2013-09-19 / News

Accrediting team will grade North Kingstown

By Margo Sullivan

North Kingstown High is undergoing an important test next week when a team arrives from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges to decide if the school is up to standards.

Dr. Thomas Kenworthy, the principal at North Kingstown, said a detailed list of the criteria is available online at the organization’s website. He said it will give the community an idea of the scope involved. The schools are rated on everything from values to core beliefs, from curriculum to the quality of classroom instruction. Even the physical condition of the buildings is taken into account.

The visit will also determine whether or not Jamestown’s high school of record will retain its accreditation.

The association accredits more than 2,000 private and public schools.

Accreditation is a necessity, Kenworthy said. The best outcome would be that North Kingstown High will be notified that it has been given the full accreditation.

He anticipates a wait of a couple of months to find out the decision.

“Obviously, the best thing is full accreditation,” he said. “That’s what we strive for.”

The next level would be accreditation with warning status. “That’s not the end of the world,” he said. A warning would mean the team has discovered “an area or two” where the school is not meeting NEASC standards. That would mean North Kingstown would have about two years to present an improvement plan.

The worst-case scenario would be probation. “That’s more severe,” he said.

Kenworthy said a school can be put on probation for reasons other than the quality of education. In his experience, he has seen schools put on probation due to issues with the building. With an older school, he said, meeting the new standards for facilities can pose a problem.

“I’m hoping we don’t have anything that rises to that level,” he said. “I’m confident we’re going to do well.”

Sunday is the official kickoff for the accreditation visit, he said. The team is due to arrive at the school at 100 Fairway Drive at 1 p.m.

Parents are invited to attend. There will be a meeting with parents and the visiting team at 2:15 p.m., and the families are also invited to the reception at 5 p.m.

Asked why the parents would go to the meeting, Kenworthy said they’re stakeholders. The visiting team wants to hear how well the parents think the school is doing.

“The visit itself, which comes once every 10 years, is kind of a big deal for the school,” he said.

Kenworthy hopes to see parents participate. He also hopes they have positive things to say, but added, “They can come and offer anything they want.”

The visit also gives the parents an opportunity to ask questions.

“We’re hoping for a good showing,” he said.

The accreditation team will use the comments from parents to verify the self-assessments from school leaders. For example, he said, “We can say we communicate this way,” but the parents may dispute their accounts. Parents may give the team contradictory information about school communications.

As an educator, Kenworthy has made visits to other schools with an accreditation team and said the upcoming schedule is pretty standard.

The team will be in North Kingstown from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday.

Kenworthy said he has been trying to publicize the visit in both Jamestown and North Kingstown. He sent a press release to local newspapers earlier in the month, and the item ran in last week’s Jamestown Press.

“There are a few different things planned for Sunday,” he said.

The team will arrive in Rhode Island in the morning and check into the hotel. It will hold its own orientation in the morning. The first event at the school is the opening presentation scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m.

“That’s a panel discussion,” he said.

More meetings will follow the 2:15 p.m. session with the parents. “It will all wind down at 4:15 p.m.,” he said. The reception is 45 minutes later.

Everyone’s invited to the reception, he said, and described it as “low key and informal.”

Then on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, it gets more formal. The team will be inside the building and visiting the classrooms.

The team will talk to students and hear their opinions, Kenworthy said. “On Monday, they’ll spend the whole day shadowing students.”

The school chose several students to participate in that part of the visit, and the team will accompany those youngsters to all their classes.

But those will not be the only students who have an opportunity to speak to the accrediting team. On Tuesday, there will be additional meetings with groups of students.

They’ll wrap up the effort at a faculty meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

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