WATERVILLE — The 45-year relationship between Temple Academy and Centerpoint Community Church, both of Waterville, is coming to an end so the school can better establish itself as a nondenominational Christian institution.

After months of consideration and planning, Centerpoint’s congregation recently authorized releasing the school and allowing it to become independent, according to Superintendent Kevin Wood.

“The church’s board and its members voted two weeks ago to authorize the separation,” Wood said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “Temple Academy has been a part of the church for 45 years and a ministry of that church the entire time. So with this, we’re actually becoming an independent school.” 

Craig Riportella, the lead pastor at Centerpoint, said the church’s governing board and the congregation agreed separating is the right move.

“We called a special business meeting, and the board explained why we felt that this was in the best interest of the school,” Riportella said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “The congregation was in 100% support of that, and we want whatever will make the school stronger, healthier, better in the future, so we just felt it was time for that separation.”

Riportella, who has been the church’s lead pastor for 15 years, was also the superintendent for Temple Academy for 13 years — until July 2019, when he resigned and was succeeded by Wood.

After Wood took over as superintendent, he began designing the framework for the separation by establishing a transition team.

Temple Academy was established in 1976 by the Rev. Wilson Hickam, who was part of Calvary Temple, now Centerpoint Community Church.

Centerpoint is an Assemblies of God church, a Pentecostal denomination in the Christian faith.

Temple Academy Superintendent Kevin Wood stands Thursday in the entryway to the school on West River Road in Waterville. The flags represent the countries from which Temple students have hailed over the years. Temple Academy is separating from Centerpoint Community Church after a 45-year affiliation. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Temple Academy is a nondenominational school, which is a major reason for the separation, according to Wood.

“Temple Academy has always been nondenominational,” Wood said. “But to sell that to the community, they still view us as Centerpoint’s school. So this is really to try and separate ourselves from the church, because there will still be a board of probably pastors from the area that will oversee the school, but it won’t be one church.”

Wood said the decision to separate from Centerpoint will allow the school to establish relationships with more churches in the area.

“And it will just help us progress and grow,” he said. 

Riportella shared similar thoughts.

“We’re very excited about this separation,” Riportella said. “For 45 years, the church basically had Temple Academy under its wing, so we’re very excited about other churches being able to be a part of the ministry and help support it. This is a positive step.”

Riportella said the separation has been years in the making, especially since Centerpoint expanded its facility five years ago after the church bought a bowling alley at 60 West River Road and moved about a half-mile from its old location, next to Temple Academy.

The Temple Academy high school science lab at the Waterville school, with Kevin Wood, the school’s superintendent, in the background. Temple Academy is separating from Centerpoint Community Church after a 45-year affiliation. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“When we moved out of the facility five years ago and bought the bowling alley in Waterville, we were trying to give the school more space to grow,” Riportella said. “And eventually (we) thought it would be in the best interest of the school to be able to let them spread their wings and fly on their own.”

Although the two are separating, Riportella said the church will continue to work closely with the school and with Wood.

As part of the separation, Temple Academy has formed a new advisory board that will replace the church’s governing role.

The new board includes state Rep. Dick Bradstreet, R-Vassalboro; Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro; Jennifer Dumond, former owner of Kennebec Chocolates; Duane Ellis, owner of Central Maine Orthotics; Charles House, a self-employed contractor and director of Hope Haitian Ministries; small business banker Seth Sherwood; and Richard Szabo, vice president of information technology at Exclamation Services.

Temple Academy Superintendent Kevin Wood stands Thursday at the Waterville school’s gymnasium and multipurpose area. Temple Academy is separating from Centerpoint Community Church after a 45-year affiliation. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

For Wood, the widespread support from the church and community has made the process better.

“It’s been positive all the way around,” Wood said. “There’s been tremendous unity in this. It’s a big deal and it’s exciting. It’ll really help us rebrand and market ourselves as a private Christian community school.”

Temple Academy enrolled 165 students last year and officials hope to increase that to about 175 this year.

The yearly tuition for students in kindergarten through eighth grade is $4,100, and it increases to $4,850 for students in ninth through 12th grade.

Temple Academy is planning an open house for parents and community members Aug. 10 and 11.

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