Jasper City Schools’ principals, central office staff and board members listened as lead evaluator Mary Anne Hipp from Louisiana explained what she and her colleagues experienced while visiting the schools and talking with members of the community. Three of the team members were from Alabama while Hipp and one other member were from other states.
The city school system is seeking reaccreditation.
“It is an international protocol that they have developed, and it is over 72 countries worldwide and growing. You are in an elite group of people, and I congratulate you because five years ago you had the wisdom to begin the process, and some people still haven’t begun,” Hipp said. “We just started about a year or so ago having the reaccreditation people — the ones who were the risk takers five, six, seven years ago — that are now going through reaccreditation like Jasper City is and, therefore, you’ve kind of been through the rodeo already. The rodeo changed; there are some new features to the rodeo, and that’s where you had to be trained to know how to prepare for this visit.”
Arriving over the weekend, the review team held 89 interviews Monday with administrators, teachers, parents and community representatives and then visited the schools and various classrooms Tuesday.
Once they analyzed and evaluated their findings, the team then delivered its report to the board and the superintendent Wednesday.
AdvancED believes that school districts need a balanced accreditation where the impact of teaching and learning, leadership capacity and resource utilization are evident. Those three factors tie in with the AdvancED five standards for quality school systems — purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems, and using results for continuous improvement.
“This is the ratings on a 4-point scale. Your ratings are excellent,” Hipp said Wednesday. “... You have done extremely well.”
Areas of improvement that the system should focus on in the future include having students use technology more and show how they are using it. Also, they recommended focusing on exemplars, providing evidence that they are implementing the schools’ instructional process in support of student learning. The district should continue developing their career technical education and help to change the “mindset that a lot of people have regarding technical skills and technical education,” Hipp added.
The district had four powerful practices they were commended on. Those practices include a city school board that ensures the leadership at all levels has the autonomy to meet goals for achievement and instruction to manage day-to-day operations effectively; the system engages in a systematic process to recruit, employ and retain a sufficient number of qualified professionals and support staff; instructional time, material resources and fiscal resources are sufficient to support the purpose and direction of the entire system; and the system maintains facilities, services and equipment to provide a safe, clean and healthy environment for all students and staff.
The review team narrowed the required actions for the board down to two, which is a positive result because most places have three to five required actions, according to Hipp.
Those required actions that will impact student achievement and the success of the district are designing and implementing a research-based instructional framework to support student learning and inform the instructional process; and developing, implementing and monitoring a comprehensive, systematic process to consistently analyze data for the purpose of verifying student learning and evaluating the results of continuous improvement action plans.
“We cannot grant you reaccreditation, but we will certainly recommend that the Jasper City School System be accredited again,” Hipp said.
Once the report is written and sent to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission, the commission will meet and decide on the city’s approval.
Shortly after the meeting, Superintendent Robert Sparkman and board members held a work session with representatives from Lathan & Associates and Hoar Construction.
Members of the board, Sparkman and Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey agreed to present the final schematic design and a proposed budget for the new Walker High School to council members Friday at 10 a.m. in the council chambers at city hall.