An external review team for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will be on campus at St. Helena Central Elementary and High schools this week to interview administrators, observe teachers and speak with student and parent groups in a process school officials hope will lead to district accreditation.
SACS is a division of Advance Education, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve educational quality through accreditation and other school improvement initiatives.
Statewide, only 19 public school districts, including several of the highest-performing such as Zachary, Ascension and West Feliciana, and the dioceses of Baton Rouge and Houma-Thibodaux are district-accredited through SACS, according to the association’s website.
St. Helena wants to join that list, Superintendent Kelli Joseph said.
Doing so would be a feather in the cap for the school district, which this year was the most improved in the state after years at the bottom of the state performance scores.
Not included in that improvement is the district’s middle school, which remains under the control of the state Department of Education’s Recovery School District.
For the other two schools in the district, becoming district accredited “will bring prestige and dignity to our school system and indicate that we are adhering to national standards of educational quality,” Joseph said.
School officials submitted a report to SACS on Sept. 21 outlining the district’s vision, achievements, self-assessment and goals for improvement.
Now a review team for the association will visit the district to determine whether best practices are in place for reaching those goals.
The five standards on which the SACS accreditation process is based are: A purpose and direction focused on continuous improvement through high expectations and shared beliefs about education; governance and leadership that promote student performance and teacher effectiveness; curriculum and instructional design and practices that ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning; resources and support systems that ensure student success; and a comprehensive assessment system that guides continuous improvement.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” Joseph said.
“Being district accredited means you have the best educational practices in place, and those practices form a solid foundation for growth and improvement.”
The review team’s visit, scheduled Monday through Wednesday, will include interviews with the superintendent and School Board members, system office staff, principals, teachers, parents and students, as well as classroom observations, according to a schedule Joseph provided.
The visit will conclude Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the high school auditorium, where the review team will present its findings during a special School Board meeting.
Community members are encouraged to attend, Joseph said.