Christian Heritage Academy began in 1972 from a vision of Sunnyside Baptist Church and its pastor, Harry Boydstun.
Prior to the time of its founding, an educational upheaval was taking place in Oklahoma City and in cities across America. At that time and in many places, including Oklahoma City, the federal courts were mandating that racial balance in the public school systems be achieved through busing of elementary students. Many parents in this area were alarmed that the public schools were being radically reorganized and that their little ones would be transported miles across town to be taught in some place other than their neighborhood schools.
In the spring of 1972, Sunnyside Baptist Church had invited Mr. and Mrs. Mel Gabler to speak about their work. The Gablers were very active in school textbook issues in the state of Texas and had made much headway in reclaiming that state’s public education system from the usual revisionism that had taken place elsewhere. The Gablers identified the changes that had come over the teaching of history as generation after generation of textbooks had the Christian founding of America expunged from them. They claimed that America was losing its Christian heritage because children were never introduced to it in schools.
It was at this service that the pastor of the church sensed a mission to provide education within a Christian setting for students of southwest Oklahoma City. As a result, the church established a committee to investigate the feasibility of a Christian school and, then, later to begin the development of the school program.
By September 1, 1972, Christian Heritage Academy opened its doors as a new private Christian school in south Oklahoma City meeting in the facilities of Sunnyside Baptist Church but separately incorporated. It was one of the first such schools in the area.
The school was small, having less than 200 students in the first year. Toward the end of the first year, Mr. Ralph Bullard became the school's headmaster, and he led the school until June of 2006.
In the second year, the school began to expand upward through the grades. In that year, Dr. Mayme Lee “Pat” O’Brien came to the school and later became the elementary principal. Dr. Pat brought with her the wisdom and insight of her many years of Christian school administration, and her arrival at the school was in itself a work of God’s timing of events. Dr. Pat wrote and directed the Easter Story and the drama of the Christmas play, first performed in 1974. Both have become school traditions. Dr. Pat served at CHA until her retirement in 1983.
It was Mr. Bullard’s first meeting with Dr. Pat that led him to the school’s educational philosophy — The Principle Approach to America’s Christian History, Government, and Education. In her office, he saw two intriguing volumes: Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America and Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History. He remembered these titles and ordered a set of the volumes for the school.
Out of this event, Christian Heritage Academy came to enjoy many happy years of association with Miss Verna M. Hall and Miss Rosalie I. Slater, the authors of the these books and officers of The Foundation for American Christian Education in San Francisco, California. CHA fostered additional friends and associates in the work: Mr. John Talcott, founder of Plymouth Rock Foundation, Mr. James B. Rose of the American Christian History Institute, Miss Katherine Dang, historian, writer and publisher, and Mrs. Ruth Smith of Pilgrim Institute. All of these friends provided counsel and advice to the school as CHA developed its program and became one of the leaders in the American Christian history movement.
Meanwhile, in the midst of philosophical development, the school was growing. The school had started with first through eighth grades. Thereafter, a kindergarten was added and one upper grade each year until the school had a complete high school program, graduating its first senior class in 1977. Two senior traditions which have blessed and shaped the school were established with the first graduating class: the American Christian Heritage Tour taken in the spring of their senior year and the unique graduation service.
Establishment of a Christian Philosophy of Athletics
Once a high school program was established, it was not long until it became obvious that athletics would not only be important, but also would be a venue in which the school would be viewed by many others outside the school. A Christian philosophy of athletics was written to guide the athletic development of students and to reflect Christian values on the playing field and in the stands.
Establishment of a Home School Satellite Program
In the early days of the home school movement, Dr. Cynthia Bower taught phonics classes to groups of home school moms in the summer, and the school began providing the service of annual achievement testing. The school’s philosophical stance has always been that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their own children. Believing this, CHA developed programs to equip parents to teach and to give them educational support. Out of this was born the Home School Satellite Program.
The emphasis of the program has always been on preparation of the parent to teach, but there have been opportunities for students to participate in some school events and/or classes. Many of these students have found their way into the CHA day-school program because of this association.
Dr. Bower began teaching at Christian Heritage Academy in 1977. Instructing in both the elementary and secondary programs, she notably taught math, and the math curriculum she helped develop is still used in our elementary program. However, the majority of her 35+ years at Christian Heritage Academy was in the position of Elementary Headmaster, until her retirement in 2007 to become the newly established Legacy Project Coordinator. Upon the conclusion of the Legacy Project in 2014, she became CHA's Educational Consultant.
The School’s Mission Emphasis
In his reading, Mr. Ralph Bullard noticed that suggestions for what Christian schools should do seemed shallow to him. He discussed it with Tom Elliff (former pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Del City and a patron). As they tried to answer the question, “What are we educating them for?” one of the answers was, “We are educating them to reach out to others, not just at home but also abroad.” This led to an emphasis on missions, not just with money and local help but actually working with missionaries outside the United States. Since 1988, many students at CHA have participated in an annual mission trip to Mexico. There has even been one trip to Russia and two to Brazil. Mission trips continue to be an integral focus. In the past few summers, students have traveled to Haiti, Baja, and Guachochi Mexico, Alaska, Myanmar, and this summer are going to East Asia and Honduras. Also, a group of students initiated the Mission OKC where they ministered and witnessed in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
Move to the Current Facility
Even though part of the elementary classes had moved to Western Hills Baptist Church three or four years earlier, by the school year of 1987-88, CHA was bursting at the seams. Through God’s gracious Providence, a “new” building was made available by First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, initially rent free, later through lease-purchase. This building, after extensive remodeling and later additions became the current facility of the school.
Establishment of the Discovery Program
In 1985 at an ACSI convention in Dallas, Texas, a message entitled “Macaroni at Midnight” was given by Don Bartlett. In this message, he shared his personal experiences with the heartbreak and defeat of having learning difficulties. He challenged Christian schools to open their doors to those students who have learning differences. That evening, Mr. Ralph Bullard gathered the faculty for devotions. They discussed the message they had heard from Mr. Bartlett. Many had been impressed by what Mr. Bartlett had shared. The faculty and administration committed that night to be open to God’s leading in this area.
At that time, the school was in a phase of rapid growth, and there was simply no room to consider adding any new programs. Two years later, two events took place which brought the addition of a program for students with learning difficulties closer to reality. First, the school moved to a new campus, which was not only large enough for the whole school to be together but also had room to grow. Second, Mr. Ralph Bullard attended an administrator’s conference at which Grace Mutzabaugh taught several sessions on various aspects of learning differences. Although he had not planned to attend sessions on learning disabilities, he found himself drawn to them.
By the end of the conference, he realized not only that he had been prepared by God for this type of program in the school; but, also he had direction in terms of a model to investigate (Grace Mutzabaugh founded the educational therapy program at Norfolk Christian School which later became the National Institute for Learning Differences). The following January, four administrators from CHA spent a day in Kansas City observing an NILD program there. It was another year until Mrs. Carolyn Geis came forward and indicated she felt called to be an educational therapist. The next summer, Mrs. Geis and Dr. Bower went to California for training and a program was started that fall at CHA. The Discovery program has been in operation for almost twenty years now. It has not only been a blessing for those it has served, but also it has helped all teachers be more sensitive to the needs of students. Mrs. Geis served as the Discovery Director and left a very high standard of excellence as her legacy. Mrs. Janet Holdridge assumed this role in 2008. Both ladies have led teachers in techniques and practices that benefit these students with learning differences.
The Building of the Jim Elliot Memorial Gymnasium
The building of a new gym seemed to change the perspective of the school leadership. Instead of thinking of the school as struggling or lacking in funds to do things, the attitude became more positive, more “can do.” Since then many big projects have been endeavored and completed. God is faithful to provide. The new building was named the Jim Elliot Memorial Gymnasium in 2001.
Jim was an outstanding athlete and missionary who gave his life on the mission field. It was felt he would be a good role model for athletes. One of his quotes, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” is displayed prominently in the gym. This quote has raised questions which have provided many opportunities to witness.
Teacher Trip to Boston
The seniors at CHA take an American Christian Heritage Tour of the Plymouth and Boston areas. Seeing personally many of the places and hearing stories from guides of the events that took place there is a huge inspiration. It makes their studies come to life and can encourage them to become active in the restoration of our Christian Republic. Some teachers have been on the tour as sponsors, but most have not.
Knowing that taking all of the faculty on the same tour would be an inspiration to them and that it could impact their teaching, it was decided to plan a teacher tour. The project was embraced enthusiastically and the funds were raised in one year. In June of 2006, the teachers went on the same heritage tour always taken by the seniors, and it exceeded all expectations. It was not only inspiring and encouraging but also was a wonderful bonding experience.
Changing of the Leadership
Arriving in April of 1973, Mr. Ralph Bullard began serving as the school's Headmaster. As with any new school, he was called upon to wear many hats including coaching junior high basketball and teaching physical education, biology, driver's education, Bible, and the faculty itself. He remained in this position for thirty-four years, quite an amazing accomplishment in Christian schools today. In 2006, Mr. Bullard retired as Headmaster but remained in the role of School Ambassador, educating others about Christian Heritage Academy, its educational philosophy, and the role of Christians to propagate the Gospel and restore our nation. Following in his father's footsteps, Mr. Josh Bullard was named School Headmaster from the Board of Trustees in June of 2006.
Legacy Project Initiated
After a year of discussion and planning among a group of administrators and other school leaders, the Legacy Project was launched in June of 2007. It was set up as a five year project, but it quickly became apparent that it should be on-going. School is dismissed at 12:25 p.m. each Wednesday afternoon enabling teachers to do individual research and be involved in training sessions and mentoring. The training sessions are individualized to meet the needs of new teachers and experienced teachers. The project has evolved as the administration has learned what works best to accomplish the goals. In 2014, the Legacy Project was completed. Teachers still complete Legacy subject notebooks. Training is ongoing as part of the overall professional development plan for CHA.
North Campus Established
In 2008, under the leadership of the Board of Trustees and Headmaster Mr. Josh Bullard, Christian Heritage Academy expanded to a second campus. In a ministry partnership with Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond and their Pastor Paul Blair, Christian Heritage Academy North was established to serve the needs of families in the northern parts of Oklahoma City. However, after four years of ministry, the Lord directed the school's leadership to close the north campus.
Watershed Events and Significant Milestones
A Capital Campaign began in the spring with a silent phase in the spring of 2011 followed by the public phase in the fall of 2011. The Board of Trustees committed to retiring school debt and thereafter remaining debt free. Watershed seems an appropriate description for the fall of 2012. A water pipe burst causing extensive damage to the elementary office, many elementary classrooms, the cafeteria, and the auditorium. Renovations began immediately. The lovely, new elementary office and classrooms were in use by January 2013. The restoration of the auditorium was nearly complete in the spring of 2013 which allowed the Senior Class of 2013 to hold its baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies at “home.” The auditorium and the cafeteria, which was completed in August 2014, are testaments to the Lord’s abundant grace and blessing. The Board of Trustees adopted the vision statement in 2012: the vision of Christian Heritage Academy is to train American Christian leaders for every sphere of society. During the summer of 2014, the Board of Trustees named Dr. Susan DeMoss to the newly appointed position, Headmaster of Professional Development and Instruction.
In 2016, CHA went through a visioning process. The result was Vision 2031 which is a publication that details a fourteen-year look at CHA. This process has been the catalyst to CHA developing eight practices of leadership that are being used to train our faculty, staff, and students in the “CHA Way” of leadership. In 2017, Christian Heritage Academy kicked off its second capital campaign. While still in the process, the funds have already provided new buses, athletic complex upgrades, and other interior facilities upgrades. In 2018, CHA hosted its first RestorED conference for CHA faculty, homeschool parents, and surrounding schools. In 2021, five schools were represented with over 50 in attendance. In 2019, CHA received its first million-dollar gift to the school. A portion of the gift was designated to provide $30,000 a year for the grant program for professional development which is a key element of Vision 2031. CHA is humbled at God’s favor and faithfulness to the mission and vision of the school. $400,000 of the million-dollar gift was used to upgrade CHA’s secondary science labs. Major upgrades to the school’s security were installed including securing the elementary entrance and installing Safe ID and Safe Defend devices. In 2021, the elementary playground was upgraded to provide an expanded and safer environment for the children. With the vision of the school’s leadership, the school has sustained a tuition-based balanced budget for the past three years.
The 2021-22 school year marked CHA’s fiftieth anniversary. The school is nearing capacity as enrollment continues to grow. The school has three strategic initiatives which include faculty influence, academic excellence, and athletic opportunities. The school continues to pray that the Lord will allow the school to fulfill its vision and mission for the next fifty years.