2015-03-12 / Front Page

‘You should be very proud’ says team after school system accreditation visit

By KIP BURKE
news editor

The entire Wilkes County school system has been recommended for continued accreditation after a team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools toured school facilities, observed classrooms, and interviewed teachers, students, administrators, and parents last week.

“I’d be very proud of these scores,” said Dr. Cheryl Allread, SACS team leader. “We recommend that Wilkes County earn the distinction of accreditation for the next five years. You should be commended for a job well done.”

The school system’s full accreditation, first achieved in 2010, was up for renewal, and a team of six educators came to Washington March 1 and observed 55 classrooms, interviewed 37 parents, 11 administrators, 28 students, seven support staff members, and several members of the Wilkes County Board of Education, Allread said.

The classroom visits were especially impressive, she said. “You should be very proud. We saw well-mannered students and well-managed classrooms. We found supportive learning environments, high expectations, and active learning environments. Students just had a very positive attitude toward learning.”

The accreditation team’s preliminary report praised what it called Wilkes County’s “powerful practices.”

The Wilkes County Board of Education, they said, obeys the laws and follows the rules, unlike some county boards, and does not micro-manage the schools. In the report’s language, “the governing board of the school district operates responsibly and ensures that the leadership at the system and school levels has the autonomy to accomplish goals for student learning and instruction and to manage day-to-day operations of the system and its schools.”

Their praise was high for Superintendent Dr. Rosemary Caddell, saying “The superintendent is a visionary leader who is supportive, highly visible, and dedicated to making decisions that are in the best interest of students.”

Team members could not help but notice Tiger pride, saying, “Across the system, there is a deep sense of pride, a strong family atmosphere, and a devotion to tradition and excellence.”

The areas in which the team felt the Wilkes County system had room for improvement focused on what they saw, in many areas, as a need to formalize and document things that the system was already doing.

For instance, although new teachers In Wilkes County have always been taken under the wing of experienced teachers and principals, the team said there needs to be a formal structure with measurable results in the mentoring program. “Construct and initiate a system-wide mentoring, coaching, and induction program that has clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the mentor, valid and reliable measures of performance, and is consistent with the system’s values and beliefs about teaching and learning.”

Next, they said, the system needs a formal process for all “stakeholder groups” – students, teachers, community – to be involved in the schools’ and system’s “purpose, direction, and goals for continuous improvement.”

How the system’s technology needs were addressed needs a more formal process to “formulate, implement, and monitor a process to address technology needs related to infrastructure, technology training and support, and the integration of technology with the system’s curriculum standards.”

Although the system has an extensive program of professional development for teachers and administrators, the team felt Wilkes County needs to “design, implement, and systematically evaluate a professional development program that provides opportunities for all staff to acquire the skills necessary to meet the purpose and direction of the school system with a focus on the interpretation and consistent use of data.”

Finally, the team said the school system should “establish Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) that promote productive discussion about student learning and the conditions that support student learning.”

Once reviewed and approved by the accreditation commission, she said, the district and all its schools are expected to be granted a fiveyear extension of the system-wide accreditation. A written report of the accreditation team’s findings is expected to be submitted to the Wilkes Board of Education within 30 days.

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