Just four months after administrators and faculty of Cazenovia High School began seeking accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, they have moved into the fourth stage of a five-phase plan to craft a new mission statement, establish a seven-year outlook and enhance relationships within the school and community.
After having students, parents and staff complete surveys evaluating the current state of the high school, the internal coordinating team, comprised of vice principal Susan Vickers, physics teacher Eric Jerabek and special education instructor Robin Costello, reviewed more than 3,000 comments.
“We want to shore up the tiny pockets of concern, so that everybody can develop into the best possible version of themselves. Both students and teachers and administrators,” Jerabek said. “We’re hoping that idea will become the foundation of our mission statement. We want to do good, and do it well.”
“We received lots of comments and feedback, and while there is work to be done, it was apparent we are successfully meeting all standards,” Vickers said. “What we want to do now, is move from good to great.”
Questions on the electronic survey dealt with how effectively the school currently met the 12 standards MSA requires of all accredited schools. The assessments revealed that many were happy with the current direction and curriculum, although some survey-takers felt that areas like communication needed improvements.
“Our school has a wide variety of classes not available at other schools in this area. I feel our school is excellent at preparing our upper-class students for college, facilitating the entire process,” one student wrote in the comment section of their survey.
Many parents who completed the assessment seemed to have the same sentiments. “Cazenovia Central School District is doing a fine job for my children. Areas that are weak seem to be being addressed consistently aiming for continued improvement. I am thankful my two kids can attend Cazenovia Central School District. Teachers are a school’s life blood. Teachers need strong and experienced administrators to help them be their best. Upper Administration needs to continue to build up the morale of the faculty and recognize outstanding performances in the schools’ classrooms individually recognizing specific teachers and not lumping them all together as a group,” one parent wrote.
Comments that were submitted by parents and students regarding areas of improvement ranged from reestablishing after-school hours at the high school library, to increasing communication between the district’s three schools and community members.
In hopes of conserving funds, the high school library was closed immediately after school at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. After seeing what an impact the decision had on students, administrators reopened the library for an additional hour in the afternoon on even days.
After the district-wide newsletter, The Blue and Gold, made the transition to electronic form earlier this year, some residents felt vital communication had been cut. While the publication is readily available on the district website, parents and community members are still able to request a copy be printed and mailed to them. The decision to move to an electronic version was the result of overwhelming requests noted in the district survey that took place about five years ago.
“We want to let the community know that we are thankful for their feedback, and appreciate their candor and honesty. All of their comments have been heard and acted upon, and we will continue to do so,” said Cazenovia High School Principal Eric Schnabl. “It is very important to us to further develop the relationship between the school, students, parents and community members. We want the people that provided the input to know that we value their opinions and act on them.”
Beneath the team of internal coordinators is a panel of 23 educators, a Board of Education member, parents and students known as the Planning Team.
Together, the group has compiled a list of student beliefs in an effort to create an “ideal student profile” and a working mission statement. Once the school’s objectives are established, the team will move into the fifth phase of the accreditation process and establish a plan for the 12 action teams to pursue over the next year.
“Everybody on the high school staff and faculty is a member on one of the action teams for one of the 12 areas. They will take all of the work we have done so far — the beliefs, student profile, mission statement, priorities and objectives — then they will apply those to the different standards they are assigned to,” Costello said.
The internal coordinating team said the school will move into the final phase of the process this March. Accreditation can finally be granted by MSA once the school has successfully adopted and implemented their plan and an evaluation team, which will visit in 2013, confirms the high school successfully exhibits the 12 standards.
In the near future, Cazenovia High School’s progress in the MSA accreditation process will be available for the community to monitor on the district website, caz.cnyric.org.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or email@example.com.