Beginning in August, Miller will be opening the California Christian Academy, a faith-based, tuition-driven school operating facilities on 18th Street in Antioch and Harvest Park Drive in Brentwood. Under the auspices of the Antioch Church Family, the new school will be many things to a variety of people. But what it won’t be, Miller insists, is an extension of the troubled Mountain View Christian Center (MVCC) and Trinity School.
“I’m very excited and I’m very passionate,” said Miller of the new venture. “I’m excited to be able to have a more hands-on independent school and to be able to see my vision empower people who are seeking a Christian education.”
On the heels of a tumultuous and scandal-rocked year that culminated in the suicide of Pastor Jerry Hanoum in May and the subsequent dissolution of MVCC and Trinity School, which leased its site from the Oakley Union Elementary School District (OUESD), Miller said the California Christian Academy offers a fresh start.
The new school will continue Miller’s original dream of a shared church community with the common goal of educating children – academically and spiritually – in an atmosphere of support, faith and love.
“My vision is to develop a network of schools where there is not a competition but rather a shared use of resources and support, similar to the public school system,” said Miller. “The school districts have it right … I want our students to be independent thinkers empowered and equipped in a holistic manner.”
And while the specifics have yet to be worked out – Miller said three former Trinity teachers are on board as well as a number of new students – California Christian Academy “will be opening our doors no matter how many students we have,” said Miller.
Hanoum was under investigation for fraud in both Brentwood and Rio Vista for financial dealings related to MVCC and Trinity Christian School, and MVCC still owes more than $70,000 in back rent to the Oakley school district per their lease agreement. The original lease contract with OUESD is with MVCC – not Trinity Christian – and Miller is adamant that the finances pertaining to the lease agreement were all handled by MVCC officials, not by her.
And while OUESD Superintendent Rick Rogers said he has yet to receive any payments or contact from MVCC officials, the district is still deciding how to proceed: “During the three-year term of the lease it has been very frustrating at times. It appears MVCC/Trinity will have paid all but the last six months of the lease. They have repeatedly told us they have every intention of making good on a final payment. We hope this will occur. If not, we will determine the best manner in which to resolve this issue.”
According to Jim Bender, whose son attended Trinity Christian, the drama associated with MVCC and Trinity has been difficult, but Miller should be credited for holding the school community together during a time of controversy and grief.
“Mrs. Miller’s relationship with the kids goes beyond that of a principal, and she was amazing through all of this,” said Bender. “You really feel like these people are a part of your family, and they are. I believe wholeheartedly in what she does.”
Eager to put the preceding controversy behind her, Miller acknowledged that the events leading up to and following the death of Hanoum so stigmatized the Christian school community that it was nearly impossible to carry on with a business-as-usual attitude.
“I just wanted to get through the school year and finish strong,” said Miller. “And we did that. I wanted everyone to walk away with something positive, and I think they did.”
As for the legacy of MVCC and Trinity Christian School, it’s Miller’s hope that time will heal some of the wounds and that forgiveness will erase the rest. “I would hope that the Christian community would not judge our school by what happened but rather by what we accomplished,” said Miller. “I hope that we can get past what happened and embrace the power of forgiveness.
“This will not be the last time any of us will be disappointed by the actions of another. If we can focus on the future and breathe life back into our families, we will be stronger for it.”
California Christian Academy will host an Open House and orientation on Thursday, July 7 at 7 p.m. in the Brentwood location, 605 Harvest Park Drive.