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Board earns first district-wide accreditation

They aren’t going to Hollywood, but the Butler County Board of Education feels like they received a “golden ticket” American Idol-style after Wednesday’s oral exit report from the SACS review team.

Dave Stipe, chairman of the SACS team, gave the Board the good news: for the first time, the entire BCS District has been awarded a five-year accreditation as a quality school system.

In the past, accreditation by SACS was only done on a school-by-school basis in the county.

Dr. Kathy Murphy,chairman for the District-Wide Accreditation Study, was all smiles when the announcement was made.

“I do have a sense of accomplishment,” she said, adding, “While I spearheaded it, I certainly didn’t make this happen. There were many other people who worked very hard and deserve credit. Seeking accreditation on a district-wide basis was an ambitious goal on the part of our school board, and we are grateful for the positive end result.”

During their visit, the six-person review team met with 182 individuals, including board members, administrators, teachers, students, support staff, parents, community and business leaders, spending time at all six schools and observing three classrooms in each of the schools.

According to Stipe, the team used collected data to examine all elements of the local school system and put “many, many hours into this process.”

The team praised several areas within the school system.

The strengths found by the SACS team included:

– Strong community support

– Development and use of policy guidelines

– Commitment to improved facilities through construction and remodeling projects throughout the county

– Connection to community stakeholders

– Development and use of the GHS Reading Initiative, a successful new program created by two staff members, and one Stipe said “deserved to be shared” with other systems

– Board policy review process

– Bell Ringers and Breakfast Clubs, which help students get on task while assisting those struggling with certain concepts

– Word Walls as vocabulary builders in all classes in all schools

Three commendations were given to the system by SACS:

– Attaining a strong, passionate support from the community including finances, time and talents

– Employing numerous and effective means of communicating with all stakeholders

– Developing and putting into use a procedure of reviewing and updating board polices that involves an advisory committee of community stakeholders

The SACS team also noted several challenges for the system, including:

– Proration

– Retention of qualified staff

– Increasing absenteeism of teachers and its effect on student learning

– Instability of staffing at the Central Office and its effect on morale and ultimately student learning

– Providing professional development as a system-wide planning process

– Operating without a Human Resources Department in today’s litigation-prone society

– Lack of parental support

– Effective use of the tremendous amount of collected data to assist in learning

– Creating and understanding a relationship between the individual School Improvement Policy and the district’s improvement policy.

– Addressing and updating district vision and purpose

Four areas were identified that require action by the board:

– Develop and put into practice a procedure to annually review and update the system’s mission and purpose, to reflect changes in instruction, technology, data and personnel.

– Design and create a system-wide professional development plan based on the identified needs of students within the system.

– Use collected data to address the learning needs of specifically targeted students

– Design and establish a relationship and understanding between the individual School Improvement Plans and a district-wide plan.

Murphy said the BOE plans to hold a retreat this Saturday to further review the exit report and to work on paring down their individual lists of preferred superintendent candidates. “We’ll start working on those areas identified by the SACS team on Monday,” Murphy said.

Stipes said a written version of the exit report would be submitted to the BOE within 30 business days, with the district required to send progress updates to SACS, who will submit a final report at a later date.