Born in the Fort Worth area during the final months of World War II, Dr. Rodney Haire of Bridlewood in Flower Mound grew up in Dallas during the Baby Boom.
“My parents had a stable marriage, and reared me and my sister in a traditional home. I went to Addison School which is now The Magic Time Machine Restaurant.” He cracked a little smile, and wiggled his eyebrows. “Of course back then Belt Line Road ran through cotton and corn fields.”
Graduating from Hillcrest High School in 1962, he attended what is now Dallas Baptist University, graduated from the University of Texas with a major in Education, and a minor in Business then joined his father’s textile company.
Like many of his peers in the post-war generation, he went about life as a young husband, dad, and businessman, not giving a lot of thought to religion.
“In the mid 70s I attended a Bible study class one Sunday, and the teacher’s powerful testimony changed my life’s direction.”
Little did he suspect the twist his future held after moving his family of four to Argyle to get away from Dallas’ encroaching suburbs.
“It never occurred to my wife and me not to use the public schools.”
Until, that is, another student threw a can of soda at his daughter’s head. Disturbed by the unkind and unapologetic behavior, he went to the school, and inquired about starting a Bible class to remind the children about what he supposed they were being taught at home about treating others with kindness and consideration.
“To my astonishment, the principal said the Bible wasn’t allowed in the building.”
He enrolled his children in a private Christian school between his home and office. The new school aimed to prepare its graduates to enter the ministry.
“But what if my children wanted to do something else after high school graduation?” Later, in fact, they both did choose other careers. He wondered if a school could blend spiritual emphasis and academic rigor. In time he concluded the chore was possible, and felt called to start just such a school near his home.
In 1983, he and his wife Judy began the Liberty School in a house near what is now the University of North Texas.
“By the start of the second school year we had 194 students.” He shook his head, a hint of happy surprise still on his face these 30 years later.
A large aerial photo of the small original campus hangs in the hall of the administrative wing of the school.
It didn’t take him long to realize that running three successful textile concerns and one school concurrently was too much stretching.
“At the beginning we also taught, mopped floors, and did whatever else had to be done. I decided to sell my businesses.” He calls “throwing my hat over the wall” and leaving the business world “a nervous adjustment,” but a buyer for the companies showed up promptly, and the rest is, as they say, history.
“I envisioned a student body of no more than 500 students, but today we have slightly more than 1,320.”
He expects enrollment to top out at 1,500.
After UNT bought the school’s Denton site in 2005, a pair of Liberty parents, Jack and Debra Furst, provided a generous gift that made the current Argyle campus on Hwy 377 a reality.
“We plan,” Dr. Haire said, “to expand to fill our whole 76 acres.”
Plans are under way to build a new worship and performance facility that will be the centerpiece of the sparkling new campus that consists of sand colored steel buildings with forest green roofs, and up-to-date athletic facilities.
“My 18-year business career taught me important skills I would need to run a successful school.”
He proceeded to receive a Master of Science in Christian Counseling from Andersonville Theological Seminary in Canola, Georgia, and later completed a doctorate in Christian Education, all of which equipped him to steer his unique interdenominational learning enterprise.
Liberty Christian School consists of Pre-, Lower, Middle, and Upper schools run by 250 faculty and staff members. Its uniformed pupils and students wear navy blue knit shirts and beige slacks, shorts, or skirts. No gangsta or rock star looks. The institution’s aim is to educate the whole individual by imparting knowledge, and teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills, while developing spiritual maturity and academic excellence.
“This is a college preparatory school,” Michelle Simms, Director of Marketing and Communications, said. “We appreciate our students’ unique talents and gifts, and provide opportunities for the children to express and stretch themselves as they grow and learn.”
Vivian Nichols, the editor of “Liberty Life” the school’s glossy periodical publication, says, “Liberty is preparing its students to follow their dreams.”
Thirty years ago Dr. Haire followed his dream in the belief that with God as his partner all things were possible. He wondered how good a Christian school could become.
Today the school’s Physics students are engineering a vehicle to enter the Solar Car Challenge, a DFW to Los Angeles race. The fledgling debate team participated in The Harvard National High School Invitational tournament last February. Mandarin Chinese is a foreign language curriculum option. Acting students won state in the TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) One Act Play contest for their performance of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” A pair of high school literature students read the Greek epic “Illiad” then built a life-size Trojan horse which they brought to school in a trailer. Sixth grade English students read a mystery novel then created a book “report” in the form of a board game that contained characters, clues, foils, the main idea, action events, and other important story details.
The school handbook offers insightful parenting tips to aid students in their academic, spiritual, and athletic endeavors: show appropriate affection, hug your children, give children time for school work and sleep, spend daily time together without TV, establish discipline, keep your promises, hold children accountable for their words and deeds, don’t intimidate or bully, demonstrate courteous behavior, teach children to apologize and forgive, show interest in their school work and activities. And above all, of course, model a Christian life.
The school’s founder, board, administrators, faculty, and staff all believe the ancient Psalmist who wrote, “When a person’s steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with his ways. If he stumbles he will not fall, because the Lord holds his hand.”
“We are an extension of a Christian home,” Dr. Haire said.
To that end, part of the admission process includes a statement of Christian belief on the part of at least one of a child’s parents. “Our materials state our vision and beliefs, and to be a team the school, its board, and families need to be on the same page.”
He recommends all parents execute careful due diligence about the governance of their child’s schools. Boards without well defined boundaries create operational difficulties for administrators and faculty members.
Although three decades have passed since Dr. Haire made a life-changing decision to take his children’s education in his own hands, he remains steadfast in his commitment to serve the educational and spiritual needs of students in southern Denton County and the surrounding area.
For more information about the school visit its website www.LibertyChristian.com.