Sylacauga city schools recommended for re-accreditation
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – Sylacauga city schools will be recommended for AdvancED district accreditation after a yearlong process that culminated with an external review this week.

At a called Board of Education meeting Wednesday, AdvancED representative Ann Williams-Brown commended the system for its work and presented a summary of results. A team of five education professionals from the international quality assurance organization conducted the review and based results on extensive data collected from school and system self-assessments, classroom observations and interviews with 205 stakeholders.

“This team is not the governing body that can grant accreditation,” Williams-Brown said. “We can only make a recommendation to the commission, so based on the findings and the information, our external team will be recommending your district will continue with district accreditation.”

Superintendent Renee Riggins, who postponed her retirement to be part of the re-accreditation process, breathed a discernable sigh of relief upon hearing the results, and thanked everyone involved for their support.

“I feel like the whole community got this accreditation today, and from the bottom of my heart I say thank you so much for all you have done and all you will do once I leave,” she said.

Board members Jennie McGhee, Tracey Allen and Skip Smithwick also expressed their thanks. Members Scott Stewart and Steve Marlowe were absent.

The school district was evaluated according to AdvancED’s five standards for quality and rated on a 1-4 scale, with 4 being the highest, as follows: 3.25 for purpose and direction; 3.17 for governance and leadership; 2.83 for teaching and assessing for learning; 2.88 for resources and support systems; and 2.6 for using results for continuous improvement.

Powerful practices, or areas in which the district excels, include: maintaining a supportive culture for student achievement from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade; leadership that engages community stakeholders to support education; quality parental involvement opportunities; a viable, comprehensive response-to-instruction program to ensure the success of every student; and systemic and systematic practices for a safe and healthy environment.

“We have not seen a community as supportive as this community,” Williams-Brown said. “You all are truly in an area where you should be very thankful. In the economic times we have right now, to have this community support is very, very valuable.”

The district was also ranked for seven components of environmental learning areas, based on brief classroom visits at each of its four schools. The system received a 2.7 for equitable learning environment, 2.9 for high expectations, 3.1 for supportive learning environment, 3.3 for active learning environment, 2.9 for progress monitoring, 3.3 for well-managed learning environment and 2.2 for digital learning environment.

Required actions for the system to maintain its five-year accreditation are as follows: implement a comprehensive, research-based mentoring program for new and non-tenure employees; implement a student mentoring program in which every student has at least one adult advocate; employ a systematic, long-range strategic plan for budgeting, facilities, technology and other components; establish a districtwide assessment system that provides data to ensure consistent assessment measures; and develop a process for ensuring quality assurance and consistency at all schools.

Williams-Brown noted some “good things” the external review team saw during its visit, including a safe environment, effective instruction, celebration for learning, nurturing and dedicated school leaders and “knowledgeable, courteous and well-behaved students at all schools.”

A full review report will be provided within 30 days, and final accreditation status will likely be granted by the AdvancED commission in June. Sylacauga City Schools was one of the first in the state to receive AdvancED/SACS district accreditation in 2008.

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© 2013