SWOT - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

Change Makers SWOT Analysis of Coastal Christian School

In this assignment, Change Makers interviewed former acting principal and vice principal of Coastal Christian School, Mr. Tee. The school closed prematurely due to several underlying issues. Mr. Tee provided background information of the school as well as allowing us access to the agenda and minutes of a spring general meeting (Appendix A). The following is a background of the school, interview notes, analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the organization, as well as a summary of findings and an unpublished agenda.

School Background:
Coastal Christian School, referred to as CCS, was a school of approximately 40 students from grades K- 9. Another Christian school founded CCS as a ‘school plant.’ The principal, secretary, and bookkeeper were all original members of the school board and they remained active in the school development and administration until its closure in 2014. The mission of CCS was “a community of learners growing in grace and knowledge.” A Christian worldview permeated throughout all of the areas of the curriculum and students practiced their beliefs in the community around them through outreach projects. The culture of the surrounding community was hostile to Christianity, though merely apathetic to the school. There were good relations between the public school district and the CCS administrative team. The school board consisted of five parent and parent alumni volunteers as well as the principal and bookkeeper. Most of the student body included church families, though at least three families were non-christian families seeking a Christian education for their children. Mr. Tee was a grade 7-9 teacher at CCS.

The principal went on medical leave due to stress in March 2012, and the board asked Mr. Tee to fill in as acting principal. Mr. Tee was acting principal for the remainder of the school year and he provided support and accountability to the principal the following year by serving as vice-principal. By joining the administrative team, he became aware of many previously unknown financial and relational issues within the organization as a whole. Through his work with an overarching Christian school organization, Society of Christian Schools of British Columbia (SCSBC), a plan developed to rescue the school from its financial struggles. Unfortunately, the school did not escape its troubles and closed down a year after Mr. Tee left. Mr. Tee stayed in contact with the chairman of the board and several families over the years since his departure. They often express interest in reopening and rebranding the school at some point in the future. There is a need for Christian education on the coast of British Columbia, and it would fill a Blue Water need (Ungerer et al., 2016).

Using a qualitative research method, Change Makers interviewed Mr. Tee collecting anecdotal data through a series of tools they developed. Through the use of Lepsinger (2010) and Hughes, Beatty and Dinwoodie et al. (2014), Change Makers developed a series of tools to research the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats present in the situation that developed at Coastal Christian School. Table 1 is a series of interview questions for Mr. Tee, the acting principal and vice principal of Coastal Christian School. Table 2 is a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis developed using procedures found in the LDRS 501 course syllabus (Atha, 2018). Table 3 represents an after action review of events as described in Hughes et al. (2014, p. 134). Change Makers further interviewed Mr. Tee using Exhibit 3.6 Accessing Organizational Capacity for Action (p. 131).

Table 1: Questions for Coastal School Vice Principal Lepsinger’s (2010) 6 Bridge Builders (pp.25-203).
Was the vision for CCS clear to all of the stakeholders? (Lepsinger, 2010, p.26) The school mission statement was “A community of learners growing in grace and knowledge.”  CCS’ mission statement needed to be bolder, reflecting the evangelistic and discipleship natures of the school.  The lack of clarity in the school’s vision resulted in no long-term planning.
Was a strategic plan in place for the future growth of CCS? (Lepsinger, 2010, p.48). No, Mr. Tee developed several strategic options for the school board and parent community to choose from (See Appendix 1). The plan was not adopted by the board, however.
Were the four strategic states model employed to ward off any unknowns at CCS? (Lepsinger, 2010, pp.28-33). When Mr. Tee took leadership of the school, it was in a circle the wagons type situation, though few members of the community were aware of this.
Did the school have an action plan in place? (Lepsinger, 2010, p.44). They did not have an active action plan nor strategies for further development. The school was reactive rather than proactive.
Would you say each administrator and teacher at CCS “brought their “A” game and delivered at a high level of performance?” (Lepsinger, 2010, p.51). Members of the paid staff worked at a very high level of performance. The principal was also teaching in addition to her administrative duties, which lead to her stress leave. Board members were active in discussion, but they were not effective at implementing new ideas and strategies. When it came to implementing strategic options, there was no delegation of responsibilities and little was accomplished.
Did the entire leadership team at CCS contribute to the solution or was the bar set high for the leadership team for them to achieve high performance? (Lepsinger, 2010, p.53). Mr. Tee created most of the solution then presented to the leadership team. Unfortunately, most of the participation on the part of the leadership team was discussion but there was little action to implement the solution.
What was the expectation from the leadership team? The implementation of several strategic goals to prevent further financial crisis.
Did the leadership team at CCS try to break negative cycles of low expectations leading to low performance? (Lepsinger, 2010, p.56). On the suggestion of the overarching Christian school organization and the chairman of the board, there was a discussion of dismissing the principal and replacing her with Mr. Tee. The chairman of the board determined the principal was medically unable to perform her duties. However, the principal and bookkeeper created several incidents and threatened to sue the school if this took place. No consultation with Mr. Tee occurred regarding this option until after the fact, and it created a challenging work environment for him.
Was the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) at CCS limited in its collective thinking by failing to discuss the undiscussables? (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 212). Many issues were undiscussable, including the cause for the principal’s medical leave. The most notable undiscussable was the financial state of the school and the manipulation of finances to cover a repeated annual deficit. Annual budgets were planned around the hope of fundraising $20,000 to $40,000 each year when in reality fundraising accounted for $8000 to $15,000 annually. Several members of the board and administrative team members held positions with a conflict of interest.
Was the SLT at CCS encouraged to take an appropriate level of risk to be successful (Hughes et al., p. 130) The strategic goals were all varying levels of risk and reward. The school body, while supportive of the risk-taking during discussions, was unable to implement the goals.
What are some examples of appropriate risks CCS took in the past?(Hughes et al. p. 130) Good-risk taking came in the form of moving from a church space too small to house the school into a three-room schoolhouse owned by the local public school district. Unfortunately, several costs were not taken into account in a move to the new situation, which played a role in the financial hardship of the school.
What are some examples of appropriate risks CCS did not take?(Hughes et al. p. 130) Purchasing a property and building a school. Creating a distance education program. Increasing tuition. Implementing uniforms. Publicizing and promoting the school in the community and surrounding churches.
What could the leader have done more of (or less of) to encourage appropriate risk taking? (Hughes et al., p. 130) The leader should have delegated roles to various members of the team to ensure the goals were accomplished. An action plan would have helped create more of a successful implementation of the strategic goals.
Table 2: SWOT Analysis of Coastal Christian School
Strengths Weaknesses

  • Plan to purchase a property and building a school to avoid paying large rent and fees to another organization
  • Plan to create a distance education program, increase tuition and implement uniforms
  • Plans to publicly promote the school in the community and surrounding churches
  • Strong parent community involvement
  • A high retention rate of students
  • The community rallied support when they heard of the school’s dire situation
  • The Board support of leadership team’s decisions
  • Founding members’ commitment to the school
  • Good staff relations and culture
  • High level of productivity and work ethic where staff went above and beyond expectations

  • Mission statement not bold enough to reflect both the evangelistic and discipleship natures of the school
  • Lack of a vision statement
  • Failure to implement goals and action plan
  • Lack of open communication; numerous undiscussable issues
  • Taking risks without thinking about consequences
  • The principal did receive or seek support in administrative duties, in addition to being overworked as a full-time teacher with administrative duties
  • Mediocre board members efforts in addition to minimal delegation of responsibilities, therefore nothing got accomplished
  • The principal and bookkeeper created several incidents which caused them to threaten to sue the school
  • Criteria for the tuition-assistance program not enforced appropriately
  • Financial state of the school and the manipulation of finances led to cover a repeated annual deficit
  • Conflict of interest for the board members and the administrative staff
Opportunities Threats

  • Strong relationships and support from the overarching Christian education system
  • Acting principal, Mr. Tee, developed several strategic options for the school board & parent community
  • The Christian community in the region provides an opportunity for growth
  • Attractive to home-stay and international students
  • Prayer support from several local churches
  • More prayer support from the parents and community churches
  • Some options for strategic goals for the future are found in Appendix A
  • Several short-term needs were filled by the parent community as found in Appendix A
  • A strong desire on the part of the community provided an opportunity for change

  • High cost of rent for facilities and maintenance fees
  • Community culture on the coast does not support Christianity or Christian education
  • The bank calling in debts due to history of poor financial planning
  • Decrease in the student-aged population on the coast
  • Demographics showed median age was retired people
  • A Catholic church was thinking of opening a school
  • Distance learning became prevalent on the coast.


Table 3: After Action Review of Coastal Christian School (Hughes, Beatty and Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 134)
What was the intent?
  • To save the school from bankruptcy and closure
  • To create a viable plan for the future success of the school
What happened?
  • The principal went on stress leave
  • Underlying issues became exacerbated without the daily presence of the principal
  • An acting principal was brought in to save the ship
  • Board of directors did not give him the ability to make the necessary changes to solve the underlying issues
  • Acting principal, with the consultation of the head of Christian school organization, created a strategic plan for the future
  • Board did not implement these strategic plans
  • The threat of litigation of former principal if she did not get her position back
  • Principal returned without discussion of her fitness to serve
  • Conflict of interest in the founding members (i.e. the bookkeeper had too many pivotal roles)
  • Lost momentum due to the confusion of leadership
  • School closed
What was learned?
  • Even with support and discussion of strategic goals, a lack of an action plan for implementing change results in stagnation
  • Board members in charge of the finances should not be directly involved in hiring/staffing decisions
  • Accountability protocols to overarching Christian school organization should be implemented and utilized at the first sign of trouble
  • Christian schools founded on biblical principles should have a team of intercessory prayer warriors interceding on the school’s behalf
  • Principals require support from within and without the school environment
  • Lack of strategy for the returning principal created confusion and disruption of momentum in the strategic plan
  • Robust and focused leadership, with support from the community, is required to right a ship going in the wrong direction
What actions should be taken?
  • New board members
  • should have been elected
  • Roles and responsibilities of board members should have been clearer
  • Board members should have only served in one position per term
  • Supportive measures should have been implemented for administrative staff, especially when there is a health issue
  • Hiring practices (or re-hiring practices) should have sought the best person for the job without favoritism
  • Financial situation and practices should have been transparent to the school society
  • The first instance of financial mismanagement should trigger an audit by an outside party
What was the result?
  • CCS was not able to implement the strategic leadership plan developed by Mr. Tee and the head of the Christian school organization
  • CCS closed its doors on June 30, 2014
Disseminate the findings
  • These findings would be helpful for CCS if they plan on re-opening the school sometime in the near future.
  • These findings could also help other small Christian schools avoid the same financial pitfalls.


Table 4: Exhibit 3.6 Accessing Organizational Capacity for Action at CCS (Hughes, et al. 2014, p. 131)

Negative Organizational Culture


1 is “poor”
5 is “excellent”


Positive Organizational Culture

Disagreements are avoided in order to keep the peace and not disrupt things    2   3   4   5 Disagreements among people between groups are used to help solve complex challenges Most staff members keep to themselves or silently complain when there are issues, to not create more drama. There is a history of avoiding certain issues between parents and administration.
A person’s success is judged by how well the person’s boss thinks he or she is doing. 1   2   3   4   5 A person’s success is judged by how well he or she helps the whole organization work together The students and parent community predominantly judge a person’s success. The ultimate boss of the community is the board made up of parents, so it is decided by the boss, while also being judged by how well he or she helps the whole organization.
Information is territorially guarded within this organization 1   2   3   4   5 Information is shared widely in this organization Members of the board, including the chairman, were unaware of the financial duress of the school. Many issues were confidential between the principal and bookkeeper.
This organization never acts quickly 1   2   3   4   5 This organization can act quickly when it needs to. In issues of finances, it was slow to act. However, a quick response to the needs of many events occurred when pressed. The parent community rallied around the school when it came to issues of learning and volunteering. The whole organization was slow to implement, though several parents were optimistic and willing to be supportive.
Collaboration across organizational boundaries is ineffective 1   2   3   4    5 Collaboration across organizational boundaries is effective Staff, board members, and parents were all willing to meet together and work together to effect change. Unfortunately, leadership did not create an action plan to implement the strategic goals, and many of the ideas died in the discussion.
People in the organization feel a major disconnect between its publicly espoused values and the actual behavior of people within the organization (especially at the top) 1   2   3   4   5 The organization’s espoused values are widely embraced and practiced among all members Most members held the values of the organization. Though some actions on the part of leadership might have seemed counter to the values of the organization, they were unintentional. The goal of the organization was to “be a community of learners growing in grace and knowledge,” and the school did it through high-quality Christian education.

Summary of findings:
British Columbia is home to several Christian schools, and the majority are small in student population. It behooves strategic leadership teams of these schools to learn from the mistakes of others, to avoid falling into the same traps. Coastal Christian School suffered from financial difficulties, lack of transparency, and failure to implement a strategic action plan. The school board and parent community were willing to enact change to save the school. There was a need for strong leadership to guide the organization through the necessary steps to execute the strategic leadership plan. The founding members did not ask for timely advice or support from the overarching Christian school society, neither did they implement transparent practices to their board. Addressing these issues must occur should CCS decide to open its doors again in the future.


Atha, D. (2018, November). Strategic leadership team project [Web log post]. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://create.twu.ca/ldrs501/unit-7/

Hughes R., Colarelli-Beatty K. & Dinwoodie D. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Second Edition.

Lepsinger, R. (2010). Closing the execution gap. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Appendix A

The following notes were recommendations presented by Mr. Tee to the school board and the Coastal Christian School community at the Annual General Meeting to provide clarity on the financial difficulties of the school, strategic options to overcome financial difficulties, and immediate school needs. Spring 2012.

Budget Issues

  • The school cannot afford to run at its current budget, especially with the issue of the $35,000 fundraising income included in the budget.  The school cannot budget for $35,000 from fundraising when this year we have only earned $19,000. Fundraising should never be used to cover running costs unless it is a pre-donated amount and received prior to the budget.  Fundraising should: 1. Plan for the future, 2. Cover the costs of special events or field trips, 3. Provide the school with items aiding in the level/quality of teaching (ie. New computers, science equipment, projectors, classroom items etc), 4. Provide for students of lower income families who struggle to cover the cost of tuition.
  • Every event should cover its own cost and plan to provide a small amount of income for the school to cover unseen costs or to cover event costs for students of lower income families
  • School t-shirts should be mandatory gym attire and cost at least $5 more per shirt than they cost the school to purchase.  This covers the cost of any student unable to afford one and provide surplus for other gym equipment costs.
  • Teaching staff is being paid less than 80% of the recommended salary provided by the overarching Christian schools organization which is significantly less than public school teachers.

 Strategic Options for Financial Success

  • The only options I can see for balancing the budget are a combination of the following:
  • Increase Tuition to a minimum of $3800 per student this year, increase tuition to $4000 next year and increase tuition to $4250 the following year. We are in the three lowest schools on the Christian school board in regards to tuition cost.  The Private Schools in BC generally charge between $4500 and $12,000 per student per year.
  • Move to a significantly cheaper facility, none is identified at this point.
  • Recruit a minimum of 4 international students.  This would require a board member or member in good standing to monitor, on a bi-monthly basis, students in each home stay to ensure their well being and behavior.
  • Increase student population by a minimum of 10 students. The current building only has capacity for approximately 3-4 new students in the senior class and 8 new students in the intermediate class. This presents a problem.  There is very little room for new students in the primary class aside from Kindergartens.
  • Lay-off Staff
  • Find significant and immediate donors willing to cover the deficit.
  • Sell off any school assets.

Planning for the future

  • We need to have a five-year plan developed for the school so we can budget for future endeavors. We should also have a 10 year plan.
  • We are certified to teach up to and including grade 12.  We need to develop a grade 10-12 program to provide parents with an alternative to public high school.
  • This can be accomplished as a combination of home school and extracurricular activities on our campus as students can legally be enrolled in 2 schools. 
  • Optimally we will provide a space and teacher to assist in the home school education of these students until such a time when we have a high enough enrolment to justify a full time class and teacher. 
  • We should be planning to develop our own school facility on property owned by Coastal Christian School 
  • We should look into school uniforms as it elevates our student image above the public schools while providing well documented increases in student learning and achievement. It is also a good promotional tool during student outings.  This uniform need not be complicated but could be as simple as a school polo shirt and individually purchased khaki pants. This uniform should also be priced to provide the school with both an income and a security fund for students of lower income.

Short Term Needs:

  • 2 more projectors
  • 1 new overhead projector
  • 5-6 new computers
  • several new items of science equipment including chemistry equipment and biology equipment
  • a portable or a larger facility
  • several new desks
  • a minimum of $1000 for new books for the library
  • a new fridge for the office which has a working freezer to keep ice packs cold
  • 2-3 fully equipped first aid kits
  • replacement of expired items in the earthquake kit
  • a new DVD player for the TV
  • $300 in educational DVDs
  • $500 in class novels/phonetic reading packs
  •  New senior social studies and science textbooks
  • A new phone system with caller ID and Voicemail as the reception of our current phone does not even cover the office.