Living a Learning Legacy

Brance Lead

It was a big decision, and it called for a family meeting.

Brance Barker, then a fourth-grader, hopped on his parents' bed and sat next to his sister wondering why a family meeting had been called. His father, Dewain Barker, who had been leading a homeschool co-op at the time, shared he was feeling led to pioneer the concept of the "University Method of Education" to help provide additional support for parents as their children progressed through high school. His father explained how he felt called to establish a school based on this new educational model, but it would take a lot of sacrifices from the whole family, and they all needed to be on board. After praying about it as a family, they agreed to go for it.

And so Brance's young life changed significantly. His family sold the sprawling country home in Burleson, Texas, and moved to a small duplex in Arlington, and he grew up in the first school rooted in the University Method of Education, a private Christian school called Grace Prep. He was very grateful to be a beneficiary of this approach to education.

When Brance graduated high school, he had one goal in mind. He wanted to GO AWAY to college, so DBU was not even on his radar.

"I went to another school [to visit] and had an incredible tour and loved every minute of it, and then I got in the car and suddenly this overwhelming sense of 'you are not supposed to be here' came over me."

His goal was to become a math teacher and youth pastor. "I thought that was godly," he remembers with a chuckle. "But the Lord kept bringing up school administration, and I was fighting it." Since his father had been a school administrator, he knew how much work it was. He had sworn he would never do that.

But "never" is a dangerous word. As weeks passed, Brance found himself wrestling with God. He finally reached a breaking point.

"Okay, I don't want to do this school administration thing," he honestly prayed. "But if that's what You're calling me to do, I'll do it. So send me wherever will prepare me for it."

Two weeks later he got a call from Dr. Cook asking him not only to come to DBU, but also inviting him to work in the President's office. It was an open door that would impact the rest of his life.

Brance completed his bachelor's degree in psychology, his MBA in management, and his Ed.D. all at Dallas Baptist University. But as important as the coursework was, working with Dr. Cook in the President's Office colored his life-long approach to organizational structure and systems, not to mention his understanding of what servant leadership and the power of prayer is all about.

During his studies, he participated in an academic trip to Korea, which was designed to compare the different approaches to education. "It really broke my heart," he recalls. "In Korea, many kids go to school from 7 or 8 in the morning to 5 at night, and then they attend cram schools until late."

He explained that many Korean students have a "4 in/5 out" rule. Students who get less than four hours of sleep a night due to studying will probably get into one of the good universities. If they sleep more, they don't have a chance.

School is everything for Koreans, Brance observed. The parents are highly educated but many have almost no relationship with their children. Some Korean parents expressed having difficulty knowing how to connect with their children because they have deferred so much to the teachers.

That experience underscored something his father's educational philosophy was built upon -- the idea that education should work as a parent-teacher partnership. Brance's father had designed the University Method of Education to provide more opportunities for parents to have influence over their children and to provide opportunities for students to build time management and work ethic skills needed to succeed at the university level.

The educational entrepreneur had already seen the model work in the private, Christian school realm. But a burden was placed on his and his family's heart for families who could not afford private tuition. What if such a school could be available to everyone?

Brance, his dad, and a team of educators began to consider ways to address this need, and the Texas charter school movement provided the opportunity to do so. As Brance composed his dissertation, he also worked on a charter school application. Each project represented a 300+-page document.

The week after he graduated DBU with his EdD in 2012, UME Prep Academy opened, a tuition-free public charter school rooted in his father's model. In 2019, the school was one of only 51 statewide to receive a five-star rating from TXSmartSchools. Brance and his wife, Michelle, are glad their children attend UME.

After investing several years into getting UME Prep established, Brance moved on to Dynamic Support Solutions, a charter school consulting firm that supports UME Prep and charter schools across the state. He is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside educational leaders at a wide variety of schools to further educational choice and opportunities for students and families.

Written by Trudy Chun

Trudy Chun serves as a freelance writer for DBU and served as a missionary in Eastern Hungary for more than a decade.  Her husband, Russell Chun, teaches English in our International Department, and the two and their family are very actively involved with World Relief. She is the author Love & Ashes and The BuddhaPest, as well as the co-author A Story of Grace.