’s leading, I am writing to inform you that Cade has accepted an offer to become the Head of School at Des Moines Christian Academy for the 2016-17 school year and beyond. Since learning of Cade’s decision, we’ve developed a thoughtful plan to find his successor while continuing to advance our strategic plan. Lynn Atkinson has graciously agreed to serve as our Interim Head of School for the 2016-17 academic year, during which time we’ll conduct a national search for NLA’s next leader. The Governing Council will work closely with the administrative leadership team and faculty to ensure NLA’s continued success. We’re a strong and vibrant organization, possessed of an excellent strategic plan which, with God’s continued provision, will lift the Academy to even greater heights.

After five years of impressive leadership here, God has called on Cade to return to Iowa. Make no mistake, this is God’s leading. Our selfish desire would be for Cade to remain in his current role. NLA has been blessed with impressive accomplishments over the last five years which include the following:

  • Successful capital and construction campaigns, which added 23,000 square feet to our facility, including 3 secondary classrooms, 2 early education classrooms and a Great Room, as well as the remodeled Eagle Court and the cafeteria.
  • A growing and impactful culture of giving characterized by generous support from our community with an ever-increasing number of families participating in and raising the contributions realized in our annual campaigns and auctions.
  • Improved student test scores, implementation of differentiated instruction, intervention and enrichment approaches to better meet the needs of our students, and a high school graduation rate of 100%. More than 98% of our graduates earn college degrees.
  • The establishment and expansion of our Early Education Program, which now offers 13 sections and serves 171 students.
  • Many fine arts recognitions and Spotlight drama awards as well as athletic conference championships and state titles too numerous to list.
  • Implementation of a disciplined financial model, which ensures institutional viability that strikes the right balance between mission and financial sustainability by setting tuition to cover the actual hard costs of education yet also provides financial assistance to those who qualify. For tuition that is less than half of the per-pupil amount spent in metro area public schools, we deliver superior results in a Christian environment focused on preparing students for life.
  • Support for teaching excellence and enhancement of professional development among a deeply motivated, student-focused faculty. Student and parent surveys consistently rate this aspect of NLA as one of its most significant and valuable qualities.

We will miss Cade to be sure and wish him every success in his new position. Indeed, we’ll have a celebration later in the year to send Jen and him off to Iowa with our heartfelt gratitude. Yet, Cade would be the first person to emphatically state that, in no uncertain terms, NLA’s successes over the last handful of years were not his. They were the fruit of the talent and impressive effort brought to bear by our experienced leadership team and staff, of the teaching and mentoring of our excellent faculty, and of the strong financial contributions and encouragement of our families, volunteers and supporters. Christian education is, and will always be, a collective endeavor.

As noted earlier, we are very pleased to announce that Lynn Atkinson, our current Secondary Principal, will serve as NLA’s Interim Head of School for next year. Lynn previously served in this capacity with distinction while we were pursuing our Head of School search in 2011. He knows our mission, our faculty, our students, and our families well, having coached, taught, and served as an administrative leader at NLA for the better part of two decades.

The administrative leadership team which Cade developed and aligned to serve our mission will remain intact. This team was instrumental in bringing about the many accomplishments I’ve mentioned in addition to others. They’ve been developing next year’s annual plan of action, which will move forward under Lynn’s leadership. Most importantly, the educational engine of NLA—our faculty—remains vitally engaged in the mission of delivering an excellent Christian education to your children.

Change is never comfortable, but it can be very good. It stretches us. It’s an opportunity to live out our trust in God’s faithfulness. We’ve been here before. We know that God is already moving in the heart of NLA’s next Head of School, paving the way for a favorable response to our search, much as He led Cade to us in 2011. We’re in an even stronger position to successfully complete a national search than we were five years ago. We have an experienced Governing Council, which will oversee the process to identify Cade’s successor. We’ll be assisted by the same highly experienced search professional with whom we’ve worked very successfully in the past. Further communication about our Head of School search process and the opportunities for your input will be forthcoming over the next several months. Once again, we’ll be utilizing surveys, focus groups, and advisory committees to inform our process. Given the rhythm of the academic calendar and the preparation required before active solicitation of candidates, the search process will begin in earnest in August.

We have much for which to be grateful. Cade’s been a strong leader with a passion for Christian education. We will miss him, but we’re excited to discover what God will do next at NLA. As for the Governing Council and the administrative leadership team, we’ll focus our attention on collaboration with Cade and Lynn to finish this academic year well and to finalize our plan for a seamless transition of leadership heading into next year. Our overarching objective remains to assist parents in fulfilling the important responsibilities of ensuring your children are ready for citizenship, work, and life in the 21stcentury. We want them to grow into confident, compassionate, competent, and courageous individuals who work well in teams, are able to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively, and become self-directed, lifelong learners. Even more importantly, our desire is to enable them to grow in their Christian faith and discipleship to Jesus and to help them discover and develop their unique talents and abilities in service to others as part of God’s redeeming work. Please know that during this time of change, our direction is constant and our vision is firmly fixed on our mission. At times such as this, I’m reminded that the answer to life’s unpredictability is to focus on what is certain: God’s goodness, His provision, and His grace.


Steve Tourek
Chairman of the Governing Council

Frequently Asked Questions: Search Process

Who is leading the search process?

The Governing Council is responsible for selecting the Head of School. To facilitate the search process, the GC contracted NL Moore & Associates and created a Search Committee to conduct the search and, at its conclusion, will recommend a Head of School candidate to the GC for review and approval.

What is the role of the Head of School Search Committee?

The Head of School Search Committee is committed to a transparent and inclusive process in selecting our new Head of School. We will balance our goal of keeping the community informed about the search as well as respecting the confidentiality of the candidates.

Why did NLA choose NL Moore & Associates?

NLA chose Nancy Moore and the team at NL Moore & Associates, a consulting group that works nationally with Christian schools and churches in leadership search and selection. NLA worked with Nancy in 2010 in the search that brought Cade to our school and we look forward to a similar successful partnership in this transition. Nancy has 10 years of experience and a terrific national network in Christian education. But more importantly she knows and cares about NLA. She and her family have been part of the NLA community for years as both her daughters are graduates (2008 & 2011), and she is a current member of the Governing Council and HSEC. We know she will do her utmost to ensure we have access to the very best potential candidates. For more information about NL Moore & Associates you can visit

What is the role of current parents, alumni & students?

Parents, alumni and students as well as teachers and staff will be invited to participate in a school-wide survey, Listening Post, enabling you to speak into the process. In addition to active participation in surveys, focus groups and interviews, we invite all parents and students to pray for God’s wisdom to lead us in selecting our new Head of School.

How will the Head of School Search Committee communicate with the NLA community?

How long will the search process take?

Why do we need to go through this extensive process?


We are pleased to announce that the following individuals from our community have agreed to serve on the Head of School Search Committee. The committee members represent our parent, alumni, and GC communities and are very enthusiastic about serving in this role.

Head of School Search Committee

The committee members are:

Steve Tourek
Senior Vice President and General Counsel of The Marvin Companies
President of Unity Insurance
Chairman of the Governing Council
Chair, Search Committee
Parent (Charles ’18, Olivia ’12)

Gary Maas
Owner, FPI Sensors Intl.
GC Member
Parent (Jacqueline ’13, Madeline ’16)

Mike Brocker
Owner, Legacy Wealth Wisdom
GC Member
Parent (Joshua ’14, Danielle ’19, Bethany ’21, Rachel ’23, Zechariah ’25, Ben ’06, Jenni ’06, Matthew ’10, Jonathan ’11)

Jim Kirkwood
VP Innovation, Technology & Quality, General Mills
GC Member
Parent (Kelly ’03, Kristin ’05)

Michelle Schumacher
Owner, Cornerstone Renovations
GC Member
President, Parent School Partnership (PSP)
Parent (Lauren ’19, Blake ’23)

Susan Frazier
Pharmacist, Target
GC Member
Parent (Morgan ’13, Ty ’15, Noah ’17)

Keith Freeburg
GC Member
Grandparent (Lindsey ’23, Jeremy ’14, Trevor ’13)

Nancy Moore
Owner & Consultant, NL Moore & Associates
GC & HSEC Member
Parent (Katie ’08, Ashley ’11)

Advisory Teams

Faculty Search Advisory Team

Laura Allen

Craig Butler

Sydney Hagen

Dawn Kroohn

Brandon Mellett

Dan Palkki

Lawrence Simmons

Nancy Washburn

Dave Woolf

Parent Search Advisory Team

Gary Borner

Patrick Doherty

Jane Kramer

Laurie Lassen

Dave Mortenson

Charlotte Nitardy

Amy Poppinga

Hope Rudeen

Jay Thompson

Matt Twomey

Take the next step to prepare and equip your child for success.

Always minded towards paving the way for a brighter future for our students, our academic program will challenge, equip and empower your student in a nurturing environment.