Accreditation teams to visit high schools, tech center

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Many high school and career and technical teachers have been busy evaluating their work and their schools as part of an accreditation process that will include team visits from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges to Toll Gate, Pilgrim and the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center beginning as soon at next month.

“Obviously we aren’t doing everything perfectly,” Toll Gate Principal Candace Caluori said Tuesday. She expects that the 16-member NEASC team – which arrives on Sunday, March 10, and remains on site through March 13 – will point out issues Toll Gate teachers and administrators have identified.

“They’re not going to tell us something we don’t know,” she said.

She expects school facilities and building maintenance to be on the list of deficiencies. Ironically, although built in the early 1970s, Toll Gate is one of the district’s newest schools.

“This is an old building and it needs to be addressed,” Caluroi said. She thought as much as $1 million from the $40 million approved by voters in November would address issues.

Facilities are not on top of the list of improvements for William McCaffrey, director of the Career and Tech Center. McCaffrey, who was in discussions with NEASC representatives Tuesday, said a team visit is set for the end of March.

“The physical plant for the most part is in good shape,” he said.

He credits the school’s condition to the district’s assessment of the building before agreeing to take it back from the Department of Education about three years ago. At first, RIDE offered to give Warwick $1.4 million for repairs and upgrades. The district retained Saccoccio & Associates of Cranston to perform an evaluation after which the amount was increased to $3.1 million. The funds enabled the center to replace heating and cooling systems and to build an addition, the Tide Restaurant.

“I’m looking forward to it. I don’t see any impediments to reaccredidation,” McCaffrey said.

Pilgrim is also on the schedule for a visit from NEASC. That is projected to take place this fall. In preparation, all three schools have been conducting self-evaluations on the seven standards, which include core values, beliefs, and learning expectations; curriculum; instruction; assessment of and for student learning; school culture and leadership; school resources for learning; and community resources for learning.

Self-evaluations, which teachers complete on their own time, make up reports of more than 120 pages for the center and Toll Gate. Teams doing the on-site visits are made up of peers, many of whom have been faced with accreditation visits at their schools.

McCaffrey didn’t know Tuesday who would head up the team visit to the center.

Caluori, on the other hand, has been in touch with Garrett Dukette, assistant principal of The Ashford School in Ashford, Connecticut, who chairs the visiting Toll Gate team.

“Our purpose in visiting Toll Gate High School is to assist the faculty in its pursuit of quality education for its students,” Dukette said in a statement.

Caluori has planned a reception for the community to meet the accreditation team March 10 at 4 p.m. at the school. Naturally, the School Committee is being invited as well as other officials, but Caluori said it is also open to the public.

Accreditation is usually done on a 10-year schedule with identified objectives set for accomplishment within two and five year plans. The Toll Gate accreditation visit was to have happened last year, but was deferred, Caluori said. If a school fails to meet standards and doesn’t adopt a plan to meet them within set time frames, accreditation could be revoked. More likely the NEASC board will put a school on probation, allowing it to take corrective action.

To her knowledge, Caluori said, Toll Gate has never lost accreditation nor has it been placed on probation.

“The members of the visiting team are contributing their services to the school. This spirit of professional cooperation is one of the noted features of the New England Association. The goal of an accreditation visit is to stimulate a continuing drive for improvement in the school,” Caluori said.

Both Caluori and McCaffrey commended their respective faculties and staffs for having diligently prepared for the accreditation visits.

In the case of the Career and Technical Center, McCaffrey said, accreditation is recognized by the state Department of Education as program approval.

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