Nashoba Looks to Re-Accreditation

By Ann Needle

The Nashoba School Committee studied the details last night around Nashoba Regional High School’s upcoming re-accreditation, and received a glimpse into what to expect from the 2014/15 budget.

The dates for NRHS’s formal re-accreditation have been set for March 8 through 11, 2015, by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. NEASC Committee Chair and NRHS Social Studies Teacher Leo Sakellarion gave a detailed report on what the high school is doing to prepare for this crucial time period. “To say that it is the gold standard of accreditation is an understatement,” Sakellarion declared, with 650 New England schools claiming NEASC membership.

With Sakellarion terming re-accreditation “a continuous process of self-study,” he reported that all high school personnel have been placed on one of seven committees, each representing one of the standards NEASC uses to assess schools. These standards are core value, beliefs, and learning expectations; school culture and leadership; curriculum; instruction; assessment of and for student learning; and school and community resources for learning. Each committee has been charged with reporting on the high school’s current progress on its standard by Fall 2015.

Before committees were formed this school year, Sakellarion explained, NRHS spent a year formulating the school’s core values, with input from everyone with a stake in the high school, from students and community through district administration.  From there, he stressed, “Each of the six standards is supposed to emanate from that first standard.” He also cautioned, “They want to see, however, that those values are measurable.”

After NEASC completes its assessment, a school can be awarded full re-accreditation, re-accreditation with a warning (for up to two areas of concern), re-accreditation with probation if several issues are found, or with probation if several issues are found.. Many community members may recall that, during NRHS’s most recent re-accreditation (2004), the high school received a warning. However, Sakellarion stressed, these issues were since corrected to NEASC’s satisfaction, with NRHS appointing department chairs, and making the student schedule more flexible.

Also, “A deficiency in one standard does not mean a warning, necessarily,” he remarked. Superintendent Michael Wood assured that, even if NEASC pinpoints an issue, “They’re not going to come in and tell you what to do, how to solve it.”

Looking at potential issues, Sakellarion said, “One that we may not be able to address any time soon is facilities.” Referring to NRHS’s recent concerns over expanding and modernizing the school, he commented, “I don’t know if we’re in danger of being called deficient.” However, Sakellarion added, of schools up for NEASC re-accreditation recently, “No one has been denied accreditation.”

The report also noted that the district may need to budget up to $35,000 for the entire process, which should be requested in the next Nashoba budget, slated to be approved in March 2015. Sakellarion explained that this is the amount similar schools said they have spent recently on the process, and that it was unlikely the NEASC Committee would need to spend it all.

Budget Time Coming
Looking ahead, Michael Wood outlined a few factors the district may need to account for in next school year’s budget. A few of these included the transportation contract, which runs out at the end of the year; adding another half-day session to Center’s new pre-school class; updates on security and school locks; and more staff for additional electives that may be needed at the high school  in order to address the issue of some students having too many study periods. However, Wood noted, just keeping level services may mean an approximately 3.5%  hike in town assessments,  “And that does not include the things I just spoke about.”

Wood said a draft of the 2014/15 budget likely will be ready for Committee review by late January 2014.

Elsewhere, after some debate, the Committee voted to approve NRHS’s Chemical Health and “Good Citizen” Expectations. First reviewed at the Committee’s October 22 meeting, this revamped policy on athletes using, selling, or transporting drugs and alcohol on or off high school property was expanded to encompass all students participating in NRHS activities. Stow Rep. Lynn Colletti was the dissenting vote, and Rep. Cathleen Thier of Lancaster abstained. Colletti said the policy seemed harsh on smaller indiscretions such as tobacco possession, given a student under house arrest was allowed to attend classes last year. However, the Committee agreed to review the policy again if there are any complaints in the future.

In its ongoing review of its existing policies, the Committee also voted unanimously to approve several of these with few or no changes. These were policies on School Committee Member Qualifications/Oath of Office, Member Resignation, Expired Term Fulfillment, Members Ethics (MASC Code of Ethics), Organizational Meeting, and School Committee Meetings.

Finally, Bolton’s Lorraine Romasco has been appointed by that town to replace its empty seat, vacated when Reta Rupich resigned last month.