After being on the job for six weeks, Brian Priest has identified big plans for the educational arm of Canton Community Ministries.
Priest, 33, said he's eager to help the Canton Christian school grow.
"I love it," he said of the position, which he filled when school founder Elaine Thomason stepped down. "I'm so excited to be here. God has prepared me for this role."
Priest said he would like to pursue full accreditation for the school through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of Christian Schools International.
He also wants to build another facility on the campus to "relieve some growing pains."
The school currently has three buildings on its Rolling Hills Avenue campus off Marietta Highway.
Community Christian School offers classes from 3-year-old pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Eventually, he said he would like to expand the school through the 12th grade.
The school has seen enrollment dip to 75 this school year from 94, but Priest said he expects a boost come fall.
"Everything is looking good," he said. "God has held us firm."
Increasing awareness of the school in the community is another goal, he said, as is streamlining the admissions process.
Priest and his staff are also celebrating the progress the school has made since its opening, as this is its 25th anniversary year.
It offers a low teacher-to-student ratio, competitive tuition and a family atmosphere.
"Our parents who are here love the school," he said.
Beginning in the 2010-11 school year, the school will offer $1,700 annual tuition for its 3-year-old pre-kindergarten program, $1,900 for its 4-year-old pre-kindergarten program, $2,600 for kindergarten and $3,500 for the first- through eighth-grade.
The school also charges a $100 registration fee for all students and a matriculation fee of $150 for pre-kindergarten and $350 for the higher grades.
Mrs. Thomason, who continues to be a part of the school as a teacher, said its dedication to community involvement also make the school notable.
It "truly serves the community and is continually involved in helping others," she said.
The school conducts monthly drives for community needs, regularly visits local assisted living centers as well as makes birthday cards for residents and conducts an annual spring play to "share the word of God and his plan of salvation with the community," she added.
Julie Marankie, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, said the school's academic success is noteworthy as well.
The school's fifth- and sixth-graders score as high as 11th- and 12th-grade high school students on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
Mrs. Marankie, whose children have also attended the school, described it as an "incredible and delightful place to work."
"I know my children's lives are valued greatly," she added.
Priest, 33, previously taught for two years at South Cobb High School in Austell and served an assistant pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Calhoun.
Born in Cherokee County, Priest graduated from Sequoyah High School in 1994 and from Southern Polytechnic State University in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in engineering. He graduated in 2004 with a master's of divinity in Christian education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He now lives in Calhoun with his wife, Eve, and children, Cana, 4, and Jostin, 2. They attend TrueNorth Church in Calhoun.
Priest said he hopes that in the next 25 years the school expands as more parents learn of its focus on teaching the whole child.
"We are unashamed about our faith," he said. "I think that's what makes it work."