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Retired businessman takes on new role running Community Christian School in Willmar, Minn.

John Chapin, a retired Willmar businessman, discusses his new role as the administrator of the Community Christian School in Willmar. When the school's new administrator was unable to start the job last summer, Chapin agreed to take the job as interim administrator for a year. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Community Christian School is a "treasure chest" to John Chapin.

"Our parents send us their treasures," said Chapin, administrator of the 206-student private school in Willmar.

Chapin retired last spring as president of Willmar Electric Service. When the school's new administrator was unable to start the job last summer, Chapin agreed to take the job as interim administrator for a year.

"I couldn't have done anything else to start retirement that would have given me such joy," he said during a recent interview in the school's administrative offices.

Chapin and his family have been involved with the school for years. He and his wife, Conni, sent their children to the school shortly after it opened 34 years ago. Now, his grandchildren go to school there.

Chapin owned and operated Willmar Electric for many years. He was the third generation to own the family business, which was started by his grandfather 92 years ago. The fourth generation is now in charge, he said.

"My wife and I had wondered what to do with retirement," he said. "This would not have been on my multiple choice list."

After a couple months on the job, though, he now feels "I have been truly blessed to be here."

The new adventure has come with a steep learning curve, Chapin said.

While administrative and leadership aspects of the job are somewhat familiar, he's learned that a small school administrator has a wide range of other duties. Those include developing a school calendar, planning celebrations and calling substitute teachers.

Chapin said he's not certified as a school administrator but he has a management team that includes certified people. CCS is an accredited school that has always hired teachers who are certified by the state.

One of the things that has surprised him a little is that "the day seems to be more fluid than it was in business," Chapin said. In business, he could start the day with some idea of his agenda. "Here, you just never know."

A person who needed to stick to a strict schedule would probably be frustrated in his new job, where things can change unexpectedly, he said.

"We have a great bunch of teachers," Chapin said. He was pleased to see the cooperative atmosphere among the staff, he added. "That's been a real delight to see how that's worked."

Chapin said he was a bit surprised at how much he has enjoyed spending time in classrooms and supervising recess.

Grandparents are a special focus at Community Christian under Chapin. He is on the board of the Christian Grandparents Network in Colorado Springs. The Chapins have both been involved in the "intentional aspects" and the fun of being grandparents, he said.

"Leaving a good godly legacy is important," Chapin said. "It strengthens the family if grandparents live up to their responsibilities, plus, you have fun doing it."

Every third Friday, grandparents are invited to come to the school to pray for their grandchildren. The session is open to the public and begins at 12:30 p.m.

Grandparents are invited to come to school to eat with their grandchildren when they want, too, he said.

Some new initiatives under Chapin's leadership are to work more with students on living skills and to build mentoring relationships.

"We've got some great things happening here with kids themselves and with mentoring," Chapin said. Teachers and grandparents can be mentors for kids, and older students will sometimes mentor younger students.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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