Christ-Centered Education for Life
Message from CLHSA Board President Nathan Hessler and Superintendent John Buetow

Dear Friends of the CLHSA,

Below is the letter I received from John Buetow announcing his decision to accept a new position as President of Bakersfield Christian High School. John and his family will be moving to California and John’s employment with CLHSA will end in June 2016. John has served the CLHSA for 16 years; first as Principal of Lutheran West and then as the Superintendent of the CLHSA. During his tenure, John has provided inspirational leadership and demonstrated a passion for the ministry of the CLHSA. I have valued the time I have spent with John and appreciate all that he has brought to our community. Please join me in wishing John success as he embarks on a new endeavor.

The announcement of John’s decision affords the CLHSA several months to develop a leadership transition plan. We have a strong leadership team and I echo the regard that John has expressed in the individuals upon which we will rely as we make our way through this transition. John has agreed to work with a transition team that will be appointed by the Board of Directors to work through the various issues associated with John’s departure. The scope of the work for which the transition team will be tasked includes developing an assessment of the strategic direction of our two schools and formulating a leadership recommendation to the Board of Directors. My thought is that through this process we will be in the best position to identify a viable candidate to succeed John as Superintendent of the CLHSA.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Very truly yours,

Nathan Hessler

President, CLHSA Board of Directors

February 9, 2016

Dear CLHSA Friends,

Two months ago, I was contacted by an executive search company asking if I would be interested in

learning more about Bakersfield Christian High School (BCHS) in California. In my 16 years at the CLHSA I

have often been contacted about potential job opportunities. With the exception of one other such

opportunity, each of these inquiries ended very quickly. In other words, I have not been job seeking!

My work and ministry at the CLHSA are extremely fulfilling.

Jennifer and I flew out to visit BCHS two weeks ago. I have since been offered the position to be the

head of their school. After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to accept this job offer and

will become their new school President beginning in July of this year. We will remain in Cleveland and

continue our work here through the end of this school year.

Our reasons for moving to California and joining the BCHS community have nothing to do with anything

negative in Cleveland. In fact, I am pretty convinced that the “golden years” of the CLHSA are right

around the corner. Our schools are in great shape in terms of enrollment, we remain true to the LCMS

doctrine while successfully making broad steps to reach into the Christian community, our finances are

very solid, a strong leadership team is in place, state legislative maneuverings are going our way,

facilities continue to be improved...the list could go on.

Our board leadership has been wonderful to me. The commitment of our community towards moving

forward is unquestionable. I have appreciated our current Board Chairman’s (Mr. Nathan Hessler’s)

partnership in ministry, just as I have appreciated this same partnership from the previous Board

Chairmen- along with the Boards as a whole, both past and present- with whom I’ve worked.

Cleveland- in general- and the CLHSA- specifically- have been and continue to be wonderful blessings to

my family. It is the location where Jennifer and I started our family and watched our children grow ever

older (wayyyyy to quickly, might I add). I love the CLHSA and the community which this organization

entails. Having the opportunity to serve as the Principal at Lutheran West for 8 years and as the

Superintendent at the CLHSA for this same length of time has been the professional experience of a

lifetime. I cannot say enough positive things about the organization or the people. I am proud of what

we (the faculty/staff/administration, boards, students, friends and volunteers) have accomplished

throughout this time period. The CLHSA and its schools look far different than in 2000 (my first year).

We are a stronger organization. This has occurred because of the work and leadership of many, guided

by the Holy Spirit. I have been privileged to be a part of this leadership team and to partner with you.

I thought it might be helpful to provide a few insights as to the manner in which I went about

considering this job change. I’m not trying to defend my decision, but hopefully able to pre-empt some

questions that might be left unanswered if left unaddressed:

? There is no easy way to consider a change of jobs. I did not want to draw attention to myself by

announcing I was visiting another school. I’m not a big fan of announcing a job offer or potential

job change and then taking weeks to decide for several reasons, but mostly because I'm a bit

uncertain that the feedback process is always as transparent as should occur...I've known few

people who have the gumption to really tell an individual it's time to leave. Too often the

feedback seems to be polite and not authentic. In any event, though, I think I have a fairly

accurate assessment of where I stand in our community and it was not this assessment that has

led me to California.

? A little bit about Bakersfield Christian. It is a school located about 2 hours from Los Angeles and

very similar to Lutheran West in many ways. Its enrollment is just shy of 500 students, has a

very large campus which gives a collegiate feel (@50 acres), enjoys strong academics and an

outstanding extra-curricular program. What it does not have is a corresponding ministry to that

of Lutheran East. I will miss not having such a corresponding ministry in Bakersfield. It also does

not have a long history like that of the CLHSA, being at its current location and utilizing its

current name for a relatively short time period.

? Here are the thoughts driving Jennifer and my decision…in no particular order:

1) The school has a very successful tennis team. Erik is a talented player and still has majorly

untapped potential. The climate of California is conducive to his reaching his full potential, and

being a part of a very successful tennis team is simply an additional positive.

2) Jennifer and I plan to work full-time (God-willing) for another 10 years. Counting college

years, our kids will only be living in our house for around this same time period. During these

ten years, while we still have our nuclear family together and I have my health (a big concern

with the stress of administration), we want to have a new adventure. I want for my family to

experience another part of the country. We have vacationed in California (and the West in

general) a number of times. We have said California might be a place to which we would like to

relocate. Earlier in this writing I indicated only really pursuing one other job opportunity during

my time in Cleveland. That particular opportunity was also in California.

3) I love the LCMS school system. My dad and now I have dedicated our lives to it. I would be

very comfortable staying in the LCMS school system for the rest of my career. My passion for

Christian ministry, though, is even more a point of dedication for me than specific Lutheran

education. I think that this has clearly been demonstrated in my work at the CLHSA. Being a

part of an intentionally multi-denominational high school is extremely interesting to both my

family and me.

4) While the other three items are in no particular order, this fourth item is the most relevant to

my ministry in Cleveland....16 years is a long time to be an administrator at one school (one

school system). As I grew up, in my dad's role as school administrator, my family moved about

every 7 years. Today, I find it somewhat abnormal for a school administrator to stay even that

long at one school. The administrative history of the CLHSA, other than Dr. Sagehorn, would

mirror such a statement. I am proud of my longevity at the CLHSA. It is a testament to the

community that they have been supportive of one person and his ideas for such a period of

time. I hope to have been worthy of such support. Increasingly, though, I am finding it difficult

to be objective and strong in my decision making. My ties in the community run deep. Where

decisions should be based upon the phrase, "student first", I am increasingly aware of my

inability to separate my personal feelings for families and circumstances, with that of what

would be in our students' best interest. Worshiping with individuals, working through life

situations with colleagues, and knowing personal details about so many families leads to real

difficulty in maintaining objectivity. Again, I feel that as time goes by and relationships become

ever stronger, doing this becomes increasingly difficult. While this reality has not paralyzed me

and I still can (and could continue in the future to) make the challenging decision, the personal

stress level does rise on a nearly yearly basis. Having a reset on relationships as a school

administrator is therefore important...and one of the reasons that change can be very


Does the CLHSA face challenges? It certainly does. But we are wonderfully positioned to meet these

challenges. I could stay at the CLHSA until my retirement and would still have a list of challenges to

tackle. The challenges might look different than today (then, again, perhaps not!), but challenges would

certainly still be present. I really don't know that there would be a "better" time to depart than now

(and this opportunity in California would not likely repeat itself).

I have tried to explain my thoughts to you and hope this attempt may have answered some questions.

Know that I'm trying to handle this life transition with as much professionalism and grace as I can.

A number of people have asked me what's been wrong over the past few's simply that I'm

sad. My time at the CLHSA is ending. For me, this is not joyous. Yet what awaits is incredibly exciting as

I think about my family having a whole new set of challenges and opportunities in another part of the

country, while still serving the Lord in leadership at a Christian high school. I ask that you pray for me

and my family as I concurrently continue to work with you and pray for you and our ministry at the


In Christ,


3565 Mayfield Road
Cleveland Hts., OH 44118
P (216) 382-6100
F (216) 382-6119