We’ve recently completed a major component in a two-year process for re-accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Read on to learn more about the visiting committee’s experience at WMS.
Every ten years all member schools of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, or NEASC, undertake an extensive two-year process in order to re-certify their accreditation. While the goal is to maintain the school’s accreditation, the real benefits are the insights gained by going through a self-study and visitation from a NEASC committee.
The NEASC study and accreditation process at WMS was led Becky Beno, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for her incredible work on this project. Under Becky’s guidance faculty, students, administrators, alumnae/i and members of the Board of Trustees engaged in a yearlong self-study starting in the fall of 2014. During this phase, all parts of school life were examined by these different constituencies. Teams were created and each group was assigned a different standard (guided by NEASC) to focus on a certain aspects of school life. The teams scrutinized every element of our School including, but not limited to, admission, curriculum, student life, athletics, co-curricular programs, faculty, and school finance. At the end of this examination, which involved interviews, group discussions, examining the school’s written policies, and countless drafts, WMS submitted a 120-page document to the NEASC committee for their review.
After reviewing the information, NEASC appointed seven faculty members and administrators from other independent schools to come to campus and spend three days visiting classes, meeting with faculty and students and watching our school in action to confirm what was reported in the self-study. That group was on campus from November 1-4. Before they departed campus, they met with Becky Beno and Tim Breen, Head of School, to share their thoughts and findings before submitting a formal report to the school and NEASC later this month.
The visiting committee observed as many aspects of school life as they could during their time here. Serving on a visiting committee involves spending time away from families, working late nights, and doing lots of writing. We greatly appreciate all the time and effort that our guests gave to this process. Representatives from Westminster School, Stratton Mountain School, Proctor Academy, New Hampton School, The Rivers School, Green Mountain Valley Academy, and Vermont Commons School (a former Head of School), made up our committee. Their experiences in schools ranged greatly from subject teachers, to a dean of students, to a director of technology, and a head of school.
The team was very conscientious about trying to make sure they were as thorough as they could be, and ultimately as accurate as they could be with their feedback with us. They attended all sorts activities including Family Style dinner, Diversity Club, Morning Meeting, sports programming, and a faculty meeting. Several members of the committee remarked that they were tremendously impressed by our student-run Diversity Club. In that event, and others, they saw the maturity, commitment and pride of our students. They saw our community and found that our own students’ courage to address difficult issues in that forum was a testament to many of the guiding principles of our mission. Committee members shared that they could see that WMS is living its mission by teaching curiosity, courage and compassion across all areas of work with students and families. Visiting committee members were also complimentary of our School’s clear dedication to inquiry.
In the end, the visiting committee was overwhelmed by all they saw and heard while on campus. Their initial reports were that The White Mountain School is a place where great learning is taking place and that there is an exceptionally strong community here that differentiates us from many other schools. Their comments and feedback as well as many of the internal recommendations that came out of the self-study will serve as a foundation for a strategic planning moving forward.
There were countless hours of work put into this two-year process, but in the end the value of those efforts is that we gained better understanding of who we are and where we’re headed. This process not only confirmed that WMS is truly a special place and that this is a special time to be here, but also showed that there is a great future ahead of WMS.