Every 10 years, Watertown High School goes through the accreditation process, and the staff has been busy preparing for a four-day visit by a team which begins on Sunday.
A team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) will be at Watertown High School starting March 13, said Maureen Regan, Grades 6-12 English Language Arts Coordinator, who co-chaired the accreditation preparation with guidance councilor Adrienne Eaton.
The preparation began three years ago when the school staff did a self study, Regan told the School Committee Monday night.
The first step was to create school-wide learning expectations, which had two main focuses: effective oral and written communication, and college, career and life skills readiness.
In the fall of 2014, the Endicott College Opinion Survey was given to students, parents and faculty. The school also formed standards committees to discuss indicators and expectations in seven areas: core values, beliefs and learning expectations; curriculum; instruction; assessment of and for student learning; school culture and leadership; school resources and learning; and community resources for learning.
A report and executive summary was written for each standard, Regan said, and each one had to pass with the approval of at least 66 percent of the staff.
“Every single report was accepted as written the day it was presented,” Regan said.
This fact impressed School Committee member Eileen Hsu-Balzer, who said that it shows the faculty understands what is the school’s mission.
Now the team will visit the school beginning Sunday when they will meet with students, teachers, parents and others. The accreditation team will hear a performance from an acapella group from the school and will meet with teachers who will talk about the standards, Eaton said.
They will also visit classrooms, review information and artifacts collected by the school.
They will also talk with a range of students.
“We could have easily picked students from AP and honors classes, but we tried to make sure we had a cross section of the school,” Eaton said.
After the visit, the accreditation team will come up with recommendations. This will be a public document with ideas for improving the school, Eaton said.
Regan took part in the last accreditation visit, 10 years ago, and she said one of the things that came out of it was that the school needed to improve its facilities.
“The physical plant took a hit, and I think that might come up again,” Regan said. “But it is a big ticket item.”
While the report will have some suggestions, WHS Principal Shirley Lundberg said it will not be seen as gospel.
“We will do what we thing is best for the students of Watertown High School,” Lundberg said.
Going through the process of accreditation allows the staff to look at what they are doing, Regan said, and she said they will look for ways to improve the way they educate WHS students.
“I see it as a call to arms. I need to inspire my team,” Regan said. “Space is not available and time is not available, but you do what you can with what you have. We love this school, love the kids. We need to step up our game.”