A pre-conference to the Society for Classical Learning National Conference

A conference designed to spread the fostering of hope in God in urban communities by training leaders to start, lead, and grow urban, classical, Christ-centered schools (starting with the K-5 level)

June 21, 2017

InterContinental Hotel

Dallas, TX

Russ Gregg, Jeff Bird, George Sanker, Jim Stigman, Debbie Harris, Dan Olson, Kevin Farmer



Russ Gregg
Mr. Gregg (B.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison) has served as Head of School since Hope Academy’s founding in 2000. He has been a resident of the Phillips neighborhood since 1994. In 1999, he was an administrator at Calvin Christian School in Edina, and quit his job to help lay the groundwork for a Christian school for his urban neighbors. Russ and his wife Phyllis, who teaches 3rd grade at Hope Academy,  live four blocks away from the school. They have three grown children. Russ also serves on the Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Learning.


Jeffery W. Bird
Mr. Bird (J.D., CLU) was a key partner in the founding of Hope Academy, where he remains Board President. Mr. Bird grew up on a farm near Marcus, Iowa and is in the early stages of helping start a Farm School for urban youth. Since 1991, he has worked with NBW Insurance (previously called The Brehm Group), with expertise in individual life insurance, qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, and estate planning as well as serving as General Counsel for the company. Mr. Bird has served as a past board member for the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation, The Gospel Association of India, and the Total Victory Christian Center. He enjoys coaching youth sports, teaching Sunday school, and leading a men’s weekly Bible study group. Mr. Bird is married with six children and lives in Minneapolis.


George Sanker
Mr. Sanker (M.A., Reformed Theological Seminary) has served as Headmaster of The Covenant School since 2011. Working in education since 1996, George has served as principal of two charter schools in Washington, D.C. and Longmont, Colorado. He began his career in education in private Christian schools where he taught history and theology to middle and high school students. After college, he served his country as an officer in the Central Intelligence Agency where he specialized in data pertaining to Southeast Asia. George is currently ABD in sociology at the University of Virginia. He and his wife, Jeannette, have six children.


Debbie Harris
Ms. Harris (B.A., Azusa Pacific University) was the first kindergarten teacher at Hope Academy, and is back in that position today. She has also taught at Foundations Academy in Boise, Idaho and is a regular presenter on classical pedagogy and classroom management. She has spent fifteen-plus years as a classroom educator, and has been mentoring teachers in classroom management strategies and classical techniques since 2002. She served as Dean of Teaching Staff and Curriculum at Hope Academy from 2006 through 2014 and has been a regular consultant with the CIRCE Institute. She lives in Oakdale, Minnesota with her husband and two sons.

Kevin Farmer
Reverend Farmer (M.Div, Bethel Seminary) has served as the Head of Admission & Family Ministry at Hope Academy since 2014. He has served in multi-ethnic ministry leadership positions since 2002, when he served as a founding pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church. His passion in ministry is to bring hope to God’s families, and is passionate about preaching, education, racial reconciliation, and cultural competence. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife and their two kids.

Jim Stigman
Mr. Stigman (B.A., St. Cloud State University) serves as the Head of Institutional Advancement at Hope Academy, having initially been involvd as a Partner. He brings a passion for the Lord and the youth of the city and is a highly articulate and passionate communicator. He has a well-rounded background in development, vision-casting, constituent relations, and financial services. He and his wife live near St. Cloud and they have eight children.


Dan Olson
Mr. Olson (M.A., Regent College) serves as director of advancement for The Gospel Coalition. After working at Hope Academy from 2006 through 2014, he today he serves on the board and is helping lead Spreading Hope, Inc. seeing the school’s model replicated in other cities. He and his wife live in Minneapolis with their four children.




8:30am | Session I: Igniting a Movement — Five Distinctives

9:45am | Session II: Urban Governance & Sustainable Funding — Partner Model

11am | Part I:Panel Q & A

12pm | Lunch Break

1:00pm | Session III: Family Ministry in Urban Contexts

2:00pm | Session IV: The Classical & Urban Elementary Classroom
3:00pm | Session V: The Urgency of Spreading Urban Classical Schools

4:00pm | Part II: Panel Q & A


Click here to learn more and register. 

A pre-conference to the Society for Classical Learning National Conference.


For pricing and to register, click here.