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April 24, 2013

Berkley earns AdvancED School System Accreditation

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

BERKLEY — After a three-day review process in October 2012, the Berkley School District was granted AdvancEd School System Accreditation from the AdvanceED Accreditation Commission in April.

AdvanceEd is the national commission that confers the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement accreditation seal. Earning the accreditation means each school in the district is accredited and the school district is recognized across the nation as a quality school district.

“Well, it means that we are doing what we should be doing, but this is part of a process, or a cycle, and this is not an award you get and you are done,” Berkley High School Principal Randy Gawel said. “The idea is you are continuing to improve and get better and meet the needs of the kids; that process fits with what we want to do.

“What the process does is assures that even though we might say we are committed to constantly improving, this will hold us to that, which is great — we want to do that anyway.”

The accreditation process involved three components — meeting high quality standards, implementing a continuous process of improvement and engaging in quality assurance through internal and external review.

Following the internal review, a five-member AdvancEd external review team visited 29 classrooms in October 2012, along with meeting with district staff, students and parents. While previous accreditation reviews were for individual schools in different years, this year the accreditation was for every school in the district and will last for a five-year span.

“It is one thing to talk about yourself, but when an objective third party who does this all over the country and nationally takes a look and says, ‘Yep, we confirm you are doing things well and here are some areas of growth,’ that is meaningful to us,” Berkley School District assistant superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick said.

“It affirms what we know about ourselves and nudges us to improve in other areas.”

Fitzpatrick said the district rated highly on professional development as the review team saw good opportunities for staff development. Still, the review team also said they would like to see a published schedule of what the professional development would look like and have that communicated with the community.

Gawel said he felt the schools in the district were on par with what the accreditation team wanted to see before the review team came out, and being open to suggestions will make the school district stronger.

“I thought we were doing what we should be doing, and the flip side is those evaluators, if you are honest with yourself and them, you lay out the goals you have for the district and hopefully they find ways to support that in their evaluation,” he said. “No district is perfect, no institution, but they help provide input through the evaluation system and what we should look to improve and things that need to improve further.”

With the accreditation affirming the school district is providing opportunities for the staff and students, Fitzpatrick said it also shows the community and those outside the community that the schools in the Berkley School District are some of the best.

“I’m a parent and I had two children go through K-12, so to know that they have taken the opinion of an outside auditor, another group to look at the district, I think our community appreciates that,” she said. “We were willing to put ourselves out there and have them come in and tell us what they thought about us. For our general public, this is really good information.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.