Meet CLC Network’s New Executive Director

Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski

Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is eager to bring inclusion into schools and churches nationwide.

The board of CLC Network (Christian Learning Center) is pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski to the position of executive director (effective September 1). Elizabeth will lead the non-profit consulting organization that currently serves more than 60 schools in seven states as well as hundreds of churches across North America.

With more than ten years of non-profit management experience and a personal passion for inclusion of persons with disabilities, Elizabeth has helped CLC Network expand nationwide since 2012, when she began as the organization’s advancement director. For the past three years, she has served as an effective fundraiser, creative communicator, and thoughtful leader. Elizabeth is eager to build upon CLC Network’s West Michigan roots and bring inclusion into communities across North America.  Elizabeth said,

“CLC Network has a history of audacity: dreaming of inclusive education for all of God’s children as the norm. That was a radical dream in 1989, and it came true for many Christian school and church communities in West Michigan. It is time to make that dream the reality across North America, and across God’s Kingdom, so that persons with disabilities can contribute their gifts to our school and church communities.”

Video: Special Announcement from CLC Network Board of Directors

Board chair, Bob Van Wieren, introduces CLC Network’s next executive director, Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski.

Bob Van Wieren, president of CLC Network’s board of directors shared, “As a board, our goal is to be the recognized leader and esteemed partner for inclusive education in Christian communities.  We are thrilled to appoint Elizabeth to this position and to entrust her to lead CLC Network as we actively pursue our vision for more complete communities.”

“I want every administrator, teacher, or leader in any Christian school or church to know that when they struggle to educate a child with a disability, they are not alone. They will know that CLC Network is here to help them, to support them, and to make the Kingdom whole alongside them,” continued Elizabeth.

“I am humbled and honored to work with an incredible team of knowledgeable Christian educators and psychologists. My job will be to enable them to share God’s love by the encouragement and support they show to all those served by CLC Network.”

Elizabeth will combine her leadership skills and talents with those of CLC Network’s new director of school services, Becky Tubergen. Becky has served at CLC Network for the past sixteen years, and will guide the organization through the expansion of its services in the years ahead. Tubergen said,

“Elizabeth has fostered strategic partnerships and provided visionary leadership that has already helped us grow.  I am thrilled about her appointment to this position and look forward to working with her to ensure our partners receive consistent, high-quality services.”

“We’ve transformed so many communities in the last 30 years,” said R. H. “Bear” Berends, executive director since 1981, “And I know that our next generation of leadership is going to multiply and expand those efforts. Our staff and our board are passionate about encouraging every Christian school in every state to serve students with disabilities and to see students with disabilities as equal, integral members of their community.”

Member of the search committee and CLC Network board secretary, Thomas Hoeksema, Ph.D. stated:

“After a prayerful and Spirit-led search, the board is thrilled to select Elizabeth as our next executive director.  In her three years as advancement director, Elizabeth has earned the trust of staff and already is helping us, with enthusiasm and optimism, to move into an exciting period of expansion.”

Elizabeth served in fundraising and visitor and membership services at the Adler Planetarium (Chicago, IL) after obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree from Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, IN). Originally from Grand Rapids, MI, Elizabeth has been personally affected by CLC Network’s services – her sister was a student at the Christian Learning Center in the 1980’s.  “I am proud to say that my first charitable contribution was to CLC Network,” said Elizabeth. “It has long been a meaningful organization to me and my family, and I am in awe at the way God has allowed me to serve this mission.”

About the Selection Process:

In the fall of 2014, the CLC Network board of directors appointed the executive search committee, chaired by Bob Van Wieren, board president. The committee screened and interviewed multiple candidates and recommended Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski to the board on May 12, 2015. The board unanimously approved Elizabeth as the next executive director.

“On behalf of the search committee, I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support throughout this process. We are excited about what Elizabeth will bring to this position and are eager to see how God continues to use CLC Network in communities across the nation, ” said Van Wieren.

Honor the First-Generation of CLC Network Leadership  – Save the Date: October 20, 2015

An event honoring the first-generation of CLC Network leadership (including R.H. “Bear” Berends) and celebrating CLC Network’s 35th anniversary will take place on Tuesday, October 20 at the Watermark Country Club (Grand Rapids, MI). Learn more at


Katie Barkley ImageKatie Barkley is the marketing communications manager at CLC Network.


Join Us for a Training this Spring!

Phil Stegink, CLC Network director of educational services, presenting at a Woodcock-Johnson IV training in Fall 2014.

Phil Stegink, CLC Network director of educational services, presenting at a Woodcock-Johnson IV training in Fall 2014.

We travel quite extensively throughout the school year to train educators, pastors, church leaders, and volunteers to welcome children and adults at all levels of ability into their congregations. This spring, we’ll be traveling and presenting from the west coast to the east coast and many places in between.

We invite you to listen in on a presentation or stop by our exhibit booth at one of the events below!

Note: Some events require registration and are only open to specific audiences; check each event website for more information.

January 19: Christ Memorial Church (Holland, MI)

Barbara J. Newman will be presenting on Autism Spectrum Disorder and inclusion within the church setting

January 21-24: Children’s Pastors Conference – East (Chattanooga, TN)


January 29-31: Calvin Symposium on Worship (Grand Rapids, MI)

Presentation: “Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship: Vertical Habits In Action” with Barbara J. Newman and Betty Grit

February 4-7: Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (Baltimore, MD)

Presentation: “Let Me Try That!: Learning from Churches Including Persons with Disabilities” with Barbara J. Newman

February 7:  Northeast Ohio Special Needs Conference (Bay Village, OH)

Barbara J. Newman is a featured speaker at this conference.

February 12-14: Lutheran Educators Association National Administrators Conference (Orlando, FL)

Visit our exhibit booth for inclusive education resources!

February 15: Christ Memorial Church, Contemporary Christian Life Issues Class (Holland, MI)

Presentation: “CLC Network – How Its Work Assists Churches in Cultivating Communities of Inclusion” with Jacki Sikkema

February 16-19: Children’s Pastors Conference – West (Ontario, CA)


March 4-6: National Christian School Association Annual Convention (Atlanta, GA)

Visit our exhibit booth for inclusive education resources!

March 13: Christian Schools International District IV Training (Oostburg, WI)


  • “Three Key Ingredients to Effective Teaching” and “100+ Strategies for Effective Teaching” with Pam Maat
  • “Creating Individual Goals for Special Needs Learners” and “The Basics of Phonological Awareness” with Becky Tubergen
  • “Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology” with Elaine Kappers and Becci Zwiers

March 14: St. Mark Missionary Church (Mishewaka, IN)

Presentation: “Including Children with Disabilities in our Faith Communities” with Barbara J. Newman

March 20: That All May Worship (Virginia Beach, VA)

Presenting: Barbara J. Newman

March 19-21: Northwest Ministry Conference (Seattle, WA)


April 17-18: Accessibility Summit (McLean, VA)


  • “Tips, Tweaks, & Tune-ups for Sunday School Curriculum and Classrooms” panel discussion, including Barbara J. Newman
  • “Autism and Your Church” with Barbara J. Newman

April 19-20: Seventh-Day Adventist Church Disability Ministry Training (California)

Presenting: Barbara J. Newman

May 26-30:  Summer Institute on Theology and Disability (Atlanta, GA)

Presenting: Barbara J. Newman


Schedule Your Training

Invite a member of our team to speak at your upcoming conference or event by calling 616-245-8388. Visit our website for a list of potential topics for educators and churches.

A Ten Year Journey: Antonio Finds a School Home

For the last ten years, Jennifer Contreras has been searching for a Christian school in which to enroll her son, Antonio. Over and over, she was told that someone else would be better able to educate Antonio due to his developmental delays. But, as Alma Heights Christian School’s head of school David Gross explains, “Elsewhere doesn’t exist.”

Jennifer Contreras and her son, Antonio

Jennifer Contreras and her son, Antonio

Jennifer recalls contacting twenty-three Christian schools within a 45-minute drive of her home in Pacifica, California. Most often, the school leaders she spoke with couldn’t envision how to serve Antonio and encouraged her to look elsewhere. “I was shocked, I cried in the car after those meetings,” she recalls.

“How could every child not deserve a Christian education?”

That question came to influence other areas of Jennifer’s life.

“I just couldn’t believe that no one else felt the same sense of injustice. I wanted Christianity to be a part of Antonio’s daily life, for him to learn about God from teachers who cared about his faith.”

Discovering an Inclusive Education Model for Christian Schools 

In 2012, as part of her research for a doctoral dissertation on Christian education and students with learning disabilities, Jennifer learned about CLC Network and scheduled a visit. After spending some time at CLC Network partner schools, Jennifer recalls thinking,

“This is what it should be. I’ve seen it, it’s been done. It gave me a picture of what I desired for my son, and the confidence that this methodology could be applied everywhere.”

At the time, Antonio was enrolled in the local public school for his first year of high school. “Antonio started categorizing himself as a ‛special ed kid’ and identified himself apart from ‛general ed kids.’ I could see that the segregated environment wasn’t good for his self esteem and with his growth in learning how to integrate with the general community,” she remembers.

Antonio also began attending Coastside Church, which meets on the campus of Alma Heights Christian School (AHC) (Pacifica, CA), and making friends through the youth group. Jennifer was struggling with trying to find a new church home after seeing Antonio excluded elsewhere, but eventually she attended an event with Antonio. There she met David Gross, head of school at Alma Heights Christian.

Making a Place for Antonio at AHC

David was convinced that Antonio belonged at his school.

“I did not have a strategy in place for educating Antonio, but I was convinced that this was the right place for him.” he says.

Antonio Contreras with his friends

Antonio Contreras with his friends

“We had been making progress toward a more mature and inclusive educational philosophy for several years, and Jennifer told me that she could provide the expertise through CLC Network.”

Jennifer and David quickly came up with a plan, and Jennifer committed to fund the plan herself “with dollars I didn’t have!” she exclaims. “But the train had left the station. We were just trying to catch up.” Jennifer contacted her employer and learned they would match her gift to AHC, up to $50,000. The plan calls for launching the first year as a pilot, and adding resource staff as more students enroll.

Making Strides at Alma Heights

Antonio started attending AHC this fall as a 10th grade student. In the first weeks of school, he has already made strides. Antonio shares, “I like AHC because I can go to school with my friends from church.” But, the positive effects extend beyond that: Antonio’s verbal and math skills have significantly improved.

“We think that because he is around typically abled kids, he is able to model his speech after them,” shares Jennifer.


Teacher consultants Greg Yoder and Barbara Newman provided initial training and support to AHC; CLC Network will continue to assist the school as they include Antonio and other learners.

No one objected to the idea of enrolling Antonio, but there were many questions around how it would work. CLC Network consultants Greg Yoder and Barbara Newman made an early visit to the school in August to meet and train teachers, and to witness the first day of school. Greg reflected,

“It was a thrill for Barb and me to share this day with Jennifer that has literally been ten years in the making. God is truly at work at AHC and his fingerprints are all over.”

In addition to partnering with CLC Network, AHC hired Antonio’s former tutor to provide part-time support.

“Word was barely out that we were working with CLC Network and doing this, and we had another student (in addition to Antonio) enroll yesterday,” David shares.

“I’m guessing I’ll get in over my head, but CLC Network is here to help prevent that. I am excited about becoming a community that’s not defined by narrow outcomes for kids, that we are growing their souls instead.”

Thanks to the support of many donors, CLC Network is thrilled to bring our knowledge to California. David shares, “I look forward to confidently saying to other administrators, ‘See! It’s better this way.’ Then I hope that we can be a toehold for inclusive Christian education in the entire Bay area.”


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 Inclusive newsletter.  Learn more about creating inclusive communities on the CLC Network website


Elizabeth Dombrowski photoElizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the director of advancement at CLC Network.

ADHD and Your Child: ADHD Experts Address Your Questions

"ADHD and Your Child" webinarFollowing our free “ADHD and Your Child” webinar last spring, we received a number of questions from parents and teachers alike on understanding and supporting persons with ADHD. For National ADHD Awareness Month, we wanted to revisit a number of these questions and invite you to watch the archived webinar with ADHD experts Doug Bouman, S. Psy. S. and Robert Bulten, M.D. This webinar, hosted by Christian Schools International, covers the symptoms and treatments of ADD/ADHD.

Q: Is ADHD hereditary?

Dr. Bulten: Very much so. It the second most heritable condition in the human genome.  The first is height.

Q: Are there similarities between teenage boys and ADHD?  When should we seek testing and treatment for ADHD?

Dr. Bulten: It used to be thought that ADHD in boys far outnumbered that in girls. But we’ve now realized that this is no longer true, and ADHD is common in both boys and girls. During the teen years, the hyperactive component (which is so common in younger boys) tends to become less noticeable. Testing and treatment should be looked into when the symptoms become a functional impairment.

Q: How much does a child’s diet help or hinder a child with ADHD?

Dr. Bulten: Diet does not usually have much positive or negative effect on a child with ADHD. Now and then, someone will find a particular food (e.g. dairy, gluten, dyes, etc.) that they believe helps to a degree, and then they take that out of the diet. But the return is so small that I don’t recommend that to start treatment. By the time my patients get to me, they will have tried all the non-medical options.

Young Boy PhotoQ: What are some particular gifts kids or teens with ADHD possess?

Mr. Bouman: ADHD in and of itself provides zero benefits to the student with ADHD.  For example, the gift of creativity or artistic ability and ADHD are not linked. However, just like students without ADHD, students with ADHD possess incredible gifts, strengths, and abilities.

Q: Are students with ADD/ADHD more likely highly intelligent and gifted than not?

Mr. Bouman: Students with ADHD are not more gifted and talented than those without ADHD.  ADHD impacts the entire range of abilities.  In fact, highly intelligent children with ADHD frequently experience more frustration since they are painfully aware that their performance and output is markedly below their intellectual abilities and peer performance.  How frustrating and painful for a bright student to “know” what to do, yet are unable “to do what they know”.

Q: Do you see the emotional issues, such as loss of confidence and “self prosecution” (especially in newly diagnosed teenagers) improve over time?

Mr. Bouman: Yes, for sure.  The first step is for the teenager and the significant adults (parents, school staff, etc.) to understand and accept ADHD, and how it is impacting this student’s daily functioning.  Once effective strategies and medication are in place, the student experiences authentic success (i.e. they can now “do and produce what they know”).  This frequently buoys their confidence and eliminates their self-persecution.

Q:  What is one thing you wish parents knew about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: There is a tremendous amount of misinformation in the media, trade magazines, etc.  Parents need to know ADHD hugely impacts a student’s learning and productivity in school even though their child is not hyperactive or impulsive.  Quiet, hidden (inattentive type) ADHD is more dangerous since it is easily missed or misinterpreted as not trying or a bad attitude.  Complicating things is the remarkable inconsistency observed in a student with ADHD, sometimes called a “picket fence” up-down functioning.  Children, adolescents and adults with ADHD are frequently able to focus and sustain concentration if what they are doing is preferred, highly stimulating, high interest (think video games, legos, T.V., even reading high interest books).  The real test of an individual’s attention is when they must complete tasks that are important yet boring.  Another important parent “tip”, is to watch for limited improvement (e.g. learning, producing, grades, behavior) when individuals, student, teachers, and school support staff have honestly tried their best to overcome the problem using methods that work for most kids.

Dr. Bulten: Probably that they are not the cause of their kid’s ADHD – unless you consider the genetics. It’s not bad parenting–more discipline will not change things—it will probably make things worse.

Students learningQ: What is one thing you wish teachers knew about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman:
(1) All of what I wish parents knew (see above)

(2) Please be careful to simply and thoroughly report to parents what you notice in class and avoid saying a student has or does not have ADHD.

Dr. Bulten: Again, that they are not the cause of the student’s ADHD. “Carrot and stick” discipline will not change anything.

Q: What are a few practical strategies a teacher can use in the classroom to support a student with ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: Move the student close to the teacher. Having the student in close physical proximity to the teacher affords closer monitoring of the student and increased accountability.  Teachers can cue the student that important directions are coming their way (e.g. “students the next two instructions are really important” – sometimes referred to as “verbal highlighting”).  Close proximity also allows ongoing accountability with high frequency feedback (e.g. “do this first row of math computations and then check back with me”).

Students with ADHD need understanding and empathy from their teacher; their teacher needs to recognize that they are fighting upstream against a roadblock that their peers are not.  Teachers can create a “prosthetic classroom” by externalizing (making visible and permanent) instructions, requirements, rules, and steps (e.g. use of post-it-notes, lists, pictures).

Q: What is one thing you wish kids/teens knew about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: Kids really like the truth about how ADHD is negatively impacting the use of their gifts.  Many students have conjured up something far worse (e.g. “I’m stupid”, “I’m dumb”) than ADHD.  Kids need to understand ADHD is not their fault any more than it is their fault for having brown eyes. Kids need to know there are effective interventions that can ‘even the playing field’ for them. They need to know that things will get better and there is great hope for the future.

Dr. Bulten: I wish kids with ADHD knew they were not lazy. As I interview adults with ADHD and ask them what one comment they remember their parents and teachers said was, “If you would only try harder. You have so much potential and you just don’t apply yourself.” If we could measure “effort”, especially in young kids, we’d find they are trying harder than other kids and the results are poorer. As they get older, they start to give up and they stop trying altogether.

Q: What are some practical strategies persons with ADHD can use to accomplish tasks in their daily life?

Mr. Bouman: First, make sure any prescribed medication is at optimal levels.  Students and adults with ADHD are ideally completing a one or two page symptom reduction form each time they meet with their physician.  Other strategies include:

(1) Writing down your top three non-negotiables for taking good care of yourself.

(2) Enlisting accountability supports – a trusted friend or life coach.

(3) Use technology as a work-around.

Q: Do you have any recommended books or websites to learn more about ADHD?

Mr. Bouman: The best organization with incredible resources is CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyeractivity Disorder.

The best book for adults is Reaching for a New Potential: A Life Guide for Adults with ADD From a Fellow Traveler by Oren Mason.  Also check out Dr. Mason’s blog, Attentionality.

At CLC Network, we daily evaluate and create plans for struggling students based on their strengths and areas of need. Learn more about our perspective in this video and visit our website to learn more.

And of course, Dr. Bulten at Behavioral Medicine Clinic does an incredible job monitoring and supporting patients.

 Doug Bouman photoDoug Bouman, S. Psy. S. is the director of evaluation services at CLC Network (Christian Learning Center) in Grand Rapids, MI, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and a Licensed Master’s Social Worker. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Central Michigan University.



Dr. Bulten photoRobert Bulten, M.D. previously practiced general pediatrics for 12 years and has been practicing behavioral medicine (including ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and mood disorders) for the past 30 years. He is a graduate of Wheaton College and the University of Michigan Medical School.

Building the Kingdom at Sussex Christian School

We are thrilled to share this story from Trish King, principal at Sussex Christian School (Sussex, NJ), on the impact of inclusion on their community.

Photo of Charlote and Corey

Charlote and her friend Corey work on an assignment. You can see why everyone loves her smile!

Meet my friend, Charlote, a third-grade student at Sussex Christian School (SCS). Charlote was adopted from an orphanage in China when she was six years old.

We were so excited to welcome Charlote into our school as a kindergarten student in 2010.  Charlote smiled all of the time and immediately became the most popular student in the school; all the students wanted to spend recess with her.

Both teachers and students could tell that she was eager to learn, but it was difficult to tell what she knew, since she could only speak her native language, Mandarin.  Despite these difficulties, her teacher and class embraced her and it was good. 

But as the kindergartners progressed, Charlote didn’t.  She was learning, but at a slower rate than her classmates.  It was hard to tell if she had a disability or if it was a language barrier.  After much prayer and persistence we were able to test her and found that there was more to her learning difficulty than a language barrier.

Charlote, Corey, and school staff smile for a photo.

We’re so glad to now have the academic support resources to welcome ALL of God’s kids at our school.

Because we could not provide the services Charlote needed to learn and succeed at Sussex Christian, Charlote needed to transfer to a public school.  We would miss her presence–especially her smile–at our school. This move forced us to revisit our commitment to including ALL of God’s children. That year, we decided to partner with CLC Network to help us welcome and support students like Charlote at SCS.

We were so thrilled when Charlote returned to our school at SCS last year!  We welcomed her into our second grade classroom, with academic support provided by our inclusion teacher, Mrs. MacMillien.  Though she had progressed at her former school, she was not reading yet. This time, we were equipped with the resources to support her.

Last June, I stopped in the second grade class where I found Charlote and a friend staying inside during recess.  The two had been making Father’s Day cards.

Though Charlote had struggled with reading, she walked over to a desk and immediately started reading everything that was on the Father’s Day card.

She didn’t know it, but I had tears running down my cheeks.  She was reading!  Praise God for the amazing things that are happening here!

Though inclusion isn’t always easy, we lean on this promise from the Psalms: “Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him and he will bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:6 NKJV). We prayerfully trust that as we commit to welcoming ALL of God’s kids, that he will continue to provide the support and resources, like our partnership with CLC Network, that make this possible.

Learn about the growth of another SCS student in this blog post.

Trish King photoTrish King has been an administrator at Sussex Christian School for eleven years. She is a graduate of Westminster College (New Willmington, PA) and Baptist Bible College (Clark Summit, PA).