An Interview with our Founder, Glennon Culwell
Baymonte Christian Schools exists today because of the vision, commitment and faith of Glennon Culwell. As Baymonte marks it 40th year of operation, I sat down with Glennon to discuss his inspiration, our early history, and his vision for our future.
Glennon first came to Scotts Valley in June of 1958 as a candidate for the position of pastor at the First Baptist Church of Scotts Valley, now GateWay Bible Church. He told me that 13 people voted to call him; he was not offered a salary but they promised him they wouldn’t let him starve. When his wife Jeanie asked what his response was, he replied, “I said I’ll be there Sunday”.
At that time the only school in Scotts Valley was on Bean Creek Road, the site of the current public middle school. In time, Vine Hill School was built and the Principal and local Superintendent of Schools were committed Christians. Many of the teachers were graduates from Bethany Bible College and prayer in school was common. When a candidate for the school board challenged prayer taking place in the local schools, Glennon organized a successful campaign to support the current board members. Shortly thereafter courts voted to restrict prayer in schools.
In 1966 Glennon’s daughter Shirley was starting high school and would be leaving the school district. Glennon was joined by First Baptist members Art and Marion Davies and Ben Croghan in enrolling their children at Valley Christian Schools in Los Gatos. Valley Christian Schools was established by David and Edie Wallace where David was the school’s superintendent.
Pastor Culwell had wanted to establish a Christian school at his church, even before he received his call to serve in Scotts Valley. In 1956, while a student at Chico State, he was influenced by a strong advocate of Christian schooling named Harold Westcott. He made a decision at that time to establish a Christian school wherever God would call him as pastor.
In April of 1967 Glennon preached a sermon regarding the merits of a Christian school education. In his sermon he said, “We must have a Christian school by next school year”. This message was also delivered to the greater Santa Cruz community on Glennon’s regular weekly broadcast on KSCO radio. A group of parents from the church and the community began to meet to plan the new school. Glennon shared with me that they had no idea how to start a school; he just knew it was God’s direction. David Wallace came to Glennon’s mind as he had met with him prior to enrolling his daughter at Valley Christian. The school committee asked David and Edie Wallace to meet with them to provide advice about starting a school. In one of those meetings they asked David if he would serve as the school’s superintendent. He immediately said he would and was hired. Later that month the school board chose the name Baymonte. The school filed for incorporation with the State of California in July of 1968.
The school was not established without controversy. Three families from the First Baptist Church told Pastor Culwell they would leave the church if he opened a school. All three families did leave the church; two of them returned later and enrolled their children at Baymonte.
Linda Cantrall, who has since retired from Baymonte, was the first teacher hired by Mr. Wallace. A graduate of UC Berkeley, she interviewed for the position with Mr. Wallace in his office at Valley Christian School. In September of 1968 the school was opened with 85 students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Baymonte’s early growth was rapid. The school used classroom facilities at First Baptist and then leased additional space at Shaw Hall, adjacent to the church property. By the start of the second school year in 1969 there were 233 students; new families were enrolling each month. Soon high school and preschool departments were added to the school.
I asked Glennon what he felt about the need for Christian schools today as opposed to the time when the school was founded. He replied that there is no comparison and the need today is much greater. He reminded me that he had written a book on the subject entitled Death Goes to School. Glennon said the major difference is the loss of Christian influence in our culture today and the lack of prayer in the public schools. He underscored that our school was established at a time when school standards were beginning to erode and the difference between then and now is like darkness and light.
Pastor Culwell offered the following advice for parents today: “Always remember that education is the responsibility of the parents. The school’s responsibility is delegated”.
If a Christian school or home school is an impossible alternative, the responsibility is still the parents. He added that parents should scrutinize their student’s curriculum. His strong admonition is that “Christian principles and moral standards must be provided by parents. Parents cannot abdicate the responsibility of education regardless of the school”.
Praise God for his servant, Pastor Glennon Culwell. Our school is a testimony to his vision, faith, and action.