Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School is owned and operated by the Westside Lutheran School Association. The WLSA is comprised of seven Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod congregations located in the western suburban area of Portland, Oregon. These documents provide background information on the school and its governing bodies.
A History of the Westside Lutheran School Association
and Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School
In 1992, members of the School Board at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Beaverton began discussing ways to bring more students to their classrooms, where there were openings for students, especially in the upper grades. It was determined that because Pilgrim was the only Lutheran school in Washington County, other Lutheran congregations could be targeted for additional students.
Members of the Pilgrim Board made a series of presentations to other Missouri Synod Lutheran congregations including Trinity and Zion, Hillsboro, Mt. Olive, Forest Grove, St. Peter’s, Cornelius, Bethlehem, Aloha and Prince of Peace in the Sunset area of Beaverton.
Out of these meetings grew an interest in combining forces to support Christian education through Lutheran schools. The Pilgrim Board invited representatives of these other congregations to meet monthly to discuss how this cooperation could be facilitated. At the same time, Pilgrim’s enrollment grew with the addition of preschool classes, and an afternoon kindergarten and the school contemplated the addition of grades 7 and 8 in a new education wing the school had added in 1991.
In 1993, Dan Seim, principal at Pilgrim and Bonnie Busacker (Moeller), 5th-6th grade teacher, were invited to visit the facilities of Good Shepherd Home of the West, south of Cornelius by Chaplain Kachmarek. Good Shepherd was in the process of relocating its developmentally disabled residents to group homes in the area and was open to leasing its campus to other organizations. The buildings there had been constructed on a 12-acre campus in the early 70’s and were built to house 85 residents in several residence buildings, an office and classroom building and several other support structures. Lutherans of the area had contributed land and financial resources to construct the facilities and were actively involved in a number of efforts to maintain and operate the program.
The study committee focused on the possibility of opening a second Lutheran school on the Good Shepherd campus as a sister school to Pilgrim. There was discussion of an Association which could operate both schools jointly. The committee began serious discussions with representative of Good Shepherd to lease facilities with options for eventually working out a purchase agreement. At the same time, another group was drafting Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for the Westside Lutheran School Association. Surveys indicated that a dozen or more Pilgrim students would enroll at the new school because it was closer to their homes. It was felt others would enroll from the community and from Lutheran congregations close to the school.
In the Spring of 1994, the movement had grown and plans were being laid to open a new school. The Pilgrim Board involved members of the study group in interviewing prospective teachers. The final organizing documents were presented to the voting bodies of Lutheran congregations of the area for adoption. Eight LC-MS congregations passed resolutions to join the Association, provide initial financial support, and assist in recruiting students for one of the two Lutheran schools.
In June, 1994, Pastor Warren Schumacher of Trinity, Hillsboro, led an opening devotion at the initial Delegate Assembly of the Westside Lutheran School Association in the multipurpose room at Good Shepherd. The room was filled with furniture which had been donated for the new group homes. A few residents were still living in some of the buildings on the campus and the office staff had relocated to make the office building usable by the Migrant Head Start program. The group resolved to call the new school Forest Hills Lutheran School, (Tualatin Valley Lutheran School and Blooming Lutheran School were other suggestions) to open with grades K-8 in five classrooms on the campus, and to elect a Board of Directors to carry on with organizational decisions for the new school.
By September, 1994, the Board had appointed teachers - Elaine Spidal, 1st-2nd grades, Bonnie Busacker, 3rd-4th, Tammy Frerichs, 5th-6th, and Rich Bolton, 7th-8th grades. Sandy Hoffman was the last to be appointed to teach kindergarten after the first candidate declined. Dan Seim continued to provide administration to both Pilgrim and Forest Hills, commuting between the schools on a daily basis. When the doors opened on the first day, forty-eight students reported for classes.
With small classes and the prospect of a new program with a bright future, Forest Hills completed its first year. Fundraising efforts helped to furnish classrooms, purchase 10 new computers, and pay for a portion of the operating expenses. A joint auction in the spring generated additional cash for both Pilgrim and Forest Hills. Re-enrollment indicated solid support from families to return their students for a second year. By the time the doors opened for the second year, enrollment had nearly doubled to 92 students. The first and second grades were split and Sarah Hoffman was added to the staff to teach the second grade. Renovations were made to one of the residence buildings and upper grade classes were relocated to a second building on the campus.
Serious negotiations began with representatives of Good Shepherd to purchase the campus. With support from local Good Shepherd Board members, the California-based organization agreed to sell the campus to the Westside Lutheran School Association for a selling price of $750,000. As a provision of a lease-back agreement, Good Shepherd would continue to occupy office space on the campus and reduce the selling price by $25,000 for every year that they remained on the campus. Several major memorials provided the Association with nearly $100,000 in down payment funds. The agreement was finalized in March, 1997. The Head Start program continued to lease several areas of the campus but now the landlord was the WLSA.
After three years of sharing an administrator, Pilgrim decided they need additional administrative support and ended the agreement between the two organizations. Earlier, the Pilgrim voting body had determined to continue its undivided support of its own school rather than sharing control with the WLSA. The congregation continued as a member of the Association but was exempted from financial support by provision of the Association Bylaws. Dan Seim continued as full-time principal at Forest Hills and Executive Director of the Westside Lutheran School Association.
In the third year of operation, Forest Hills grew to 132 students and split the 3rd-4th and 5th-6th combination classes. Carolyn Sellke and Scott Nelson joined the teaching staff. Two years later the 7th and 8th grades were split and Phyllis Nistad became the 9th Forest Hills teacher. Each grade was in its own classroom and the school had expanded into the third building on the campus. Enrollment climbed to 175 students in the 6th year of the school’s operations. Financial support for reducing the mortgage continued.
In 1998, Vince and Elaine Dobbin, grandparents of a Forest Hills first grader presented the school with a $650,000 gift with which to build a new gym and music building. The Board hired an architect and land use planner to begin the building process. It was complicated by the transfer of ownership from Good Shepherd to the Westside Lutheran School Association, and by the school’s location in an Exclusive Farm Use region. After two years Washington County gave approval to proceed with building plans and three years after the initial gift, construction began in earnest.
In 1999, the estate of Mel Hering was presented to Forest Hills Lutheran School. A portion of the funds were used to pay off the remaining mortgage with Good Shepherd. The Forest Hills Endowment Fund benefited from the estate with a half million dollars, earmarked for capital improvements. Another half million dollars went to the FHLSA endowment fund for financial aid to needy students. New siding, septic system renovations, furnaces, classroom carpeting, plumbing, and roofing improvements were made possible through these funds and gifts from school friends over the past several years.
The gym and music building was officially dedicated as the Dobbin Center on March 20, 2002. Additional gifts from the Dobbin family and other donors left a mortgage of about $300,000 when construction was completed. In 2004 the library was relocated to the multipurpose room in the Main Building and dedicated after major renovations as the Seim Learning Center. In 2009 the Dobbin Family again generously gifted the school with funds that were used to expand the kitchen building and add a dining hall.
In 2001 the school added a K-2 multiage classroom to the program and Sarah Hoffman moved from 2nd grade to the new position. In 2016, a similar classroom for 3rd-5th graders was added and Kim Brennan moved to the new position.
In 2014, Forest Hills expanded its program by opening a 2nd kindergarten classroom on the main campus and a half-day kindergarten classroom at Bethlehem, Aloha. This followed the opening of a preschool classroom in 2013 on the main campus. In order to accommodate the additional classroom, the school opened the Middle School building which had previously been leased to another organization. In October, 2014, Mike Schiemann became the full-time principal, having moved to the U.S. from British Columbia, where he had previously served at Hope Lutheran, Port Coquitlam.
In 2014 the school's name was changed to Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School to reflect the inclusiveness of the Forest Hills community. In the Fall of 2015, the Middle School building was remodeled to include new windows in all of the classrooms, updated restrooms and fresh paint to the exterior of the building.
Mission & Vision
- Mission: “Building the Kingdom of God through Christian Education”
- Vision: “To be a regional leader in Christian education recognized for excellence in all things - whose students are compassionate citizens and bold examples of a vibrant faith.”
Ownership and Governance
- Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School is owned and operated by the Westside Lutheran School Association which was established in 1994 by eight LC-MS congregations in the western suburban area of Portland, Oregon.
- Seven congregations presently comprise the FHLSA: Bethlehem, Aloha; Trinity, Hillsboro; Zion, Hillsboro; Our Redeemer, Tigard; Prince of Peace, Beaverton; Mt. Olive, Forest Grove; St. Peter’s, Cornelius.
- The WLSA is administered through the Delegate Assembly which meets several times during the year and elects a Board of Directors which meets monthly and is served by the Executive Director/Principal who is in charge of staff and program.
- Forest Hills was established and opened its doors to 48 students in September, 1994. The buildings and campus were formerly occupied by residents of Good Shepherd Home of the West.
- A purchase agreement with Good Shepherd was consummated in 2000.
- The school has grown to 171 students, grades K-8 in 2010.
- Full accreditation was awarded to Forest Hills by the National Lutheran School Accreditation agency in 2003. A year later the school was accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools.
Property and Facilities
- Forest Hills is located six miles southwest of Hillsboro, and just north of the Forest Hills Golf Course in Washington County, Oregon.
- The school operates from a 12-acre campus next door to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
- Facilities include seven major buildings, an outdoor athletic field and covered walkways connecting the campus.
- The Dobbin Center was completed in 2002, thanks to a generous gift by Vincent and Elaine Dobbin. This building houses a full gym, music room, locker rooms and restrooms.
- The Main Building houses a library and computer lab, offices, kindergarten and first grade classrooms.
- Multiage and grades 2-4, the Art Space and the After School Care rooms are housed in the Primary Building. Grades 5-8 and a science lab are in the Upper Grades Building.
- The kitchen/dining hall is in a newly-renovated building.
- The Oregon Child Development Coalition leases a classroom building for use in two of their seasonal programs.
- The shop and maintenance facility utilize the former swimming pool building.
- Forest Hills has an annual budget of nearly $1 million dollars. Income is received from tuition and fees paid by parents, congregational support, individual gifts and rental income from the leased classroom building.
- The school benefits from two endowment funds established for financial aid and for facility maintenance respectively. Their total value is over $1 million dollars.
- The school has a mortgage debt of $300,000 owing to construction of the Dobbin Center in 2002.
- Congregations support the enrollment of their member families with some tuition assistance.
- The true cost of education for the current school year is $6900 per student and the average tuition is $5029. Tuition assistance is provided to all students to make up the “gap” with income from various development efforts providing income.
- Financial aid is available upon application, based on need.
Faculty and Staff
- Ten full-time teachers comprise the teaching staff, with each responsible for one classroom, K-8.
- All teachers hold at least a Baccalaureate degree in education. Four hold a Master’s Degree and one teacher holds a Doctorate Degree.
- Part-time teachers assist with music, library, computers, and physical education.
- A part-time Development Director is responsible financial development.
- A part-time Admissions Director is responsible for student enrollment and retention.
- The faculty salary schedule is based upon the Northwest District, LC-MS, recommendations.
- The faculty average for years of experience is 23 years. The average length of service to Forest Hills is about eight years.
- A volunteer Grandpas Club meets weekly to assist with repairs and facility maintenance.
- Kindergarten is a full day program, meeting five days a week. The school operates a half-day satellite kindergarten classroom at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Aloha.
- Grades K-5 are self-contained classrooms. Grades 6-8 are departmentalized in Christian Studies, Language Arts, Science, Math and Social Studies.
- A multiage K-2 classroom was opened in 2008-09 to offer a mixed-age grouping style of instruction for interested families.
- Curricular materials are chosen on the basis of their proven effectiveness and their compatibility with the philosophy of the school.
- A varied program of elective classes are offered to grades 6-8. Students in these grades also have choices in the fine arts area.
- Band, choir and handbells are offered to students of grades 4-8.
- Extracurricular sports include volleyball, and basketball, soccer and track for boys and girls of grades 5-8. The school is a member of the Metro Christian League.
- Students of grades 3-8 are tested for achievement using the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Percentile scores are reported to parents.
- Enrollment is open to all on a nondiscriminatory basis. Returning students and members of Association congregation are given priority for openings. The application process includes a family interview with administration/faculty.
- Before and After School Care are available every school day. The program is licensed by the Child Care Division, State of Oregon.
- Hot lunches are cooked and served daily by a paid lunch staff with assistance from parent volunteers.
- About 1/3 of the families are Lutheran and members of one of the FHLSA congregations. Another 1/3 are members of a Christian church and 1/3 have no active church involvement.
- All families are asked to give 25 hours of service to the school as part of the VIP (Very Important Participation) program.
- Parents assist in the lunchroom, library, athletic programs, fine arts, classrooms, on field trips and in many other facets of the school’s program.
- The school is multicultural and serves a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
- Most families live in Forest Grove, Cornelius, or Hillsboro. Some live in surrounding rural and suburban areas including Aloha and Beaverton.
- All students come to school in private vehicles or carpools.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors is elected to two year terms by the Delegate Assembly of the Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School Association. The Board elects its own officers to one-year terms. The current Board:
Chair: Tom Epler(St. Peters); Vice-Chair: Chris Willems (Mt. Olive); Secretary: Shana Reece; Sandra Yoder (Mt. Olive); LeRoy Schultz (Zion); Crystal Holscher (Mt. Olive); Rev. Wil Gehrke (St. Peter’s); Laurie Harrison (Parent-at-Large); Shana Reece (Treasurer) and Mike Schiemann (Principal, ex-officio)
Congregations of the FHLSA are represented at the Delegate Assembly by as many as six of their members who meet periodically to hear reports, hold elections and meet with members of the Board and staff.
|Bethlehem, Aloha||Jeff Shearier, Tom Faszholz, Eric Oswald, Steve Gehlen, Jean Faszholz*, Lilian Harn*|
|Mt. Olive, Forest Grove||George Anderson, Linda Holscher, Lorne Jones, Rozanne Jones, Rachel Koschmann, Anna Lohrer|
|Our Redeemer, Tigard||Kerri Christensen|
|Prince of Peace, Portland||Jeff Kranich, Becky Kranich, Phyllis Oltmann, Dick Sellke, Carolyn Sellke, Sharon Kravitz|
|St. Peter's, Cornelius||Wil Gehrke, Bob Rosenoff, Michael Warmbier, Jeff Ezzell, David Kribs, Paul Bobzien*|
|Trinity, Hillsboro||Amy Eakin, Carol Nolan, Randy Langbehn, Renee Williams, Sue Voigt, Ron Dobbin|
|Zion, Hillsboro||Kas Kachmarek, Grant Knepper, Jerrod Smith|
|* Alternate delegate|
Churches of the Westside Lutheran School Association
Forest Hills is owned and operated by churches which organized themselves as the Westside Lutheran School Association (WLSA) in 1994. Congregations appoint members to serve as the Delegate Assembly for the school. The Board of Directors is in turn, annually elected by the Delegate Assembly. For more information, click on "website" under each church. Most of these congregations operate their own early childhood programs.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
St. Peter's Lutheran Church
Trinity Lutheran Church
Zion Lutheran Church